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I/O Spring Commissioning for Idiots
Feb 25, 2008
by Bob Banfelder

Article Courtesy of
Online Magazine Volume 19 Number 3 • Feb 26 2008

Tools and supplies you'll need for the job.
The first question Frank Mundus asked me when he visited Riverhead, New York, aboard the Cricket II this past August, was: "So, Bob, do you own a boat?" "Yes, I do Frank," I answered up smartly. "Well, then you're an idiot," the world renowned shark fisherman said as he smiled mischievously, warmly taking my hand into his. Frank calls most shark fishermen he knows-and even those he meets for the first time-idiots. Mundus refers to himself as an idiot magnet. "I call my customers idiots because they are idiotic enough to climb on my boat and go out fishing with me," he continued. "When the charter party climbs aboard, I ask them, 'Who is the head idiot?' In my estimation, the head idiot is the person who got all the other idiots together to go shark fishing." In Frank's latest book, Fifty Years a Hooker, the eighty-two-year-old 'Monster Man' deems it a "high honor" to be called an idiot, adding himself and all boat owners to the lot. "It's those over-intelligent, over-educated folks who are educated beyond their intelligence that I don't bother calling idiots." Therefore, folks, do not take a hissy fit at the title of this article; we're in good company.

In October of 2006, Nor'east ran my piece entitled I/O Winterization-I/Os for Idiots. Here is the follow-up article for spring commissioning your inboard/outboard vessel. If you are relatively new at this business, you'd have to be an idiot not to follow this procedure, saving yourself a significant amount of money in the bargain. If you had read and performed the winterization operation to a T, you are more than ready for this next phase. Preparing your boat for the coming season is a walk in the park.

The age-old adage to bear in mind with regard to purchasing real estate is threefold: location, location, location. Along that same line, when winterizing or spring commissioning your vessel, the key to a smooth transition is organization, organization, organization. Being highly organized will transform this job into a labor of love. Selecting everything you need beforehand from the table below will move the operation along effortlessly. Nothing is more frustrating than having to search for an item in the middle of a process, or running out to the store to buy such-and that's if they even have what you need in stock. For future use, in the blank boxes provided at the bottom of the table, add those items relevant to your particular outdrive, engine, and vessel. For example, where I may use a 3/8-inch open-end wrench for a certain procedure, you may require a ½-inch socket with an extension or a metric tool. Record appropriately.

Although I/O's are pretty basic, be sure to consult your owner's/service manual(s) in conjunction with these instructions-following the manufacturer's advice over my advisement herein. Let this note serve as the disclaimer. The following procedures are how I go about spring commissioning my Volvo Penta, 5.0 GI series inboard-outboard vessel. Common sense will prevail since we're not complete idiots.

For openers, get started as early in the day as you can. Running out of time and/or daylight before a procedure is complete can be very annoying. Let's get started. Uncover your boat. You'll need needle nose pliers for any stubborn knots; save all lines for future use. If vessel has been shrink wrapped, discard material according to local regulations.


Replacements: Change annually or when two-thirds of the sacrificial anode has been eaten away by galvanic corrosion. Some manufacturers suggest changing zincs when a brown film covers them. I simply wire-brush the filmy area.


Assuming that you have powerwashed the prop(s) and removed all barnacles from same, rough up the exterior surface with emery cloth. Next, cut a 3-inch x 25-inch length of belt sandpaper (80 grit). Fold (cup-like) lengthwise in order to work the peripheral tunnels running along the outer circumference [NOT THE VERY CENTRAL GROOVED SPLINED TUNNEL THROUGH WHICH THE SHAFT PASSES, OBVIOUSLY], which are otherwise impossible to free of barnacles, grit, grime, et cetera. Pass the length of sandpaper back-and-forth up, down and around these perimetral tunnels-and you will be amazed at the amount of buildup that will be released, creating a smooth surface area to which the primer and/or paint will adhere.

Before getting started with a quality spray antifouling primer and/or paint for those outer tunnels, find yourself some suitably sized can covers, caps or plugs so as to protect that central tunnel (splined hub) from any paint. Instead of spending time masking off that middle section, I found that a token for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel (isn't that ironic) Authority sets perfectly atop either end of one of my Volvo Penta Duo Props. A quart size Tropicana Orange Juice bottle cap-or a lid from a 6-ounce tomato paste can, neatly covers the other prop opening. Additionally, you can make clean-up easier by placing props within cardboard boxes before spray-priming and painting.

