Happy July 4th weekend to all! This weekend is probably one of the busiest boating weekends in the US. Just about everyone that owns a boat is going to give it their best shot to get out on the boat for at least part of the weekend if not the whole weekend. Besides the boating fun, I also regard July 4th, or shortly thereafter as a time when we in the northern states of the US are approaching the midway point of the boating season. That means a little maintenance is also in order.

Several mid-season maintenance routines that I perform religiously can save you both fuel and extra work next spring.

Item one has to do with the bottom of the boat. If you haven't been using the boat regularly and launched before or right around Memorial Day weekend, odds are good that no matter what anti-fouling paint you used, the bottom is going to need a good cleaning. Growth happens, and it can slow your boat down and add aconsiderable amount of drag that will equate to decreased fuel economy. As the water gets warmer, the growth rate will accelerate. Now's the time to dive on the boat and give it a good scrubbing. If you're not into diving on your own, every waterfront community I can think of has folks around that will do it for a fee, usually around $50-$75 dollars depending on the size of the boat. Also, most marinas offer a "quick haul" and wash service where they just lift the boat and give it a pressure wash. That's going to cost a bit more (charged by the foot typically), but it'll give you the best job generally. The saving in fuel consumption will really offset this cost.

The other area I take a close look at won't apply to all boats, but it sure does on mine. If you have any varnished woodwork on the outside of your boat its time to give it an inspection and touch up any spots where wear and tear has nicked the finish down to bare wood. If you don't seal those nicks now, water will penetrate into the exposed wood and cause the wood to stain and darken. This will mean that you'll have to sand down the entire stained area next spring to get the wood back to it's original color. Water stains can really migrate deeply into the wood too, and it can often be quite a job to get the stains completely out of the wood. If your finicky about your brightwork like I am, cover those bare spots now! It'll keep the wood looking sharp, and save you a lot of effort come spring.

Have a great July 4th and above all, be safe!