Express Launch

Be first out of the yard.

Outfitting chores are sine qua non, but they shouldn't dig into your boating time. I've learned to get my 36-footer ready while the boats in the yard are still bow-to-bow. The key is to have a plan and stick to it. It's that simple. Gather your materials during the week. Shopping on Saturday mornings is a complete waste of valuable work time. By Friday night, have the car packed with tools, extension cords, buffers, paint and brushes, wax, clean rags, empty pails, buckets, a ladder, a vacuum, and anything else you can think of. Then select only the chores that must be done while the boat is out of the water: Recommission the engines, replace zincs on thetrim tabs and rudders, touch up the bottom paint, install the garboard drain plug, and buff wax the hull and transom.

Get started by pulling off the winter cover. If the sun is shining, clean the outside of the boat. If not, jump down into the engine room. Engines need lots of attention. Both lube and gear oil and water levels must be checked. Inspecting water pumps and alternator belts, fresh- and raw-water hoses, and clamps are critical steps. Also, the batteries need to be tested and the converter turned on. Cable ends should get cleaned and greased. Give your electrical system the once-over. Be sure to replace chafed hoses and wiring. Through-hull fittings must be exercised. Auto-float switches on the bilge pumps should be tested. And, of course, you should recheck the garboard drain plug.

After a few hours in the engine room, you'll be ready for fresh air and the scent of wax. I like a new sponge for applying liquid wax because it spreads it evenly for better coverage and faster drying in cold temperatures. One coat is never enough. My goal is four or five on the hull and transom.

I've used an ablative antifoulant paint for years and swear by it. Last season the bottom looked brand-new. This spring a quick swipe at the waterline will suffice. Multiseason ablative coatings can chop hours off your program, once you've applied the initial three to five coats. The zincs go on next. Every other year I remove the raw-water strainers for cleaning and examine the through-hulls they guard.

With these chores done, I'm ready for the water. I'm also in better spirits to finish the remaining myriad boat-keeping tasks at a normal pace.