Protect Your California Watercraft with These Tips!
Even with warm weather on the horizon, I needed to get away and experience some NOW. I get impatient like that. Whilst I've been drinking mimosas and basking in the San Diego sunshine this past weekend, I had no idea that I would return to soaring temperatures in Northern California. I guess Mother Nature got the hint (or whining).
- Striking Submerged Objects. The need to avoid floating logs and barely-submerged rocks is pretty obvious and a responsible skipper tries to do just that. But there are also times that require added vigilance. Typically just after major storms or extreme tides, lots of debris is washed into the water, some of which is difficult to see. Just after Hurricane Isabel, the Chesapeake Bay was full of small branches, partially submerged docks, trees, and even things like water heaters and dumpsters. This is obviously not the time to shove the throttle forward and hope for the best. One thing you might be surprised to learn is that a Struck Submerged Object claim sometimes becomes a Sinking claim. Hitting a log or rock will almost certainly damage your prop and rudder, but it can also put a huge strain on struts and stuffing boxes and other underwater gear—enough to cause them to leak. If you hit something in the water, stop and check the bilge for leaks. And when you get back to the dock, check again, thoroughly. Any water might be indicating serious damage and a haulout is in order.
- Sinking. The first rule of boating: Keep the water outside the boat! Sounds simple, but boats often come from the manufacturer with holes already in the hull. Leaking water intakes, drains, and transducer fittings can sink your boat. Many underwater holes are supposed to have a way to keep them closed when they’re not needed—seacocks. But seacocks must often remain open, so it falls to lesser fittings like hoses and clamps to keep the water out. Unfortunately, unlike beefy seacocks, these fittings may only last a few years before they get tired and fail. The solution? Check, squeeze, and tug on all fittings below the waterline at least once a season. Something else to keep in mind: Inboard/outboard cutouts are often at least partially under water and only the outdrive’s bellows keeps the water on the outside. Most manufacturers specify inspection of bellows every year and most marine surveyors say that any bellows over five years old is living on borrowed time. Fittings above the waterline, which typically don’t have seacocks, can sink boats too. Snow and heavy rain can force a fitting underwater. Water can then back up in to cockpits or even siphon back through discharges. Many boats, even boats with self-draining cockpits, can be sunk by rainwater. You’d think a boat could shrug off a good rainstorm, but clogged scuppers can eventually (sometimes quickly) fill a boat with water. And a few manufacturers direct cockpit drains into the bilge, leaving the bilge pump to take care of hundreds of gallons of rainwater. Needless to say, this is a poor design and these boats should not be left in the water. A bilge pump should only be relied on to take care of nuisance water. Put another way, a constantly cycling bilge pump is a symptom of a larger problem. A leak, above or below the waterline, needs to be addressed immediately.
- Theft of Equipment. A boat in a marina is like a shopping mall to a thief; radios, GPS’s, propellers, autopilots, dinghies, even engines and outdrives are all conveniently available in one place. But, thieves don’t like to work (which is why they’re thieves) and will go to any boat that promises the largest return for the least amount of effort. Here’s the key to protecting your boat: By making a theft require time-consuming “work,” he or she (the thief) will likely go elsewhere. For example, outdrives are frequently stolen, but the addition of some hefty locking nuts on the outdrive (mcgard.com) means a thief will need hack saws (work) and will then look elsewhere. Other candidates for locks include props, outboards, and trailers. Cabin locks (and sturdy hasps) are essential. Keep curtains closed and expensive items (and alcohol!) out of view. Many thefts take place in marinas and private storage facilities because thieves can rip-off many boats in a few hours. Select a facility that is well-lighted and has security cameras and a guard.