Lady of the Lake: Welcome Back to the Lake!

It is finally that time of year that we lake enthusiasts have been waiting for patiently (or not so patiently). As the river rises from its dry shores to its full summer pool, it beckons us to once again come and enjoy all the pleasures she offers. Maybe our hearts beat a little bit faster with anticipation of the new adventures ahead. Visions of boating, skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, fishing, and maybe even a floating game of beer pong dance around in our heads. Somehow, it's hard to think of fun on the water without images of coves, picnics, and parties. And if you haven't ventured out before, this is the year to go for it!

But before you embark upon your new adventures, John Geer of West Marine shares with us his top 10 preseason boat maintenance checklist. Make sure you check off each one before you take off.

• Your boat has been sitting for a few months with gas in it that gas needs to be treated with an ethanol treatment to ensure an easy start up. Remember, ethanol is bad for marine engines and if gas is purchased at a local gas station, always add a treatment.

• Safety Equipment: Make sure you check and clean all safety equipment like your life jackets, fire extinguishers, flares and sound producing devices, horns or whistles. Also, if unsure of what if required don't hesitate to contact your local Coast Guard Aux for information.

• Electronics: Make sure your radio and speakers are ready to enjoy but most important make sure your VHF radio is up and working including the NOAA weather channel. There's nothing worse than being on the lake and getting caught by a fast-moving storm.

• Speaking of fast-moving storms, make sure your anchor and rode are ready to do the job. The rule of thumb is 7 feet of scope (the amount you put out) for every foot of water depth. I've seen boats start moving at Rockin' the Docks and there's nothing scarier than watch a 30-foot boat break free and move towards a line of pontoons. Better to be safe than sorry.

• The engine compartment is another area to check on. Tighten everything and clean out the bilge area and make sure your bilge pump and blowers are working. Taking on water and having a stuck or defective bilge pump is not a fun thing to experience. Take it from me. One more engine area is your spark plugs. If you fogged the engine during winterizing you may want to replace your spark plugs. This is a minor investment.

• Check all dock lines and fenders to make sure they can hold up to the job. Any frayed lines should be replaced and all the fenders should be pumped up or if they are bad replaced.

• Trailer tires and lights: Radial tires will go flat during the winter months so fill them with air based on the manufacturer's recommendation, and then check all lights and their connections. Hook up to the tow vehicle and have someone walk around and make sure both the trailer and vehicle are lit up.

• Batteries, almost forgot. Check the connections and make sure the terminals aren't corroded. If they are clean them off and tighten up. This one step can save hours of frustration.

• And for my favorite part is the cleaning and waxing. The gelcoat on boats require moisture to keep the shine so a good washing and then waxing needs to be done. Then clean the seats and dash areas need to be cleaned and then use a good protectant on them to keep them moist and the protectant should have a good UV protection rating. Plus there is nothing better than a clean boat!

• And finally, do one more walk-around before you head to the water. Check lights again, plug transom straps and winch, and then load everybody up and head to the water.

These tips aren't in any real order, but by following them you can ensure a safe and happy day on the lake. And of course if you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact your local West Marine.

Also: To kick off the season, please join the Fort Loudoun Lake Association and Calhoun's on April 20 from 6-10 p.m. for beer, BBQ, and the J. Eric Band at a very special pre-opening of the tiki bar at Calhoun's in Lenoir City. At $40 a ticket, you can enjoy an evening of fun while helping fund FLLA's mission of removing trash and debris daily, educating our community on pollution prevention, and monitoring water quality. Arrive by boat or car and start the season celebrating clean water and the kickoff of Lake Life. m

Angela Howard is the executive director of the Fort Loudoun Lake Association. Visit for more info.