Boat Maintenance – Basics for Beginners

When you own a boat it becomes your primary responsibility to care for it. Whether or not the boats are used frequently does not provide an excuse for not maintaining the boat. Maintenance of a boat is not a Himalayan task, however major repair works should be done by professionals only. In this blog, we will read about the basic requirements for boat maintenance.

The Need for Regular Maintenance

Boats are used widely in different forms like kayaks, yachts, and canoes for recreational and commercial activities. Military and armed forces also use boats. However, even though these boats are efficient, they require regular check-ups to ensure longevity. 

Regular maintenance ensures the optimum performance of your boat and helps enhance its speed, power, and consistency. Even if the boat’s materials are resistant to chemicals and durable, poor maintenance or negligence in maintenance can cost your safety along with fuel economy. 

Therefore, it is essential to make a checklist of the basic maintenance tasks, which includes engine checks, oil checks, hull fittings, leak checks, electrical fittings, propeller and impeller inspection, and corrosion control. 

Consequences and Problems of Improper Maintenance 

As a boat owner, you must be aware of the essential maintenance procedures to avoid boat mishaps. However, improper care and negligence towards your boat’s upkeep can lead to severe consequences – 

  • Short Circuits

Electrical shocks, short circuits, and fires on the boat can have serious repercussions, especially when the boat is on water. Short circuits can lead to heat build-up and insulation melting, causing fires and electrical damage. It can also drain the battery even when not in use, eroding the boat’s hull fittings, fasteners, rudders, shafts, and drives.  

  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 

Carbon monoxide (CO) is present in the boat’s generator exhaust on the deck, inside the cabin, or in the surrounding water. Since the gas is tasteless and odourless, it is difficult to detect a leak. The symptoms of its poisoning, like dizziness, nausea, headache, and weakness, are often confused with sea sickness. However, these symptoms can sometimes escalate to loss of muscle control, blurred vision, extreme headache, and convulsions, leading to death. 

  • Engine Breakdown

Even though a common reason for engine breakdown is a lack of gas, it can also occur due to negligence in maintenance. Loading the wrong fuel or leaving the fuel tank near-empty for extended periods can cause condensation in the gas. The motor can lose power if debris stuck in fuel filters is not replaced or cleaned. 

  • Signal and Communication System Breakdown

Radio, radar, electronic systems, and satellite navigation enable accurate signalling and communication in times of distress. These systems detect the position of other vessels and send distress signals to rescue services in emergencies. A breakdown in one of these systems can be a high threat if the ships or boats cannot contact for help leading to accidents and loss of lives. 

Risk for the Owners and End-users 

Avoiding maintenance affects the boat, its owner, and its passengers. Negligence can lead to life-threatening accidents and the destruction of the vessel. Here are some of the additional risks – 

  • Safety of Life

Improper maintenance or negligence in maintenance can cost lives. Human error and negligence are common reasons for accidents. It increases the chances of operational and mechanical malfunctions and can lead to life-threatening accidents.  

  • Permanent Damage to the Boat

Improper maintenance of boats contributes to severe mechanical dysfunctions, which may also lead to blasts and explosions. Unfortunate events like compressor blasts, broiler blasts, and crankcase explosions cost lives and damage the boat permanently.  

  • Past Disasters Due to Negligence

The Penlee lifeboat disaster is one of the most significant examples of boat-related mishaps occurring due to negligence. On December 19, 1981, the RNLI’s lifeboat, Solomon Browne, went to the rescue of the vessel Union Star, after the latter’s engines failed at sea. 

The Union Star’s fuel system had been contaminated with water, making it impossible for the engine to start. Meanwhile, the wind was gusting up to 90 knots, making an air rescue impossible. The lifeboat tried to make several attempts to get alongside the Union Star and managed to rescue four people from the ship. However, soon after, both vessels lost contact with the shore and were lost with all hands. 16 people died in this disaster due to sheer negligence.  

  • Fear Among Tourists

Past disasters affect the commercial and tourism industry. It builds a lack of trust and fear amongst passengers. There can be different reasons why people fear travelling by boat. They can be because of a bad experience, fear of a natural disaster, or listening to or seeing a boat disaster. 

Equipment Requirements for the Maintenance Process 

Boats are a lifelong investment and need regular maintenance to protect the vessel. Just like we care for our cars and have handy tools and services for maintenance, a similar rule applies to boats. Here is some must-have equipment to help you maintain your boat – 

  • Tool Kit 

A waterproof or airtight tool kit can help fix minor boat problems. It includes various standard tools that suit a variety of applications and can help in the maintenance process. A tool kit consists of an adjustable wrench, screwdrivers, pliers, water dispersant or lubricant, grease, electrical wire, electrical tape, tef-gel, cable ties, torch, and a spare rope.  

