First, I would like to mention the difference between a houseboat and most other kinds of boats. Unlike smaller boats which can be easily trailered out, taking a houseboat out of the water is a much more complicated venture. Due to the specialized equipment required to haul a houseboat out of the water, it is an expensive undertaking to do out-of-water maintenance. Most people only haul their boat out when absolutely necessary.
Let’s look at aluminum hull sterndrive houseboats first, since this is the most common houseboat out there today. Most sterndrive manufacturers recommend servicing the sterndrive once a year. Due to the expense, this is not practical with a houseboat. I would recommend hauling it out at least every five years for service.
However, it is very important to inspect the drives and hull on a regular basis. This is easily done with a dive mask. A dive mask, also known as a scuba mask, will allow you to free-dive under your boat and see clearly underwater. You will want to look at the drives for any kind of corrosion damage or any pitting, missing paint, etc.
When you’re done there, check the drive boots. This can be done by turning the drives all the way to one side and, while using a dive mask, looking for cracks in the rubber boot. Also, look at the anodes on the drives and the hull. Remember, these should be replaced when they are worn away to 40 percent. Anodes can be replaced in the water so this won’t be a project that requires an expensive haul out.
Look at the hull for signs of corrosion. Most of the time this will appear as small bumps that looks similar to corrosion on a battery terminal. Beneath each bump, you will find a small pit in the aluminum. The important thing to remember is if you see anything that doesn’t look right, have your boat hauled out as soon as possible.
Most everything is the same for steel hull houseboats with a few extra things to maintain. Steel hulls will almost always rust from the inside out. So it is very important to inspect and keep a clean, dry hull on the inside. When you haul a steel hull, you need to have the bottom painted. It is important to keep a close eye on both the inside and outside of the steel. If you find any rust, have it fixed as soon as possible.
Fiberglass boats are like steel boats in the fact you need to have the bottom painted on a regular basis. Most fiberglass boats are powered by V-drives. One feature about a V-drive boat is the fact that you can service the transmission without hauling the boat out. This makes mechanical maintenance a bit easier. However, you do need to inspect the bottom of a fiberglass boat for osmotic blisters on a regular basis. Blisters are common and easy to fix on a fiberglass boat so long as they are caught early.
To sum it up, the key to knowing when to haul your houseboat is to keep a close eye out for signs that the boat needs maintenance. When you see the signs that you need to haul out your houseboat, do not put it off. Waiting can cause a small problem to become a big one and much more expensive to repair.