Boating tips to have you ready for opening day


Danna Webster, KP News

Two Key Peninsula boaters helped create a common-sense checklist for getting your boat ready to sail — or motor — after a winter off the water. The men have the same last name, have never met and are not related. Tim Shirley became a certified boat mechanic 30 years ago and Frank Shirley is a sailor of some “30 odd years mostly around Puget Sound.” One skipper pushes his boat with the wind; the other pulls his boat through the water with a propeller powered by a motor.

Peninsula Marine mechanic Tim Shirley was a sportsman class off-shore racer. Engine power and speed are the attributes he most admires about a boat. For sailor Frank Shirley, the less reliance upon a motor the better. He uses a motor on the back of his sailboat to get out to the mooring anchor. “The objective is to never use the motor again until time to go home,” Frank says, meaning the time to go home at the end of the season.

‘First things I look at when I get ready to fire up a boat’

Motor boat tips from Tim Shirley of Longbranch: 


  • Battery — charge it
  • Spark plugs — change them
  • Lanyard connected (a.k.a. dead man switch)
  • Lights work
  • Steering turns right and left
  • Flush and run the motor
  • Check the prop for nicks
  • Boat plug in

“The most common problem for people firing up a boat after winter is a dead battery,” Tim says. “More boats sink because they don’t put the boat plug in than anything else.”

And what is the lanyard switch? “The lanyard is hooked up to the ignition switch. One of the most common problems is that it is pulled out,” he says. “Back in the day when we were racing, we called it ‘the dead man switch.’ It’s what we grabbed if we got thrown out of the boat. It cancels the engine.”

Tim has some hints about a couple of common problems with the two-stroke outboard engine. Spark plugs on two-stroke engines foul easily. It is easy to change them, and better be safe than sorry. Another big problem for two-strokes is oil settles to the bottom of the fuel tank. His advice is to buy a fuel additive and follow the directions on the label. Start up the motor and check that it is operating properly before you launch. “Run it in the driveway and check your lights. Always flush and run the motor in the driveway before you go down to the ramp and have a good time,” he says.

‘What to do before you take it out and throw it in the water’

Sailboat tips from Frank Shirley of Vaughn:


  • Battery — charge it
  • Lights working: running lights; mast head lights; inside cabin lights
  • Flush and run the back-up motor

Check and sometimes replace:

  • Main sheet and jib sheet
  • Main jib halyard
  • Check and lube:
  • Wenches-grease
  • Outboard motor bracket —WD-40
  • Jam cleats—squirt with WD-40
  • Snap shackles work — WD-40
  • Jib has brass hooks that need to be lubed — silicon or WD-40
  • Check for sharp protrusions on rigging-cover with tape
  • Check rudder is in good condition
  • Check buoy line that ties up to anchor
  • Check line and chain on anchor
  • Paint bottom
  • Wipe down inside with Clorox solution
  • Boat registration on

One maintenance hint from Frank Shirley is that a problem with the inside cabin lights usually means it has gotten wet around the light bulb. Dry the socket and change the bulb before tackling wiring diagrams. Another hint is to use black electrician’s tape on any projection like cotter pins that could tear sails — or you.

He first puts the backup motor on his row boat and checks it out thoroughly before mounting the motor on his sailboat. Having the motor fail when you need it can lead to unflattering consequences. It has happened to Frank once or twice. “That has happened a couple of times, to my embarrassment,” he says. “The wife tows me with the row boat.”

Boating season officially begins at the Longbranch Marina on the first Saturday in May. You and your boating vessel are invited to the Opening Day breakfast presented by the Longbranch Improvement Club from 8 a.m. to noon. There is a sailboat regatta, sponsored by the Longbranch Yacht Club at 10 a.m. Better check out your boating vessel soon or you may have to swim over to the marina.

Local marinas

Carr Inlet:

Lakebay Marina—884-3350 (fuel available)

Longbranch Marina—884-5137

Case Inlet:

Fair Harbor Marina—360-426-4028 (fuel available)

Port of Allyn—360-275-2430

For further recommendations check out Nautical Know How - Boating Tips Notebook at