  • Epoxy Resin

Epoxy resin is a powerful adhesive. Its durability and high water resistance make it suitable for fibreglass, wood, plastic, glass, and metal surfaces.

  • Paint

Oil and water-based paints protect the boat’s surfaces. They are of two types; topside paint and bottom paint. The pigments used at the bottom of a vessel generally have a copper additive to prevent any marine growth on the surface. 

  • Insulation Checking

Insulation checking or insulation resistance (IR) tests can help check the insulation in the boat’s electrical equipment. Regular insulation checks help prevent electric shocks, short circuits, and fires. The insulation resistance can be measured using a megger, which is a high resistance meter. 

  • Boat Maintenance Facility

Regular maintenance is essential to ensure the smooth functioning of the boat. Some components need weekly care, whereas some require monthly and annual maintenance checks. Looking after the maintenance process from time to time can be difficult for boat owners. Boat maintenance facilities take care of timely maintenance procedures with an expert staff and high-quality resources.  In case it’s an FRP boat that you own, please visit this page to know more about   FRP Boat maintenance facilities.

Dos and Don’ts for Boat Owners

Owning a boat is easier said than done. As a boat owner, you need to constantly ensure that your boat is water-worthy. THis includes regular inspections, maintenance, trials, and repairs. Here are some do’s and don’ts for boat owners, to ensure that their vessel stays ship shape at all times. 


  • Trials After the Service

After servicing the boat, ensure you take it for a trial run. A trial is essential to analyze the boat’s operation, including its machinery, safety and alarms, and monitoring. Take speed trials, docks trials, and maneuvering trials. Repair them at sea if there is a breakdown. 

  • Evaluate Boat Performance

Evaluating the boat’s performance is critical as it ensures the safety and efficient operations. Follow the manufacturer’s guide to the service and maintenance schedule. Run boat tests to note the performance numbers and check for any problems or repairs. 

  • Regular Preventive Maintenance

Regular preventative maintenance ensures that you are prepared for emergencies before they happen and the safety of the people on board. Boat equipment and machinery are expensive and frequent replacements can be heavy on the pocket. Regular maintenance assures that it runs efficiently for a more extended period 

  • Install Smoke Detectors and CO Detectors 

It is difficult to detect a leak because carbon monoxide is odourless, colourless, and tasteless. Installing CO detectors on boats and closed compartments helps detect gas leaks and reduce the risk of exposure. Smoke detectors or fire detection systems can immediately detect a fire and its location. It helps in rapid response towards taking the necessary action to prevent or extinguish the fire.  


  • Ignoring Small Problems

Minor issues may not seem worth the attention, but they can escalate to significant problems if left unchecked. They can risk the safety of the boat and the people on board. Even if the vessel looks good from the outside, it is essential to identify the minor issues and fix them immediately.  

  • Overloading

Overloading or uneven loading on the boat with people or equipment can be dangerous. The excess weight on the vessel can make it unstable and allow waves to come on board, leading the boat to sink. Overloading is one of the most common causes of drowning and sinking. 

  • Neglecting Timely Maintenance

Regular inspections and maintenance ensure long life and a favourable outcome. It ensures the safety of the boat and the passengers. Avoiding or neglecting maintenance can be dangerous in emergencies and lead to life-threatening accidents. 

  • Pulling the Boat Onto a Rocky Shore

Maintaining a distance while pulling the boat onto a shore is necessary. Rocky shores can severely damage the hull and the vessel’s engine, and abrasive rocks and sand can also cause ruin to the gel coat. It can damage the boat and the life of the people on it.

SHM Ship Care FRP Boat Sales and Services

SHM Ship Care is a leading provider of FRP boat repair services. SHM Shipcare has contributed extensively towards improving and expanding FRP boat manufacturing in India. Both the Indian Navy and BSF have commissioned SHM’s FRP boats. 

SHM Ship Care offers a variety of FRP boat repair services as follows – 

  • FRP Lamination and Build-up
  • Gelcoat Repair and Rebuffing
  • Anti Fouling and Painting
  • Monsoon Dry-docking Services and Storage
  • Furniture Repairs and Carpentry Work
  • Engine, Water-jet Service, and Overhauling
  • Deck Fitting and Upholstery Work
  • Stainless Steel Fabrication
  • Electrical and Mechanical Repairs
  • Trailer/ Cradle Manufacture and Repairs
  • Design and Mould Making
  • Laboratory Test of FRP Laminate Panels
  • Preventive Maintenance Inspections and Repairs


This beginner’s guide to boat maintenance will ensure that you are familiar with the basics of maintenance to avoid any problematic situations while ensuring the safety of the people on board. It is always a good idea to keep things in check from your end to avoid minor issues. 

You can also get your  boats regularly scheduled for maintenance and repairs at boat maintenance facilities like SHM Ship Care to ensure your boats’ efficiency, performance, and longevity. 

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