Mailboat Letters

Published: January 2014

Seaworthy Top 10

Just got my Seaworthy magazine ... Top 10 ... that's my boat in #3! We had just purchased her in August, moved to that marina at Lake of the Ozarks ... and wham! We met [CAT Team Member] Dave Wiggin and [TowBoatUS Captain] Charlie Meyer that weekend and really understood why BoatUS insurance is far superior to others.

Photo of siding collapsed onto boat

We still have this 36 Carver Aft Cabin and enjoy it almost every weekend. We almost lost her.


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I enjoyed reading about your Top 10 claims in the October edition. I have a suggestion that would reduce or eliminate all but one of those causes — sail a steel boat. Because of the "Faraday cage" principle, lightning goes around a steel boat, not through it. Theft is less of a problem because steel boats are unique and stand out from the crowd. With steel being many times stronger and less brittle than fiberglass, steel boats protect their crew while shrugging off collisions, allisions, and bumps against underwater objects. While steel boats ground just like fiberglass boats, pounding against the bottom or shore rarely causes extensive damage. Of course the interior of steel boats will burn, but not the hull and deck. This could be critical if the fire occurs at sea. My steel boat in Beaufort, North Carolina has been hit 11 times by hurricanes; the last time, my boat came through without a single scratch. I do have to concede that steel boats will sink just like fiberglass boats, maybe even faster.


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Having read your article on Top 10 claims, I note that you suggest that we make sure we have proper fire extinguishers. The advice includes the word "working." This has always left me wondering how to determine if a fire extinguisher is working properly. One establishment advised that I either bring the extinguisher in so that it could be recharged or simply replace it after a year or two. I also have a halon system on my boat and I have learned the only way to check the extinguisher itself is to weigh it. That, however, does not assure me of the functionality of the automatic setup. I would be interested to know if there are other ways to make sure fire extinguishers are OK. Even though the gauge shows in the green, I am suspect of its accuracy.


Editor: After checking with some fire extinguisher manufacturers, we thought the answers were useful enough to share with everyone. See the January 2014 Alert article.

Winter And Heaters

I enjoyed your article on electric heaters and winterizing. This area is all too often ignored by boat owners as well as marina owners. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) writes many standards that are adopted as laws in many states and municipalities. Some of these fire codes contain chapters that apply to marinas and boatyards. Portable heaters are covered in NFPA 302 (Pleasure and Commercial Watercraft), NFPA 303 (Marinas and Boatyards), and NFPA 1 (Uniform Fire Code). NFPA 1 has been adopted by 20 states and many other jurisdictions.

NFPA 1 states:
" Heaters. The use of portable heaters in boat storage areas shall be prohibited except where necessary to accomplish repairs. [303:] Portable heaters used in accordance with shall be used only when personnel are in attendance. [303:]"

All three sections of the code state that portable heaters should only be used on a boat when the boat and heater are attended.


Winter And Ethanol

I have a 90-hp, 4-stroke Mercury on my pontoon boat. I only get to use it about once a month and was wondering if I should disconnect the fuel line after each use and run the gas out of the motor. I use only ethanol-free gas and I try to keep the tank topped up.


Editor: You're lucky that you can find non-ethanol fuel. No, there's no need to run the engine dry after each use. If you do store it for longer than normal, though, it still needs to be treated with a fuel stabilizer — any gas will deteriorate after a few months.

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Thanks for the article as it has happened to me — ethanol affected the high-pressure fuel gas pump internal to my four-stroke Honda 130. I heard from an engine mechanic who works on fuel-injected four-strokes that disconnecting the fuel line and running the engine out of gas until it stops is bad for fuel-injected engines. Any comment about this?



Editor: We've spoken to several industry and manufacturer experts and they all say that while disconnecting the fuel line while the engine is running could potentially damage the fuel pump, it would take more than a few times before it became a problem. After all, people run out of gas sometimes. Running the engine with the fuel line disconnected once a year is not likely to hurt anything. Call Honda's tech service department if you want to be sure this advice holds for your engine.

Winter And Outboards

In your article, "Long Winter's Nap", in the section on draining all the water, you first say tilt the engine up to running position. Next sentence you say tilt down to running position. Which is it — up or down?



Editor: Sorry for the confusion. First we said to "tilt to the upright running position," and then to "store it in the running (tilted down) position." What we meant to tell you is to drain or store in the running position (tilted down/engine upright). The reason we specified keeping it in the running position during storage is that if it's tilted up and water gets inside through the hub somehow, it can freeze and crack the lower unit housing.

Anchor Chain Angst

I have owned a 185 Scout Sportfish for a number of years. The boat was equipped at the dealer with a coated anchor chain. Great concept in that the chain never scuffed the fiberglass around the chain locker hatch. Bad idea, though.

Photo of an anchor chain failure
Photo:Herb Aton

I recently had the boat anchored on the backside of one of our remote barrier islands for a day of fishing. At the end of the day, when I went to pull the anchor, I pulled nothing but a piece of chain, NO ANCHOR. The chain had completely parted from the anchor due to extensive corrosion that could not be seen because of the factory coating on the chain. Thankfully the chain failed when the full strength of the anchor, chain, and anchor line was not required. Had I been faced with an emergency that required my anchor, I would have been in deep trouble.

If you have an anchor chain, have a chain that can be easily inspected. Your anchor equipment is only as good as the weakest link.



Road Warriors

The most important advice I always tell my clients when shipping a boat any highway distance is this one: Be sure to drain exhaust systems including mufflers/lift mufflers before hitting the road. Boats being shipped long distances and over mountainous roads go uphill then downhill. Any water left in the exhaust finds its way back into the engine's cooling system and into the cylinders.

Also, save big money by listening to what a good marine surveyor tells you when you prep your boat.


Editor: Another good reason to drain the exhaust: If a boat is going to be traveling through below-freezing weather, the trapped water could freeze and damage the exhaust. That's also why it's so important to winterize the boat before travel.

Hitched Again

In response to the letter in Mailboat in the October 2013 issue, concerning the writer's desire to require others to remove their hitches, I must say that it took
me at least half a day and about $100 to add a hitch to any of my four current vehicles. After removing bumper covers and drilling holes in the vehicle
structure, I am NOT going to remove a hitch. Perhaps the writer meant to say
hitch receiver.


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

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