How High To Tie?

Windlass illustrationIllustration: Bill Roche

I have an Albin 32 stored on a 20,000-pound lift in Florida. In the event of a hurricane, should I elevate the boat in the lift or lower it so it floats and secure it with a four-point tie?

Beth Leonard: Every storm is different, as is every location in every storm, so there's no silver bullet answer. But in our experience, boats do not fare well on lifts. Wind, surge, and waves, especially in combination, destroy lifts and displace boats stored in them. The answer to your question depends on the specifics of your location. Is your boat in a canal with good wind protection? If so, tying it in the center of the canal with doubled lines and chafe gear to the bow, stern, and spring cleats on each side may be your best alternative. If strong storm surge is likely, the lines need to be long and at a shallow angle to allow the boat to float with the surge. You can determine your storm surge risk by checking the NOAA SLOSH models for your area or looking at your county's hurricane-preparedness plan. If the area isn't well-protected from wind, the boat will be more likely to survive if you take it somewhere and haul out. Think about where you can take the boat and make arrangements as part of your hurricane plan.

Torqued Hose

I have an Ericson 36, and need to replace the hose between the stuffing box and the shaft log. What type of hose do I use?

Tom Neale: There's hose made specifically for this job, referred to as "packing-box hose" or "stuffing-box hose." This typically has a thickness of five-ply and is custom made for the purpose.The plies are made of alternating layers of synthetic material vulcanized together. Buy the hose you need from retailers such as Jamestown Distributors and online.

While some try to use exhaust hose as a substitute, it's not adequate for this purpose. These hoses suffer constant vibration and torque as you run. Exhaust hoses aren't thick enough to resist twisting or turning when you apply torque to them, as you'll do when changing the packing. Sometimes these thinner exhaust hoses even tear, particularly if they've aged, and water comes flooding into the boat at a high rate.

Be sure to use four high-quality hose clamps, two at each end. They should be 316-grade stainless, including not only the band, but also the barrel and gear. Clamps with weld spots rather than mechanical construction can also be weaker because of the frailties of welding materials in conjunction with the base material and saltwater. The edges should be rounded up to avoid cutting into the hose, and the perforations shouldn't be all the way through the band. This is particularly important because these hose clamps are typically sprayed with saltwater and there's a high likelihood of failure of inadequate clamps. Regular checking of clamps and hose is important, and tightening the clamps after a few hours of running after you install them is often needed.

Note we're not talking about lubricating hoses for so-called "dripless" shaft glands, which depend on water being injected into the gland for lubrication from a smaller hose, usually coming from the engine's raw-water pump plumbing. That's a different hose, just intended to carry and inject the cooling water. The issues are different. If that hose kinks, or for any reason the water stops flowing into the gland, the gland will overheat quickly.

Audio Interference

I recently added a DC-powered TV to my boat. Everything works fine until we try to watch TV when our 12-volt refrigeration system is running. The refrigerator plays havoc with the sound on the TV. I've read that a capacitor placed between the terminals of the refrigerator power leads can even out the spikes and reduce interference. I don't know how to size a capacitor, or if that's even a good solution. Is there an off-the-shelf product that can help, or do I need an electrician?

Don Casey: The better solution is to power your TV through a small inverter. I'm guessing that your TV came with a 110-volt power brick that can plug into the TV's 12-volt power input socket. Typically a small TV is in the neighborhood of 50 watts, so a $25 150-watt 12-volt inverter (the kind with a cigarette-lighter plug) will easily run both the TV and a DVD player if you also want to watch movies. There's some efficiency loss in the conversion from 12 volts to 110 volts, then back to 12 volts, but not enough at this wattage to be concerned about. What this arrangement does is clean up the power. That will be better for your TV and will probably eliminate your interference problem.

If your TV doesn't have a 110-volt power option, or for other reasons you're determined to run it directly on 12-volt power from your house batteries, connecting one or more capacitors across the power leads to the 12-volt DC refrigerator should stop the interference. The most effective arrangement is what's called a three-capacitor filter. For a schematic showing both the connections and the sizes of capacitors for one-, two-, and three-capacitor solutions. This is for robotics but should work equally well for the fridge compressor motor. It's as easy as it looks; you won't need an electrician. As for the type of capacitors, I suggest multilayer ceramic type X7R – good for filter applications and about a buck from RadioShack.

