Boater Alerts And Warnings

From BoatUS Marine Insurance

Cooked Outboard

Outboard engines typically need to be flushed if they're run in saltwater. On some engines, there is a handy connector for a water hose and a few minutes of pressure is all they need. Others need to be flushed with a hose and muffs. Follow the guidelines covered in the owners' manual, and you should be all set.

Unfortunately, the owner of this engine made one fatal error that destroyed his power plant: The owner decided to flush the engine with an outboard muff, but he had already disconnected the fuel line, so he simply connected the fuel hose to a spare can of gasoline and cranked it up.

This engine was a two stroke, which required connection to a separate oil tank, something the owner forgot. Devoid of the necessary lubricating oil, the engine soon started making a very strange noise before coming to a dead stop. Two of the cylinders — the lower two in the photo — actually started to melt, rendering the engine a complete write-off. The owner learned a very valuable lesson here: Always read and understand your manual — and if in any doubt about what you're doing, consult a qualified pro.

Heat No More

The owner of this boat thought that instead of properly winterizing the boat he would simply place an electric heater in the bilge over the winter — rarely a good idea. A faulty heater can cause a fire, and should the electricity in the marina be cut off, the heater won't do any good and the boat could freeze.

Every year we see claims from fires or freeze damage resulting from improper use of electric heaters. The owner of this trawler placed a heater in the engine room connected to an undersized extension cord. With too much current flowing through the cord, it burned out. While it didn't start a fire, the heater quit and the engines froze, leaving the owner with a very expensive repair bill for a cracked engine block.

Equipment Overload

Boat lifts are a great invention. They keep boats clear of the water and secure without the use of lines. Boats don't blow around in the wind bumping the dock, and best of all, with the boat and motor clear of the water, any fouling is likely to be light at best. But for all the advantages, it's important that you give some thought to the lift and make sure it's not overloaded. If you swap out one boat for something larger and heavier, it's important to check that the lift can handle the additional weight.

Boat lift collapse

This lift collapsed when the owner left the boat for several months and forgot to remove the transom drain plug. Over time, the boat filled with rainwater. Unable to drain, the boat almost doubled in weight until something had to give — in this case the lift, which severely damaged the boat.

Even if your boat has a cover on it, make sure any water that finds its way inside can get out, either through a removed transom plug (don't forget to replace it before using the boat), or a functioning bilge pump.

Small But Critical

The off-season is a great time to check and replace engine anodes. Normally housed under a fairly inconspicuous brass plug, anodes are an important line of defense in protecting the inner workings of your engine. Because they are small, they are often neglected, but this is one time when "out of sight, out of mind" could cost you big time.

Anodes on the boat's exterior are rarely overlooked because they're usually visible, but that's not true of engine anodes that protect vital components in the boat's raw-water cooling system. This picture shows an anode from an inboard-powered boat's heat exchanger after only 50 hours of running next to a replacement. Had that not be replaced when it was, the internal components of the heat exchanger could have been eaten up by galvanic corrosion leading to an expensive repair.

Remember, damage due to lack of routine maintenance is not covered under most insurance policies.

Keeping The Yuck In

Aluminum is great for a lot of applications, but, like stainless steel, it's susceptible to corrosion when there's no oxygen present, and especially when exposed to holding-tank waste. For the most part, there's not a lot of maintenance on the tank itself, but it does require periodic inspections.

For example, look at this hose connected to a spud that's welded onto the aluminum holding tank. When aluminum corrodes this way, it tends to bubble up. In this case, the metal swelled enough to split the hose, which could become a very unpleasant problem if not caught quickly. Take a look at all the hoses and clamps on your holding tank, and if there's any question, have it addressed right away. Your nose (and wallet) will thank you. 

— Published: February/March 2019

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