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Remember that old saying mentioned at the beginning of this guide? A boat is a hole in the water which you throw money into. Neglect your boat's maintenance and you'll soon find out how true that saying can be. Leave a boat alone for even a week or two, if it's in the water, and it can quickly degrade. Leave a boat out of the water too long, and other problems can develop before you can blink. Minor maintenance issues briefly ignored can turn quickly into major repair issues. The smart boat owner pays constant attention to maintenance.
Boats, particularly when they are in the water, develop problems very quickly: battery connections corrode; cables loosen; seals develop leaks.
Your first defense against this deterioration is to follow faithfully the maintenance procedures outlined in the owner's manuals for the boat, engine and other important accessories. If you've lost the manual (or it didn't come with a used boat), you can usually find these instructions on the manufacturers' websites or order manuals from online marine bookstores or technical service companies.
Additional information from websites such as the following will also help you develop a smart maintenance plan.
The Gear and Maintenance Section of the sailnet.com website has many good articles on sailboat maintenance.
Maintenance, Repairs, and Troubleshooting Articles on varied maintenance topics by marine surveyor David Pascoe. Most for power boats.
Ignore your boat in the fall, and you'll pay a hefty financial penalty in the spring. What should you winterize? Where can you get good tips on preventive maintenance for cold climates?
Preparing Your Sailboat for Winter by Bruce Caldwell from sailnet.com. It includes a checklist.
Sailnet.com has multiple articles on winter storage topics.
Here are checklists for preparing your boat for relaunch.
Spring Commissioning Checklist by Capt. Ken Kreisler from Power & Motoryacht Magazine.