Plugging Holes In The Boat's Transom

I'm replacing my transom-mounted transducer. The current one goes through the fiberglass transom below the waterline. I don't want to put the new one through the same hole. What's the best way to plug the hole after I've removed the old cable?

Tom Neale: Great move to get rid of that thru-hull run and seal it up. Your transom probably has wood coring. When doing this job, it's very important to make sure that no water has seeped into the coring and that the coring is not impaired. If this has happened, the overall integrity of your transom could be affected. If you find soft wood or coring, try to scoop it out with a small bent nail or similar tool and tap around it listening for indication of soft coring to determine the extent of the issue. Try to replace any soft coring with an appropriate product, such as the thickened resin epoxies by West Systems, following product instructions. Hopefully, when the hull was drilled originally, the worker did it correctly and sealed the sides of the hole with epoxy resin. There are a variety of options for filling the hole itself. Start by reading the tutorial on the West System website before deciding how to proceed.

More On Placards

John Adey answered a question on placards and horsepower that, while correct, ignored the advancements in outboards over the past couple of years. On my 2008 Grady-White the placard says weight and horsepower are limited to that of a four-stroke 250-hp outboard. Yet about a year or so after I bought my boat, Yamaha introduced a new V6 300-hp and Grady now offers my exact boat with a 300-hp option. Their website now says my boat has a 10-person capacity, when it was eight people in 2008. Same boat, same hull, but a lighter engine. So if I repower with an F300, what does this mean in terms of the placard on the boat? It seems the placard on the boat can't keep up with changes in outboard technology.

John Adey: Welcome to my world! Your observation is right on and accurately highlights the difference between federal regulations and the standards of ABYC. So let's walk through this a bit:

Engine weight in boatbuilding is used purely for capacity calculations and testing. In the ABYC Standards, we require a capacity plate on boats less than 26 feet, while the federal regulations stop at less than 20 feet. ABYC reviews our engine weight table annually and compares it to the market, so, yes, we do change with technology, modifying the weights engine builders use to calculate and test capacities. Hence, the change.

Your boat doesn't fall under the federal guidelines, which haven't changed weight-wise since the 1980s. So Grady-White responded to the weight change and was able to recalculate and test this model due to the change. That said, they also had to test the ability of the boat to handle not only the weight but the power of the outboard. Could it pass the ABYC performance test? Apparently it could, so they could re-placard it with the increased capacity and horsepower.

You could ask Grady-White for an updated placard for your boat, but generally, most manufacturers would be reluctant to issue a new placard given that there are so many variables in such a situation. They also may have made engineering changes you don't see resulting in the higher horsepower. Bottom line, should something happen that results in any legal issues (such an accident), and you had a 300-hp engine with a 250-hp placard, your defensible position would be compromised.

No, The Other Gas

I'm thinking about buying a 1979 Catalina sailboat that has compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks stored in the lazarette, not in a sealed locker. Will I be required to install a sealed locker for the CNG tanks if I buy the boat?

Beth Leonard: Unlike propane, CNG is lighter than air, so it won't accumulate in the bilge in the event of a leak. Quite a few boats from that era were equipped with CNG instead of propane because it was viewed as safer and didn't necessitate a sealed locker. However, CNG can pool in dead spaces without ventilation to the atmosphere, creating a hazard. For that reason, the thinking has changed over time, and today's ABYC standard calls for CNG to be in a sealed locker with a vent at the top to the open atmosphere if the tank(s) have an "attached combined capacity" of more than 100 cubic feet of gas.

While an older boat is not expected to meet the newest standards, insurers often require that you bring an older boat into compliance with the current standards in order to get insurance. So if you want to insure the boat, you may need to install a sealed locker or make sure the tanks hold less than 100 cubic feet of CNG. Even if you don't insure it, keeping the CNG in a sealed, vented locker increases your safety and the safety of your passengers.