Interlux Primocon Underwater Primer and Interlux Trilux Prop & Drive Paint were used during the 2005-2006 seasons with good results. Travaco’s Classic Yacht Clear Choice Outdrive/Outboard Antifoulant paint worked extremely well on the props during the 2007 season. It's expensive but worth it. The above three products are spray cans. Be sure to spray those peripheral tunnels well to avoid barnacle buildup. Two coats of Pettit Premium Line Antifouling Finish as a brush-on paint upon the blades and boss area (entire outer surface) proved excellent. Note: I always employ brush-on primers and paints on accessible areas. I only employ spray-on primers and paints in inaccessible areas.

Grease propeller shaft and replace prop(s).


Same brush-on paint as suggested above.


Presuming that you have thoroughly powerwashed below the waterline-removing all barnacles, scum, grit, and grime-follow label instructions in the use of a quality brush-on antifouling paint such as Pettit Premium Line Antifouling Finish. I do not like ablative paints. Completely repainting the bottom of the hull each year adds unnecessary weight to your vessel and subtracts valuable dollars from your wallet. If the area below the waterline is virtually free of barnacle buildup after having hauled the boat at the end of last season, touch up only those areas that show signs of the paint wearing thin. You should get at least two or three seasons out of an initial brush-on application. Sure, a roller application goes on faster; however, a brush-on application protects better, lasts a lot longer, and saves paint. It's your call.


Wire-brush battery terminals and reconnect cables [tightly]. Make sure the battery cells are filled appropriately and that the batteries are fully charged.

LOWER UNIT: (stern drive)

Assuming that the outdrive had been serviced in the fall [it definitely should have been; i.e., the oil and O-rings changed, fresh oil added, the unit thoroughly powerwashed and barnacle-free], simply wash the unit with warm soapy water and a degreaser, hose-rinse and allow the unit to dry, then acetone its surface before protecting the exterior of the unit with a quality brush-on antifouling paint. Again, Pettit Premium Line Antifouling Finish is a winner. While the outdrive is in the down position, be sure to mask off the faces of the trim/tilt cylinders (protecting the O-rings), then prime and paint the pivot rods; i.e., the shorter, exposed section of the stainless steel rod where it enters the trim/tilt cylinder. This will prevent barnacles from damaging the O-rings. You do not want paint buildup on the entire rod; it is protected from barnacles when the unit is in the down position.

Duo-props prepped for installation.
Note: When dockside, always remember to lower your outdrive all the way down, unlike outboard engines, which are left in a raised position. The cylinder rods retract and are protected from those havoc-causing marine crustaceans. The same holds true for trim tabs; the 'bow down' position will retract and protect the rods from barnacle buildup.

Also, mask off the water intake screens (port and starboard) before painting. Mask off the small drain hole in front of screen.

Mask off the zincs if they are in good condition so as to avoid getting paint on them. You do not want the zincs in contact with a painted surface. If zincs are not in good condition, discard them, tape off the exposed area where the old zincs sat, brush-paint the surrounding area, then allow to dry and install new zincs after removing tape.

Remove the three screws securing the rear access cover to the oil level plug. Mask off the O-ring seal behind the oval brass plate, located at the center of that area-also, the tunnel just to the right where the rubber shift cable covers are obscured. Utilizing protective gloves and a disposable brush, apply Marykate On/Off chemical. Working quickly between the chemical and the H2O, thoroughly hose-wash the access area as well as its cover. Allow to dry, then brush-paint this area where accessible; spray-paint where inaccessible. Remove tape, then grease appropriate areas; e.g., cotter pins and pivotal points. In replacing the access cover, the bottom screw should be threaded first for proper alignment. Spray-paint or brush-paint the area behind the unit; i.e., the bellows (boot) locations. By having someone at the helm station to raise and lower the outdrive, turning it left and right in various positions, you can access all areas. Admittedly, this takes time; however, this extra effort will ensure a virtually barnacle-free unit. Paint entire outdrive with at least two coats of a quality antifouling paint.


Presuming that you have changed the engine oil and filter in the fall [you most definitely should have], check distributor cap and rotor for any sign of corrosion; replace as necessary. Considering that I put an average of 50 to 75 hours on my engine each boating season, I change and gap marine spark plugs every two years; rotor every year; distributor cap and spark plug wires after 350 hours. This is a good point in time to visually inspect the entire engine area for cracked or worn hoses and belts, weeping manifolds, risers, et cetera. Don't wait until you have a problem; nip it in the bud now.



