Tips to stay seaworthy

June 18, 2013 

— Everyone loves a good story about boating mishaps – as long as it’s not their own.

For 30 years the BoatUS Marine Insurance damage avoidance publication Seaworthy has combed through the BoatUS claims files to shed light on how boats are damaged and how boaters are injured, and to suggest research-based solutions to keep it’s readers from becoming a statistic. Here are five boating maintenance and safety tips to be aware of:

1. The causes of boat sinkings (while at the dock) are as varied as the four seasons. In the winter, the No. 1 cause of boat sinkings is due to moisture-laden snow weighing the boat down, which can submerge a cracked or damaged plastic thru-hull fitting below the waterline. Shortly after being launched in the spring, boats most often sink because of missing or damaged hose clamps that were removed in the fall to winterize the engine. The cause of summertime sinkings varies from worn out underwater fittings (such as I/O bellows or corroded through-hulls) to hurricanes. Autumn leaf-clogged deck drains or scuppers combined with heavy rains cause many fall sinkings.

2. The No. 1 reason for boat fires is wiring faults. Wiring problems lead the pack in causes of boat fires, with shore power faults a close second. Every boater needs to make maintaining their boat’s electrical system a priority.

3. When it comes to swimming in a marina, just say no. Not wanting to get run down is good reason why swimming in a marina or near docks is a bad idea, but that’s not the only danger. Nearly a decade ago, Seaworthy first reported on “electric shock drowning” in which leaking 110-volt electrical current was taking the lives of young swimmers in fresh water. The difficulty in distinguishing ESD from drowning kept the problem from being well understood or publicized until recently. Seaworthy continues to be at the forefront of educating boaters on what they need to do to make their boats and docks safe.

4. Hurricane damage can be lessened. Two decades ago, Seaworthy began to look at ways to lessen hurricane damage to boats and marinas. Today, boat owners, as well as clubs and marinas with a hurricane plan that is fully implemented, can and will have less damage. Hauling the boat from the water is still the best way to reduce the chance for damage to boats and docks.

5. Ethanol and boats don’t mix. After BoatUS members in the Northeast began to complain of mysterious catastrophic engine failures and myriad fuel system problems such as rotted fuel lines, gunked carburetors and fuel tanks nearly a decade ago, Seaworthy investigated and shed light on an issue that still has large repercussions for boaters today. Seaworthy continues to research and report on ethanol-related issues and advises boaters on how to avoid engine damage from ethanol blends.

For more information, visit BoatUS.com/seaworthy.

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