Boater Alerts And Warnings

From BoatUS Marine Insurance

Fill 'er Up — Literally!

Refueling boat

Here's an example of why you should always be present while your boat is refueled at a marina. In one case, the attendant — a teenager — stuck the pump nozzle into a trailer boat's fish-rod holder, pulled the trigger, and pumped more than 100 gallons into the bilge. The fire department responded immediately and averted a catastrophe. The boat itself wasn't as lucky; the gasoline found its way into the foam core and was declared a total loss.

It's not just fish-rod holders that have been involved in people's dangerous mistakes. Most larger boats have three deck fills: water, waste, and fuel (diesel or gas), any one of which has become confused with another. Gasoline has been pumped into diesel fills, and diesel has been pumped into gasoline fills. Both have been pumped into waste and water tanks, as well as the aforementioned fish-rod holders (and bilges).

To prevent confusion, deck fills should be clearly marked: "Gas" (or "Diesel"), "Water," and "Waste." But the best defense against mistakenly shoving a nozzle into the wrong hole is for you to handle the nozzle. If the job must be done by an attendant, look over his or her shoulder to make sure the nozzle is going into the fuel tank.

Ultraviolet Danger

Plastic thru-hull fittingPhoto: Mark Corke

Some boats use plastic thru-hull fittings above the waterline. Although this may be fine when the boat is new, sunlight can break these down over time until they become brittle. This drain fitting is only a few inches above the waterline and is already starting to crumble. If this fails, water could easily enter the boat causing it to sink. Check thru-hulls regularly, and if they are at all suspect they should be replaced.

Gel (Re)coat

Gelcoat repairPhoto: Mark Corke

This boat was up for sale, and the "repair" to the gelcoat on the topsides of the boat obviously raised a red flag when the surveyor looked at it. This kind of ham-fisted repair calls into question other things, such as proper engine maintenance. Although the damage here was largely cosmetic, it's worth spending the money to get repairs done properly by a pro who knows what he or she is doing.

Flares And Fires

Fire extinguisher nozzle

Nothing lasts forever, and that's especially true of anything on a boat. When you inspect your safety equipment this spring, pay close attention to those things that have a limited lifespan. Flares, in particular, are only good for 42 months after manufacture (not purchase date) unless otherwise specified by manufacturer and authorized by law.

How old are your fire extinguishers? Many disposable (nonrechargeable) fire extinguishers typically used on boats have a 12-year expiration from the date of manufacture, but don't hesitate to replace them before that if they're damaged. The manufacture date is stamped on them, sometimes on the bottom. Rechargeable fire extinguishers have far more stringent maintenance requirements. Follow manufacturer recommendations and applicable laws as to inspection, maintenance, and care of your particular fire extinguishers. The seriousness of boat fires requires extreme diligence.

Stainless Hose Clamp?

Corroded hose clamp

You've read it here before — hose clamps that say they are "all stainless" aren't always being 100 percent honest. Sure, the clamp itself may be stainless, but often the screw that tightens it isn't. That deception means that the most important part of the clamp may fail within months — or even weeks if it's exposed to saltwater.

A failed hose clamp may be as inconvenient as a leak in the potable water system or as dangerous as an exhaust leak that pumps deadly carbon monoxide into the boat. Because your boat likely has dozens, if not hundreds, of hose clamps, you need to inspect them at least every spring and replace any that show signs of corrosion.

Besides rust on substandard screws, check the bottom of vertically mounted hose clamps where water may collect from a slow leak. Standing saltwater will corrode even stainless steel, so use a flashlight (and mirror, if needed) to inspect the entire clamp for rust.

Replace damaged clamps with name-brand clamps, such as Tridon or AWAB, that are made from 316-grade stainless. Check with a magnet if you're not sure; proper stainless is nonmagnetic. AWAB clamps use smooth nonperforated bands, which prevent the inevitable corrosion in slotted-type clamps. The rounded solid bands also prevent your clamps from acting like a cheese slicer on your hoses.

Want to go to the next level? Try titanium clamps. They're more expensive but are nearly immune to corrosion. Google "titanium hose clamps" to find them. 

— Published: April/May 2018


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