Turn on blowers for several minutes; start engine in neutral and make sure that it is running properly before changing the filters. Consult your owner's manual, then rev engine to appropriate rpm's until reaching normal operating temperature.

Turn engine and batteries off.

Check for fuel filter leaks.

Removing Fuel Filter/Water Separator(s): spin-on/off type(s)

If so equipped, service secondary filter (smaller of the two) first. Place paper towels or rag under filter to absorb any dripping gas. Lock wrench onto filter and carefully remove. Next, do the same with the primary filter (larger of the two). In today’s crowded engine compartments, you may have to use a swivel (adjustable) handle-type wrench for those tight areas. Pour gas from filter(s) into an aluminum pie pan and check for debris. Also, you can tell if there is water in the fuel filter; there will be beading. If you see a significant amount of debris or phase separation, notify your mechanic. Lock the primary (larger) filter into a bench vice, being careful not to damage the fuel element bowl affixed to the bottom of the filter. You'll need channel grips to remove the fuel element bowl from the spin-off filter. You do not need to replace the fuel element bowl, only the filter with its O-ring-type gasket. When the old O-ring gasket is removed, you’ll note that it has swelled considerably, making it appear as though the new O-ring (when comparing it to the old) will not fit properly on the new filter; however, it will fit fine. With a little gas on a paper towel, wipe clean, then dry the bowl's O-ring gland. Lubricate O-ring gasket with motor oil.

Replacing Fuel Filter/Water Separator(s): spin-on/off type(s)

Note: Make sure that the old gasket is out of the fuel element bowl filter and that a new one is pushed into place.

Fill spin-on filter(s) with fresh gas so pump doesn’t work too hard when starting.

Spin on element/bowl assembly snugly by hand; no tools. Lubricate both the primary and secondary filter seals with motor oil, too. Spin on primary (large) filter and hand tighten additional 1/3 to ½ turn after full seal contact is made. Secondary (small) filter is tightened ¾ turn. Assist with filter wrench. Marking filters and bowl with an arrow to indicate its removal/replacement direction is a simple way to ensure proper procedure. After all, we're only idiots.

Restart engine and check for leaks.


Being that I had washed and waxed the hull in the fall, I rewash and apply two more coats of wax during spring commissioning. Mothers Car Wash is a sudsing agent that will not remove wax. Why use a detergent that removes wax when we strive to build up protective coats in order to have our vessels looking spick-and-span? You’d have to be a complete idiot! After a thorough washing-using Soft Scrub on only those stubborn stains that will not come off with a waxing compound-apply a quality wax. Actually, I have been using a polishing agent that contains no wax, Nu Finish, on my vessel and vehicles for years. It is an excellent product that can even be used in full sun.

** Drain Plug: bilge plug.

Last but not least, be sure to reinstall the vessel's drain plug before launching the boat. I winter store the plug in a zip-locked bag, tied in plain sight to the helm. I'd have to be a real idiot not to note its presence before putting the boat into the water.


After the craft is launched, I raise the antenna and anchor/mast light and check the radio and navigational lights. Finally, I wax above the hull line, polish the rails, rod holders and other hardware, then sigh satisfactorily.

Congratulations! If you have taken my lead, we have just saved ourselves a bundle of money. Take the guy or gal who assisted you out to a nice dinner. In my case, it's my significant other, Donna.


Consult your owner’s manual as well as a certified, authorized, or qualified marine mechanic for setting up a periodic maintenance schedule so as to keep your vessel shipshape. Example: pumps/impellers, belts, manifolds, risers, gimbal housing, bellows, et cetera. A mechanic’s trained ear, alone, can often troubleshoot a potential problem before it becomes a major mishap.


The following is what I always carry aboard:

Marine tool kit (standard & metric), spare Duo Props and special wrenches, serpentine belt, spark plugs, rotor, distributor cap, oil filter, fuel filter/water separators (primary and secondary) with appropriate wrenches; WD-40, CRC, one-gallon container of 50/50 Prestone antifreeze mix, one-quart distilled H2O, power steering fluid, porta-potti chemical; porta-potti, PFDs, funnels, handheld compass, handheld radio, flares (check expiration date), first-aid kit, lines and fenders.


Owner's and service manuals, log book, navigational charts, tide chart, waterway guide.


GPS, Depth Sounder/Fish-Finder, VHF Radio.

Enjoy the season!

Volvo Penta outdrive with props installed.
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