Solutions from the BoatUS Tech Team
Salty Or Sweet?Published: December 2013
Can I put an aluminum boat such as a Lund in saltwater? If so, what are the safeguards other than a freshwater wash-down?
John Adey: Sure! If you're trailering the boat or leaving it in the water for short periods (a week on vacation may be OK) and you rinse it with lots of low-pressure water, it should be fine. If you use a power washer, do a thorough low-pressure rinse first, then follow up with pressure to remove dirt and grime (power washers push the salts into seams and crevices on an aluminum hull and can cause long-term issues). Give your trailer the same treatment as well. If this is permanent season-long use, you may need a professional. There are multistep processes to bottom paint an aluminum hull, requiring the right prep followed by the right primer followed by the right paint. Copper bottom paint will attack the aluminum galvanically unless the right procedures are used. Some manufacturers say the bottom is paint ready and recommend a type of paint to use. Check with Lund; you might be able to do it yourself. Enjoy the saltwater.
I'd like to safely plug my Guest dual-bank charger into 30-amp shore power while at the dock to keep my batteries charged overnight. I do not have other AC power needs. How can I do this economically?
Don Casey: If you have no shore-power system, and no AC wiring, the easiest and safest way to plug in a single 120-volt appliance, whether it's the charger you want to leave on or a power tool you need for a repair, will be to buy a 30-amp to 15-amp adapter with an integral ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Both Marinco and Hubbell make these. The one from Marinco will set you back about $90, the Hubbell version a little more, but with either you can safely bring the power aboard with a heavy-duty 15-amp exterior power cord. Be sure not to exceed 15 amps draw and find a way to run the cord aboard the closed boat that prevents it from being pinched, strained, or submersed.
Where To Tie Up?
I keep my 48-foot Sea Ray on the St. Johns River, Florida. There are private day markers showing the entrance to the marina. They're approximately six feet above water. If a hurricane hits, would you recommend tying to the marker poles?
Beth Leonard: Tying to marker poles isn't a good idea. They're meant to be aids to navigation, not to take the full windage of a boat in hurricane conditions. Tying to government aids to navigation is illegal, and it's possible that these markers might fall into that category. Depending on how you tied up, you might block the channel, which could endanger others. In general, hauling out in a marina that's protected from wind, surge, and waves where they tie the boat down has proven the best solution in Florida with the highest likelihood of protecting your boat. You're fortunate to be well inland, so if there are no marinas where you can take your boat to haul, securing it in a narrow channel would be another option. But you'll need to tie to substantial and well-anchored tether points in a place where you can center the boat in the channel without obstructing navigation.
I come back to the boat a day or two after a nice long cruise up the Potomac River and there are dead bugs everywhere. I'm forever vacuuming them up and wiping them away. How do I keep the bugs out?
Tom Neale: I'm assuming from your description that the bugs are small, they fly, and that you're talking about the areas under your boat cover, not inside the cabin. If, for example, you had the infamous Caribbean cockroach coming aboard, you wouldn't be able to vacuum it up. It would probably eat the vacuum cleaner. Are you leaving one or more lights on in your boat? This would attract bugs in and under the cover and they'd die there. These bugs have a much easier time finding their way in than out. Turn off the lights if you don't want the bugs. Or you may have spilled something and not noticed it. It may be that dock lights around the boat are attracting them, or someone spilled a drink on the dock and they're just coming in to crash after the party. If that were the case, I'd turn off the dock lights and hose off the dock.
There are sprays, but you'd need one that works for your visitors. Some sprays stick to the surface for a while and that could be good or bad. Some are also more toxic than what you'd want on the boat, and some might damage your covers, so you'd need to experiment with small patches. If your boat is under a shed or boathouse, you could be suffering from bird lice infestation. That's pretty serious and a professional bug man may be needed.
A survey found moisture in the stringers under our engines. Short of tearing them out and replacing them, is there something we can inject into the stringers that will solidify and maintain structural integrity?
