Boater Alerts And Warnings

From BoatUS Marine Insurance

The $15,000 Nut

A 40,000-pound boat has a lot of momentum. Like most large powerboats, however, it has two powerful engines to make maneuvering in tight spaces relatively easy, unless, of course, something fails. This boat's owner was in the process of docking and pulled back on the throttle to reverse the starboard engine. To his surprise, it didn't respond and continued moving slowly forward. Unable to control his boat in the confines of the narrow dock, all it took was a scant few seconds to do $15,000 damage to two nearby boats. Later, it was found that a small nut that secures the starboard engine's shift cable had loosened, allowing the cable to slide out of its bracket. An unsupported cable, as the owner found out, is useless. If you haven't done so already, make sure these brackets are part of your routine maintenance inspections.

Portable Generators

Marine surveyors tell us that they occasionally see small portable generators on boats that have been mounted in the bilge and do nothing more than power high-wattage stereos. They're often installed by the same businesses that sold the stereos. Aside from the disturbing possibility that you might have to share an anchorage with one of these floating boom boxes, it should be noted that portable generators, while great for RVs, don't come close to meeting the U.S. Coast Guard requirements for marine electrical and fuel systems. Not only are portable generators not ignition protected; in these dangerous installations, the hot exhaust is typically run to the transom via a dry (not water-cooled) rubber hose. It won't take long for these heated hoses to fail, which could then cloud the engine compartment and boat's cabin with deadly carbon monoxide. Considering that the only way to fill the generator's fuel tank is to squeeze down into the engine compartment with a hose full of gasoline, there would seem to be ample reason for music buffs to find another way to power their stereos, like a properly installed inverter.

Wax On, Fall Off

One of the rites of boat maintenance is waxing the hull, a big job that can leave you with sore muscles or in a body cast. The owner of the boat in the picture fell from the rickety-looking ladder, breaking his ankle and severely injuring his back.

A low scaffold with well-supported wide boards is a much better solution to the problem of remaining safely aloft. Once the scaffold is set up, you won't have to wrestle with the ladder every time you move to a different section of the hull.


This is a good-quality seacock that is properly bonded and with the hoses double-clamped. Unfortunately, the installer didn't know that a seacock like this has to have its flange bolted to the hull, not simply tightened down with a nut. The strength of a seacock depends on how well it's fastened. American Boat & Yacht Council standards call for a seacock to be able to withstand a 500-pound sideways pull (simulating something like a large anchor being thrown against it). Without being bolted down, it's more likely this seacock will fail in rough conditions. Inspect your seacocks; if you see one like this, address it promptly.

Bolts Gone Bad

Bolts gone badPhoto: BoatUS Marine Insurance

On the surface, these bolts appear to be OK. But after a boatlift collapsed, the company that installed it found that some of the bolts were badly deteriorated, while others were as good as new. It's likely the corrosion was caused by contact with damp wood. Because wood is slightly acid, dampness causes metal fasteners to corrode. This is the same process that happens to fastenings in wood boats. As the metal begins to deteriorate, it starts creating more acid, which accelerates the corrosion process. The big question, for anyone who owns a boatlift, is how do you tell if a bolt is going bad? If possible, periodically remove and inspect the bolts. Any that have begun to rust should be replaced. Other indications of pending failure include telltale black streaks on pilings, which indicate rust and decayed wood. You may also be able to hear the problem by tapping the bolt heads with a metal hammer. The difference can be subtle, but bolts that are deteriorating tend to sound hollow.  

— Published: August/September 2017

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