Member Services

Love Your Launch: A Coach’s Guide to Launch Maintenance and Safety Equipment

Coaches often ignore the maintenance of launches in the off months. Now is the time to tend to your important safety and coaching tools. Don’t wait until the pressures of the season trick you into ignoring your launch. As the summer season winds down, spend a time getting your launch ready for the fall.

Coaching launches take a beating; the hulls and motors get used at a rate well beyond the average and expected usage.

Get prepared before all the commotion of a new season pushes the launches (and you) back on the water. Make sure you do the maintenance and check the launch’s safety equipment.

If you take your motor in for a tune up, the following minimal maintenance should be done for you:
• Change the fuel filter
• Change the gear oil in the lower end and change the spark plugs
• In the 4-stroke engines, change the motor oil
• Check for corrosion on the battery leads/terminals, clean and grease

Changing the gear oil requires the engine to be out of the water. They can be done in a couple hours or even less if you have all the equipment and supplies ready. If your engine has a battery, it’s a good idea to put the battery on a trickle charger.

Depending on the extent and number of repairs a hull needs, it is easier to do this in the dry boat bay than on the water. Scrub the hull. Getting the gunk and growth off the hull now will make the launch faster and save fuel.

Check the navigation lights and all lines. Dispose trash, and clear dirt and fuel residue out of the inside of the hull.

Safety Equipment
Check all of your safety equipment and start with your own personal flotation device, whether it’s a life vest, Mustang suit or a float coat to make sure that it is still in good shape. We strongly recommend that everyone in the launch wear a flotation device, especially the coach.

Get your anchor and line neatly stowed, and tuck the paddle out of the way. The rest of your safety equipment (life vests, first aid supplies, air horn, emergency blankets, throw bag and flashlight) should be checked to make sure they are dry and in good shape. Make sure batteries are fresh in any device that needs them.

All items taken from the first aid kit from the previous season or weather-damaged supplies should be replaced. Be sure you have enough PFDs in the launch for all rowers and coxswains. Often, they are borrowed for another launch. Count them and make sure they are not cracked or torn.

Check your tie lines. Make sure that ropes are not frayed and that your registration numbers are intact and easy to read.

If you are not sure about the state of your launch or safety regulations, schedule a free safety examination. Ask a Vessel Examiner from The United States Power Squadrons, or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary to perform a yearly Vessel Safety Check (VSC) on your launches.

This link has more information on the VSC program:

Start the new season safely and have all your equipment ready.

USRowing Safety Committee:
Willie Black, Education Manager
Margot Zalkind, Chair, Northeast
Casey Baker, Southeast
Jim Cooper, Northeast
Rachel Lemieux, Northwest
John White, Mid-Atlantic

USRowing Safety Page

USRowing Safety Video
Available for $20 or for viewing on YouTube

Kippy Liddle Safety Kit

Safety Poster
Free from USRowing:  Contact member services at 1-800-314-4769 or email

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