Check Your Straps

Over the years, we've talked a lot about the importance of taking care of your boat's trailer; your boat depends on it to safely get around while ashore. This accident though, wasn't due to the trailer. The owner of this boat was going around a curve when the boat came off the trailer — the sound of crunching, scraping fiberglass must have been pretty unpleasant to hear. It wasn't hard to figure out what happened, as you can see in the inset. The owner had strapped the stern down, but unfortunately had led the straps over the sharp edges of the trim tabs. It didn't take long before the straps lost the battle to chafe, allowing the boat to slide off the rollers and drag along the road. Fortunately, the damage was superficial, and the boat was soon back on its trailer — with new straps crossed to keep them away from the trim tabs.

Even if your straps aren't in danger of chafing over a sharp surface like trim tabs, inspect them carefully every time you put them on. If they look frayed or if the ratchet is a rusty mess, replace them. It's cheap insurance to keep your boat from ending up with road rash.

Fuel Tank Hoses

When marine surveyor Mike Hunter of Springfield, Missouri, sent us this picture, our first thought was Yikes! Looking at the fuel-tank fill hose, we noticed that not only was it partly attached with a plastic zip tie (gasoline fill hoses must be double-clamped, but with real hose clamps), the hose itself was deteriorated enough that it was leaking onto the gas tank and no doubt into the bilge. A single spark could have caused this boat to explode (see "Preventing Explosions Aboard" for more on explosions). But there was even more than the leaking rotten fuel fill that got our attention. Notice the fuel vent line just behind the fill hose that is missing hose clamps at the top. These hoses are usually filled with gasoline vapors; and if they come off, those vapors will sink to the bilge. In case that's still not enough, one of the wires lying on the tank is connected with a twist fitting. Not only are they prohibited by the American Boat &Yacht Council (ABYC) because they subject the bare wire to corrosion and tend to cut strands of wire during installation, they're capable of contributing to a spark. The sloppy taping job on the crimp connector (at least someone got one connector right) is evidence that this boat was not maintained with an eye toward safety. The entire fuel system should be inspected with a fine-tooth comb to look for further "shortcuts."

More On Hoses

While the ABYC requires fuel fill hoses to be double-clamped, other fuel hoses don't have to be — and some shouldn't be. Simply throwing on another clamp can actually do more harm than good because the clamp can damage the hose and cause it to leak; exactly what you're trying to avoid. If a hose has to be put on a short spud, like this one, use a single clamp, but make sure it's high-quality all-stainless.

And Even More On Hoses

Where's the only other place the ABYC says hoses must be double-clamped? If you answered exhaust-hose connections, you're right. While double-clamping hoses is usually a good idea even if it's not required, such as on thru-hull fittings, two clamps aren't better than one if the hose is not installed right. This exhaust hose is the right kind and still in good shape, but the installer didn't get the hose far enough on the spud. The first clamp is not even holding the hose on the muffler, and the second is just along for the ride. Two problems if the hose comes off: First, deadly carbon monoxide will leak into the boat; and second, cooling water will dump directly into the bilge, which could sink the boat. As you can see in the picture, the hose is already leaking. Tip: Attaching a contrary hose to an almost-too-big spud can be made easier if you dip the hose end in hot water for a few minutes, which will let it stretch just enough to make it fit.

Swage Horrors

If you've been putting off having that wonky swage replaced on your sailboat, take a look at this one. The picture on the left shows a swage that's way past its life. Cracks formed, which eventually allowed water to seep inside. Over time, the water may have frozen and expanded, damaging the fitting further. Then rust got a foothold inside the fitting, which can also expand it outwards, further damaging it. Either way, a swage fitting that looks like this is not going to keep your rig up for long. And as you can see from the second picture, this one didn't. The rusted fitting broke during a gentle breeze, bringing the mast down on top of the boat. Fortunately, no one was injured.


Take a few minutes once a month or so to check the swage fittings on your sailboat. If any of them look iffy, replace them straightaway. They're usually even worse on the inside than they look, so take care of them before the rig is at risk. For more on this subject, see "Inspecting Your Sailboat Rigging" in the January 2016 issue of Seaworthy.

Fire Extinguisher Hide And Seek

Quick: spot the fire extinguisher in this picture. Not easy, is it? Now imagine the curtains over the galley stove caught fire, and you've got seconds to grab an extinguisher to put out the fire before you and your guests have to jump overboard. Fire extinguishers don't do any good if you can't get to them right now, which is why marine extinguishers come with mounts, so you can put them strategically throughout the boat. Portable extinguishers should be located near the galley, the engine compartment, and all living spaces.

If you did find the hidden extinguisher in the picture and tried to put out the fire, you'd be sorely disappointed to find that it won't put out that kind of fire. Portable extinguishers are rated for the type of fire they can fight: Class A fires are fueled by combustible, solid materials such as wood, paper, cloth, and plastics. Class B fires involve flammable liquids like gasoline, diesel, and varnishes, while Class C fires are powered by energized electrical circuits or equipment. The extinguisher in the picture is a class BC, which, while great for flammable liquids and electrical fires, is pretty useless for fabric. To make life less stressful, just buy type-ABC extinguishers — and make sure they're mounted, visible, and readily accessible. For more on boat fires, see "Your Boat's On Fire Now What?". 

— Published: August 2016

Seaworthy, the damage-avoidance newsletter, is brought to you by the BoatUS Marine Insurance Program. For an insurance quote, please call 1-800-283-2883 or apply online at