John Adey: This all depends on how extensive the damage is and if you can find the original cause of water entry. Are the mounts totally saturated or just in localized areas around the mounting hardware? These mounts are critical; have a good repair yard give you a full report on the extent of the damage. A moisture meter and hammer tapping will only tell you so much. Experience and an infrared camera are the next steps. Get a solid second opinion; there's a big difference between a reading on a moisture meter and rotten stringers that need replacement. Either way, find the cause and area of water entry ASAP. If you can isolate and thoroughly dry the affected areas, you may be able to "honeycomb" (drill a bunch of small holes) the stringers to let small areas dry before you inject your choice of epoxy or urethane-based "goo." Once dry, evaluate the repair for structural integrity. I would then re-glass the area where the holes have been drilled.
If damage is excessive, I'm afraid nothing short of cutting, grinding, and rebuilding will solve your issues. Keep in mind how much the engine torques these mounts! They're subjected to big forces and are the first line of defense in keeping your engine/drivetrain aligned. If the alignment isn't proper, it can cause vibration, premature wear, and failure of parts.
What is the best way to remove bottom paint? I'd like it off because I don't keep the boat in water.
Don Casey: There's no good way to completely remove bottom paint. Every method risks damaging the underlying gelcoat. Sanding works until you reach the fiberglass, then you're sanding the gelcoat, which you don't want to do unless you are repainting. Chemical strippers are worse. The kind you find in paint and home-supply stores cannot tell the difference between paint resin and polyester resin, so when they get through the paint, they will literally start dissolving your boat. So-called fiberglass-safe strippers can work, but are only safe if you're meticulous in how long you leave them on, which is often insufficient to fully remove the paint. That brings you back to sandpaper. Boatyard staff may recommend sandblasting, but sandblasting fiberglass boats damages them, no ifs, ands, or buts. Blasting with a softer medium, such as baking soda, is probably the gentlest removal option, but you're going to have to find someone who does this and it will not be cheap.
That typically leads me to recommend not removing the bottom paint just because you no longer need it. If the color bothers you, then prep the bottom and paint it with white bottom paint (Pettit Vivid). This will be undetectable except by close inspection, can actually make the bottom easier to keep clean, and could be beneficial if you use your boat for vacations where it stays in the water for days rather than hours.
I am planning our first trip to the Jupiter Inlet and lack local knowledge. Any advice would be welcome.
Tom Neale: You ask about a specific inlet, but your question has important implications for all inlets. Inlets can be treacherous; for example, if the current is running out into an onshore sea, it can break all across. If the inlet is shallow, onshore waves can hump up and break as you go in or even before you reach the sea buoys. This may not be every wave, but the wave that gets you is the wave that counts. Shoaling is frequently a problem, though less so if the inlet is maintained for large shipping. However, be especially careful of large ships. They can't "move over" for us.
If you're not familiar with an inlet, get a thorough briefing by someone with current local knowledge. Local TowBoatUS operators are always willing to offer assistance. Don't try it the first time (and hopefully not anytime) when conditions aren't ideal. Be familiar with handling characteristics of your boat, particularly as they relate to the individual issues of that inlet. If possible, visit the beach and study the inlet, or hang out in your boat and observe it for awhile, looking for wave patterns and other issues. Study your charts before running the inlet. You may not have time to do this once you're committed.
Meet The Trailering Guys
Ted Sensenbrenner of the BoatUS Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has been pulling, fixing, and studying boat trailers — and every type of trailer problem! — for years. He's our man.
Dustin Hoover of Legendary Trailer Repairs fame is a top service provider for BoatUS TRAILER ASSIST in Annapolis, MD. There's nothing he doesn't know about trailers (www.legendarytrailers.com).
I just replaced all the lights and wiring on my trailer, but I still have a problem with the lights blinking off and on while driving. Sometimes they work fine, and I'm not sure what is causing it.
Ted Sensenbrenner: You're looking for a product that resembles indoor/outdoor carpet, but marine-grade carpet is a much better solution for several reasons. It offers better UV protection, won't rot or mildew, and has a better, more durable backing, with only minimal water retention. Be sure to fold the ends or edges over, and if you have a staple gun, buy yourself a box of stainless steel staples and affix the carpet to the wood. This will keep it in place and your boat's hull cushioned and protected. Another option is a smooth product made by Taco that will attach to the top side of your bunks.
Dustin Hoover: Most people buy a standard indoor/outdoor carpet from a home improvement store, which works well and can be bought at a decent price. A trailer manufacturer may also sell you carpet; they tend to have a better material, but you'll pay for it. I typically double up on the leading edge to give it extra padding and support, regardless of the type of carpet. If you can find stainless staples, they're your best bet. Just remember to go back and hit each staple with a hammer to make sure it holds.