Competing Chargers

With multiple three-stage "smart" chargers feeding the same bank, I've heard that none of them will finish the charge and will instead detect each other's voltage as if it were battery voltage. I'd like to be able to charge simultaneously from all my sources. What's the best way to do this?

Don Casey: It's true that charging voltage from one source fools any other charging source into concluding that battery voltage is higher than it actually is. This is just the physics of battery charging and there's no way around it that I'm aware of. It has little practical effect on battery level because smart chargers simply cut back to a fixed-voltage charge, so the batteries continue to get fed current at a low rate. The source is unimportant. On my boat, when the battery charger is operating at near-full charge, it gives my solar regulator arrhythmia. The only solution is to turn off one or the other.

Extinguisher Exposure

Can I keep a fire extinguisher exposed to the sun on the aft deck?

John Adey: I don't think continuous exposure to the elements is good for a critical safety item like an extinguisher. Imagine for a second lots of UV exposure creating brittleness in the plastic handle. One day, you have a fire aboard. You pull the pin, clamp down on the handle, and instead of opening the valve, the handle cracks. Not a good day at the office. I'd keep it protected, out of the sun, yet easy to grab in an emergency.

Dirty Toons

I have a very dirty pontoon boat. The boat wasn't taken out of the water for years before I bought it. There are calcium deposits and heavy staining on the pontoons. I've tried many cleaners that haven't worked. Any suggestions?

Don Casey: Where they work, household cleaners like Spray Nine or Simple Green are easiest on the metal. Some use either oven cleaners (Easy Off) or bathroom cleaners (Soft Scrub) with mixed results. Pontoon-specific products such as Toon-Brite, in concert with power washing, reportedly do a good job of cleaning stained pontoons. Some pros use diluted muriatic acid, which will clean the metal, but also etches it, making the discoloration come back. A common choice for cleaning pontoons is air-conditioner coil cleaner, specifically Cal-Brite, available from HVAC suppliers. This is safer, easier on the metal, and often more effective than muriatic acid. Whatever you use, don't do this with the boat in the water, and after cleaning you'll need to apply a protective coating of some kind, with Sharkhide being perhaps the easiest. If you don't protect the aluminum, you'll be doing this again next year.

Getting A Grip

I have two-inch seawater hoses on my main engines that need replacing. What's the best way to remove the old hoses? I tried heating them and they still won't slide off.

Tom Neale: This is a tough job with old hose, especially if it's hose with wire insert, but you're doing the right thing to replace it. I use a towel and a large pot of hot water. Soak the towel in the water and wrap it around the hose where it covers the barb. Keep doing this, renewing the hot water as needed, until the hose becomes soft enough to pull off. I wear tough work gloves to do the pulling. If this doesn't work, cut the hose where it goes over the barb, carefully, with a knife with serrated blade or a hacksaw if there is a wire insert. If I have trouble with the wire, I cut it as it coils around with wire cutters, usually several times. Be careful not to cut into the barb. 

— Published: August/September 2014

Meet the Experts

Photo of Beth Leonard

Beth Leonard
BoatUS Magazine's technical editor, Beth Leonard, grew up powerboating, waterskiing, and fishing on Lake Ontario. Since 1992, she and her husband have completed two circumnavigations on two sailboats, doing all maintenance themselves. They also installed the systems on their 47-foot aluminum sloop. Beth has written The Voyager's Handbook, the how-to bible for offshore sailors, and hundreds of technical articles.

Photo of Tom Neale

Tom Neale
He's cruised long distance with his family for most of his adult life. He can take apart and fix almost every system aboard, has written two books, filmed a two-set DVD on East Coast cruising, written for top marine magazines, and has won nine first-place awards from Boating Writers International and many awards for his technical writing.

Photo of Don Casey

Don Casey
One of the most consulted experts on boat care and upgrades for 30 years. He and his wife cruise their 30-footer part of the year in the eastern Caribbean. His books include Don Casey's Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual, and the recently updated This Old Boat, the bible for do-it-yourself boaters.

Photo of John Adey

John Adey
The president of the American Boat & Yacht Council, John has been in the industry since 1990, with experience from a yacht brokerage and boatyard to owning a marine supply store. He and his family sail their classic 1976 Irwin ketch, a boat he completely restored.


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