Boaters gearing up for the season

With warmer days arriving, many people will be looking to bring their boats out of dry dock and preparing them to get back into the water, but getting a boat water-ready takes more than just putting it in the water.

Dave Schlicher, dock chairman for the Marietta Boat Club, said the boating season is here.

“The docks are in the water and we’re getting ready to go,” he said.

He said there are usually about 70 boats on the docks at the club, but sometimes there are more.

In Washington County there are 4,636 registered watercraft.

As always, there are safety warnings aplenty for all those boaters.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), nearly 90 percent of boating fatalities are due to drowning, and nearly half of those are attributed to cold water, which is a huge factor is boating this time of year, when water temperatures are still cold. Water temperatures less than 50 degrees can contribute to complete exhaustion in less than 15 minutes and lead to death in about the same amount of time.

In addition to wearing insulating fabrics, the ODNR says life jackets are a must.

Dennis Blauser, 51, of Marietta, a boat club member, just put his boat in the water Sunday. He said there is one big thing he does before it’s ready to go.

“Well, first you clean it,” he said. “You wash it and wax it with three coats of wax,” he said.

He said most of his prep work for spring happens during the winterization process, but said he always checks to make sure all of the systems on board are up and fully operational, including water, heat, ventilation and refrigeration.

“After we get all settled, we have our home that’s on water,” he said.

His wife, Brenda, said she enjoys the boating experience.

“(I enjoy) the friends on the river, the socialization,” she said. “We have so many good friends and they all enjoy boating.”

Blauser said there are some important things to remember while boating.

“When the boat’s moving, you want to make sure you know where your passengers are, so no one falls overboard,” she said, adding, “Some big (safety items) are life jackets and fire extinguishers.”

Leo Holcomb, 59, of Marietta, is a boat lover, too.

He said one big thing about being safe on the water is having a fire extinguisher on deck.

“Make sure you have a fire extinguisher on the boat; check them,” he said. “You need to look at the gauge and make sure they’re in the green. A buddy of mine last year had a fire on his boat, and it wouldn’t work.”

His friend was lucky Holcomb and other boaters were around that could lend him an extinguisher, Holcomb said.

“We all have them; we all just assume they’re going to work when we grab them,” he said, adding that there may be an instance when they won’t.

Gene Albright, trustee for the club, said that there is one big thing some forget after a long winter.

“Make sure you put the drain plug on before you put your boat in the water,” Albright said.

Member Roger Fulton said keeping a boat can be a costly venture and it’s imperative to make sure everything is working properly before getting the boat in the water.

“Make sure the motor runs; get all your maintenance features before you put it in the water,” he said.

Deane Forshey, owner of Forshey Marine, 201 Colegate Drive, said fluids should be changed before the boat hits the water.

Filters should be changed too, he said.

“Motor wise, it depends on the maintenance schedule it’s had whether it’s due for a tune up,” Forshey said. “Obviously they don’t need them every year.”

Forshey said fresh fuel should be put in the boat and blowers on the motor, which circulate air, should be checked.

“They should be started up before they hit the water,” he said. “Check the cooling system and pumps to make sure there’s no issue with the water pumps.”

Forshey said there are some things new boaters should be aware of.

“For new boaters, just be aware of how all the systems are, where they are and how they work,” he said.

Forshey also recommended a boating safety course for new owners.

“Very new boat owners should take a boater safety course,” he said. “I think it would be positive for new owners. There’s other considerations on a boat. You learn how to properly stop it; a boat has no brakes.”

Fulton said it’s important to realize that maintenance for boats will vary.

“Every boat’s different,” he said. “It depends on if it’s a new boat, what type it is and how big it is. If you’ve got a houseboat, there’s probably a month’s worth of maintenance.”

Forshey said boating is a fun thing for many.

“It’s a fun sport, it’s a safe sport if it’s handled well,” he said, adding, “There’s a lot of boats in the water in this area.”