A Screw Loose?
How do I repair a stripped screw that fastens a small bracket to the fiberglass on the topside of my Sea Ray?
Don Casey: If there's no core material involved, just solid fiberglass laminate, and if the load on the bracket doesn't exceed the strength of threads in glass composite, simply redrill the hole with the proper pilot drill for a larger-diameter screw, and install the larger fastener. The bracket may also have to be drilled to accommodate the larger screw, but this is the easiest solution with the added benefit of being stronger than the original. Be sure to countersink the enlarged hole in the fiberglass to prevent it from lifting and cracking the gelcoat.
If you need to keep the screw to the original size, fill the stripped hole with an epoxy putty such as Marine Tex or J-B Weld, then pilot drill the cured plug. This may be weaker than the original installation, but should work if you don't overtighten the screw when you install it. A third option is to drill the hole oversize, run a tap through it to cut threads, then install a Heli-Coil threaded insert. In fiberglass it's a good idea to coat the external threads with epoxy to bind the insert in place. Install your bracket with a machine screw that matches the interior threads of the insert.
I have a wooden 1969 41-foot Chris-Craft Constellation, with two 300-hp gas engines. My plan is to replace those with electric motors. After some research, my options include WarP11 DC motors producing 40 hp, or Elco AC motors producing 70 hp. My main concern is replacing two 300-hp gas engines with 40- to 70-hp motors. Do you think I'll be able to make at least 5-6 knots?
John Adey: This is a massive project you're taking on! The choices are broad and the technical information available is often conflicting. The successful installations I've seen are done with copious amounts of research, partnering with suppliers and installers, diligent maintenance, and data logging. Once you've committed to spending 30-40 percent more than a traditional repower, you need to make sure it's done right. I spoke to a colleague on just this issue recently and he very bluntly stated that there is no linear conversion formula from gasoline horsepower to electrical power. I commend you for realizing that this boat will never do its previous speeds. Your 5-6 knots is a very realistic number, although you may need more power than you're considering.
My recommendation for your application is a solution similar to the new Greenline boat model, a "parallel" hybrid with gasoline/diesel inline with electric, with the ability to switch on the fly. This is a more drop-in solution and for this I'd talk to Steyr (www.steyr-motors.com).
Have someone check on your boat: lines, deck, bilges, batteries, including checking for vermin, preferably once a week, but the more the better. They should also check for bird droppings. If left uncleaned, they can stain gelcoat and induce rot in fabrics. Leave written instructions for starting systems and running the boat should there be an emergency. Have at least one loud high-bilge alarm (preferably two, separately wired) that will attract the attention of those on the dock and/or ashore. Be sure your insurance covers you where you are and under the circumstances.
For electric only, Elco is a newer player in the market and worth putting on your list. Also check out Mastervolt (www.mastervolt.com), RegenNautic (www.regennautic.com), and an ABYC-member company called Propulsion Marine (www.propulsionmarine.com). This solution is a "serial" model, with a generator that exists to charge the batteries.
You will also have to look at battery chemistry and charge controllers to meet your needs, complicated and rapidly evolving areas with potentially serious consequences if installed incorrectly, as well as different solutions to maximize the motors' torque. Don't forget the requirements for recharging battery banks if you'll be using shore power. Keep us updated on your progress!
A light bar gets your trailer lights up where other motorists can see them, and they never get dunked
Trust your senses and listen to what your boat's telling you before it's too late
Tips for ensuring that your boat trailer lights are properly connected
Frozen bolts and stripped screws driving you crazy? For tips on how to remove them, see "Removing Stripped or Frozen Bolts and Screws".
Meet the Experts
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.
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.
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.
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.
Get In Touch With Our Experts
Contact these experts at the BoatUS Ask The Experts site at www.BoatUS.com/Ask where you'll also find hundreds of questions and expert answers already archived, with new questions and answers uploaded regularly by our Get In Touch With Our Experts team. Online, you'll also find 11 other experts in different fields, ready to help. From your questions, we'll select a few of the most generally interesting for use in future magazine columns. The best part? This service is free to members.