Doug and Brenda Dawson have a library of thousands of old boat brochures, but do not have any owner’s manuals.
Most older boats didn't come with manuals
None of the boat builders produced an owner’s manual in the early years and only a few did in the more recent years; but they were very limited in information and quite generic to either the whole boat line or boating in general.
Some manufacturers put the motor manual and a few accessory or electronic information sheets in a drawer somewhere in an envelope. Some boat owners kept them and others didn’t.
If you are looking for a boat owner's manual, we have many suggestions and tips for you.
Some of the boat builders now, produce a manual for their cruisers and yachts. Some of these manuals include wiring diagrams and plumbing information and sometimes more.
The majority of parts other than the fiberglass or aluminum, that make up a boat are made by outside suppliers or accessory manufacturers. The only items that boat builders create custom for their models are either made in house or locally; for example, canvas, upholstery and railings.
You can make your own
If you can't find an owner’s manual for your boat, we suggest you assemble your own. Start with the motor manufacturer’s website to source a motor manual. Most times, the motor manufacturer also supplies the shifts and gauges. If not, in your case, source the manufacturer of those as well.
Manufacturers like Searay and Bayliner, have owners' manuals on their websites for download, while other sites have a list of owners' manuals like http://marine.manualsonline.com/manuals/device/boat.html. Some of the information in these manuals would be interchangeable from boat brand to boat brand, so you could use an owner's manual from a different brand for information on gauges, pumps, blowers, plumbing, engine start procedures etc.
Check each and every one of your accessories and/or electronics for the make and model number and source them on the internet. For example, VHF radio, Depth Finder, Bilge Pump, etc.
We made our own owner’s manual as above and put the information in clear plastic protector sheets in a binder. It works well.
Find an owner with a manual
You may be lucky and be able to track down an owner’s manual (if there was one) by going to all the marine multiple listing sites like Yacht World or Boat Trader etc. Then, contact the vendor, who may have a manual that came with the boat or that he assembled himself. He may be willing to copy his for you.
Track down someone from the factory
For Boat Builders that are long gone, find out what state or province they were built in, then contact the marinas selling boats within a few hundred miles of the plant. Every boat builder had a home town or home area dealer that did extremely well, because of their proximity to the plant for a long time. You may be able to locate one that was a dealer way back when for the information you need. The boat builders’ employees all lived locally and many stayed in the area after the plant closed—some working for local marinas. If your boat is from the 80’s or earlier, when the young person you end up talking to doesn’t know, ask to speak to the “gentleman with the grey hair” out back. He’ll probably know or know where to refer you to.
For rails, canvas and upholstery
For items like rails, canvas and upholstery, check with your local marina. Most larger marinas have local suppliers that create these items for them. Each item is custom built for you and depending on how original you want the part to be, they can modify and improve the design; so that it is even better than the original. We have written several articles on how to improve your canvas design, when it is replacement time.
- Replacing Canvas
- Solve the Canvas Puzzle
- Canvas Repair
- Cleaning Plastic Canvas Windows
- Canvas Straps damage Plastic
Wiring and Plumbing
SoundingsOnline has a great article and diagram for charger wiring.
BoatUS has an article on basic boat wiring.
For construction questions or issues, source a knowledgeable marine technician. He will be able to either, give you some good advice, refer you to a boat rebuilder or fix it for you.
Another good source of repair shops is your insurance company.
For information on handling your boat, see PowerBoatDocking.com HouseboatDocking.com or Sailboat Docking. All lessons include handling instructions and exercises for each drive system as well as detailed, step-by-step docking instructions complete with diagrams.
Using your boat
For information on Using your Boat that you won’t learn from the marina or the Power Squadron, go to the following:
- Tying Your Power Boat
- Tying and Using Knots
- Using Your Dinghy
- Conquering Wakes
- Anchoring Your Boat
- Communicating Aboard
- Ramping Your Boat
- Making Ropes into Lines
- Enhancing Boating
Interior and exterior management
For information on managing the interior and exterior of your boat, see First Mate 101.
Buying your next boat
Before you buy another boat, you may want tips on how to avoid the challenges, that you are having with your current boat. See Buy a Boat With Confidence.
Doug Dawson and Brenda Dawson