Preparing for Shipment – A Boat Transport Checklist You Can Count On

By Chris Ward | April 16, 2018

While boat ownership may be considered as an indication of individual wealth and prosperity, it’s also increasingly common throughout the Western world. Anyone who owns a boat knows how fun it is to spend a warm summer day out on the water, swimming, fishing, and enjoying the simple things in life.

Boat ownership continues to become more popular as the hobby extends to people from all walks of life. This is reflected by the statistics, particularly in nations such as the United States. The American marketplace includes an estimated 15.8 million boat owners at present, for example, while a further three million are planning on buying a sea bound vessel at some point in the near future.

Whether you own a boat or are planning to purchase one shortly, however, it’s important that you ensure that your vessel is prepared for international travel. This will ensure that you can take your boat out on the open waters across the globe, while also creating a scenario where it will arrive in its chosen destination in pristine condition.

It is important that you learn how to transport your boat if you plan to travel to your local marina, a distant harbour, or a foreign country.


Luckily, we’ve got you covered.

Below, we’ve created the ultimate boat transport checklist, as you look to protect your investment and get the most from your vessel.


  1. Identify Pre-Existing Damage to Your Boat


This will not apply if you’ve just taken delivery of a brand new boat, but more experienced owners may well have significant wear and tear on their vessel.

It’s important to identify this in detail before your transporter loads the boat and assume responsibility for its shipment. This will avoid any unsightly conflicts in the unlikely event that your vessel is damaged in transit, as it should be easy to distinguish between new and pre-existing marks or dents.

Some of the most common things to look for include:

  • Cracks and scratches in the fiberglass
  • Damage beneath the hull
  • Broken windshields
  • Engine failure

We’d also advise capturing photographic evidence where possible, as this provides addition production and will provide proof of liability in instances where damage is incurred.


  1. Pick a Marina or Boatyard with a 14′ Clearance as a Preferred Loading Spot


When choosing a viable loading spot for your vessel, we’d also recommend selecting locations that have a minimum clearance of 14′ (regardless of the size of your boat).

The reason for this is simple; as this ensures that branches or wires will not interfere with your boat during the beginning of your trip.

It’s more likely that your boat will incur damage in transit, and while you may be able to prove liability in some instances, it’s better to avoid these instances completely wherever possible.

Something as simple as this seems so obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people damage their boats during transit because they don’t think about clearance.


  1. Make Accommodations If Your Boat Has Any Special Characteristics


While there are universal rules for preparing boats for shipment, you must make special allowances for any characteristics that are unique to your vessel.

Maybe your boat has custom parts, additions, or parts that could become dislodged or damaged during transit.

This includes external accessories or features that protrude beyond the hull, for example, as these items could be placed at risk if you fail to account for them.

To avoid this, ensure that any external or protruding features are removed from the deck, securely padded and stored below. This will save you considerable hassle, while ensuring that your boat can be transported conveniently and without incident.

Making insurance claims is never fun for anyone involved, so we make it a habit to keep our readers informed about how to avoid these situations altogether.


  1. Secure Everything Down on Your Vessel and Seek Out Expert Assistance Where Required


You’ll need to take accountability for the individual items and fixtures aboard your boat, as everything must be secured down to minimise the risk of damage.

Now, while this typically becomes second nature for experienced boat owners, novices may find it harder to do this effectively. In this instance, it may be better to employ a qualified boat yard to secure vessel and its fixtures, as this negates the risk of human error and careless mistakes.

We’d also advise having your boat inspected by a licensed marine supervisor once it has been prepared, as this can provide genuine peace of mind for owners.

A little experience goes a long way and will help you spot things that you may not have even thought about.


  1. Close and Secure the Hatches on Your Boat


One of the biggest challenges with securing and preparing your boat is the individual details that contribute to this. Take the hatches that exist above and below deck, as failing to secure these can lead to significant water damage while in transit.

Prevention is better than cure in this instance, so we’d recommend typing or taping them closed prior to shipment. This should ensure that they remain closed throughout the boat’s journey and help you to keep the vessel’s interior dry and intact.

If you have any hatches or ports that have leaked in the past, be sure to seal these at the same time to provide genuine peace of mind. Also, note that cabin windows must be latched and taped from the outside, as this is a task that is easily overlooked by owners.


  1. Ensure That All Fuel and Water Tanks Are Drained


Prior to sending your vessel on its way, you’ll need to ensure that all fuel and water tanks have been drained. The extent to which you do this depends on your choice of service provider, as each is likely to have alternative rules and regulations in this regard.

While some will want all tanks completely drained, for example, others will ask you to leave them one quarter full. It’s important that you clarify this point as early as possible, while ensuring that you comply with this fully.

Regardless, you should definitely remove any drain plugs from the hull, as this is a mandatory requirement for all boatyards and marinas.


  1. Disconnect Batteries and Secure the Cables Elsewhere to Prevent Any Contact


You should also make sure that all batteries are disconnected prior to your boat being shipped. Not only this, but all associated cables should be secured well away from the battery unit, preferably below deck and hidden away.

This not only protects these individual elements and prevents the unnecessary loss of battery power, but it also serves to keep the cables away from terminals and negates the risk of any accidental contact.

Something as simple as this is often overlooked, yet it’s important to keep it at the front of your mind when ensuring that your vessel is fully prepared for shipment.

There is nothing worse than discovering your battery is completely drained when you arrive because you forgot to turn something off. A mistake like this can put a damper on your plans and may even require you to buy a new battery in some cases.


  1. Remember the Magic, 13 Feet, 6 Inches Metric


In many ways, 13 feet and six inches is the magic number for boat owners.

The reason or this is simple. Boats with towers, arches, pulpits or bridges that are taller than this measurement are at significant risk of incurring damage during overland transportation.

So, if any of these features on your boat exceed this measurement, be sure to remove this carefully and secure it to the boat (preferably below deck). When securing it, be sure to use an appropriate amount of padding, airing on the side of caution to ensure maximum protection.

This will help to avoid any unsightly collisions when travelling under bridges, and it’s crucial when transporting your boat to a destination in the same country.


  1. Take Photos Before Dismantling Anything on Your Boat


This leads us to the next point, as removing key features such as towers or arches may require you to dismantle these accessories before securing them safely.

Before you do this, however, we’d strongly recommend that you take photographs to document the dismantling process, while also combining these with basic, written instructions. These will serve as reference points when you strive to reassemble such features at the other end, saving you time and potentially money in the process.

This applies to anything that has to be dismantled prior to shipment, no matter how simply or easily constructed it may be. After all, it’s far better to be safe than sorry, right?


  1. Remove All Personal Possessions and Then Clean the Boats Exterior


At this stage, your vessel should be almost ready to ship to its intended destination. The next step is therefore to remove all personal possessions from your boat, as you need to bear in mind that transporters will not be responsible for the damage, theft or loss of these items during transit.

Once these items have been removed and all fittings have been secured to the boat, you can proceed to clean the exterior of the vessel and perform a final check of its condition. While you may have already listed and documented any existing marks or damages, it’s always important to inspect the boat further once it has been thoroughly cleaned.

This can be performed in conjunction with the driver or transport firm that you’ve hired, as most will require you to fill out a so-called ‘Condition Report’ before the vessel can be shipped anywhere.

Don’t stress this step too much, these condition reports are common practice and are designed to protect both parties involved in the transit of a boat.


  1. Finally – Lock the Cabin and Keep the Key on Your Person During Transit


At this stage, you can lock the cabin and officially hand the boat over to your transporters.

When it comes to the key, however, we strongly recommend that you retain this (and any spares that you may have) on your person during transit.

After all, keys are small and easily lost in any circumstances, let alone when they are being shipped across the world. So, keeping them on you will prevent you from being unable to access your vessel once it has docked at its location.


The Last Word – Preparing for Travel


With this checklist, you can safely and securely prepare your boat for travel to anywhere in the world, while protecting your investment and achieving genuine peace of mind.

Just don’t be afraid to seek out expert help if you’re an inexperienced boat owner, while strive to avoid the simple mistakes that can cost you money.

Above all else, keep in mind that transporters will not be accountable for any damages caused by your failure to properly prepare your vessel, so this is of the utmost importance no matter where it is being shipped in the world!

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