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Honey, I Bought a Boat!

Jeff's Boat

Jeff's Boat

Like so many before me, I couldn’t resist the siren call of a finely fitted, albeit gently aged, boat any longer.  After 49 years of preparing myself and becoming prepared by others, this past week I became owner of a boat to call my own.   Preparation for this has been a lifelong pursuit.

I was born on an island where my childhood playground was the saltwater Puget Sound.  I have worked in and around recreational marine services around the world for more than a decade.  If I am to be honest with myself (and my wife), there was never really a question of “if” I would be buying a boat as much as “when”.  I regularly helped both friends and family members get out on the water and buy their first, second and even third boats.  As it turned out, I have consistently postponed “one of the two happiest days of my life” indefinitely.

Yet, it is an understatement to say I am ready.  I work for an online marine chandlery, helping other boat owners enjoy their boats every day.  With my previous employment, I traveled the world, occasionally as the only passenger on private jets bound for far-off paradise, to provide dockside support to a fleet of super-yachts, ensuring that the owners would enjoy their boats with maximum pleasure.  In my 20’s I was an active club racer on a friend’s Cal-40 that went on to compete in two Victoria, BC to Maui ocean races.  As a young teen, my father insisted that my brothers and I complete a U.S.C.G. Auxiliary safety course and then he spoiled us with boats; our family had a ski boat with a gas tank that always seemed to be full enough (thanks Dad!) and we also shared a Laser, a bunch of dinghies and an almost reliable British Seagull.  Before I entered elementary school, I recall watching my dad home-build two Optimists to keep at the ready on our beach.  Yet for almost 50 years, with the exception of a canoe, a kayak and an inflatable tender, I have not called a single boat my own.  Still, becoming a boat owner seemed to be my destiny.

I like to think that I am prepared to be an informed boat owner, and that this purchase is more than a typical mid-life guy thing.  Against the occasional chagrins of my wife, I have always maintained subscriptions to at least three boating magazines, clipping and cataloging articles that I felt would one day be personally useful.  I am more fortunate than most wanna-be-boat-owners because I have worked in the industry for a long time.  I get paid to hangout on the docks, to attend trade shows across the country, to evaluate products directly with the manufacturers and to talk on the phone about making other people’s boats safer and more pleasurable.  All along the way I have been sustained by the best kind of boat osmosis; discussing the real boat ownership experiences, troubles and solutions of others.

Though I entered into my first actual purchase agreement this past week, I have stepped aboard several prospective boats during the past year wondering if this one or that one would be “the boat”.    Until now, all ended with something like “There is no part of deck that isn’t ‘squishy’ on this boat”, “Dude, it’s not water in your bilge, it’s diesel”, “Did you think that I wouldn’t notice or question that even though you disclosed that this boat has a dead engine, the engine is actually under saltwater and clearly it has been so for some time?”, “RUN!”, or my favorite “Seriously, this boat has tar for bottom paint!?!?”

As part of my journey to ownership I learned that banks don’t lend money on boats older than 10 years of age which, prior to that is when they have the kind of value I shouldn’t be considering anyway, much less borrowing against.  Marina rates in my community start at $10/foot/month or $3,600 a year for any boat I would want.  Insurance companies require a qualified survey and/or a U.S.C.G. seaworthiness assessment.  All boats routinely break and yards throughout the country seem to charge four times their initial repair estimates with frightening consistency.

All of my acquired knowledge would suggest that I was better off continuing to shop for a boat while never actually buying one.  Heck, boat shopping keeps the dream alive, is fun and pretty risk-free, but something suddenly changed about two years ago.  My oldest child went off to college,  I experienced a personal cardiac event that brought new focus to my life, then, fortuitously, I learned that my residence qualified for a free deep water, protected moorage in the harbor upon which we live, and most recently I won a new 30” mooring buoy as a door prize at a recent trade show (actually it was a show prop that was going to be disposed in a dumpster, but heck, one man’s garbage is another man’s…)  When I brought the buoy home and made the case for a boat to my wife, she smiled and asked what I was waiting for.

Buying a boat in the near-term future soon became a real possibility if I could find the right boat for sale.  My purchase objectives and criteria have been consistently straightforward.  The boat had to be a sailboat of at least 30 feet in length, capable of some ocean sailing and made of fiberglass with an initial out-of-pocket cost of less than $10,000. It had to have attractive lines, be comfortable not only to sail, but also inside; the presence of any foul odor would be a deal-breaker.  Ideally, it would be made between 1966 and 1973 before the bad kind of osmosis, hull blisters, evolved.  The boat had to be affordable beyond the purchase date, meaning that the sum of the purchase price and the initial foreseeable refit costs would need to be less than a total of $10,000-ish, preferably spread out over time.  Any major shortcomings would have to be identified, addressed or at least well understood during the pre-purchase process.  A Classic Plastic with an active online user group seemed the sensible choice.  I wanted to find one that has spent its life in fresh water and has been left in original stock condition with few modifications over the years and I didn’t want to pay to truck it to Seattle from the Great Lakes.  If I could find that boat, I’d get it.

But was I being realistic with my criteria, budget and the actual market for such a boat?  The automotive equivalent that I was holding out for is a 1969 Mustang Mach-1 that has been sitting in a farmer’s barn since his son left, never to return, then the farmer passes away and his niece from Omaha just wants to get rid of “that old car” to settle-up the estate.  That happens all the time, right?  OK I wasn’t being very realistic, but I was playing it safe and heck, if the right boat did surface, I would be crazy not to buy it.

Then, out of the blue, an old Summer 2005 copy of Boat Works magazine fell off a garage shelf, landed on the floor and opened to the story titled Success Story.  It was a single page about a San Francisco couple who happened upon a 1970 Ericson 32-2 for $3,000 that lay “untouched and unloved” since 1987. Their boat also needed approximately $7,000 of repairs. The story closed with the sentence “One thing is for sure:  Gary and Judy’s Free Sprit proves that you can have a handsome, well-found boat without spending a fortune.”  I wondered whether their good fortune was the equivalent of being struck by lightning just after they won the lottery or was it a boat buying experience that I could duplicate?  One thing is for sure, their Free Spirit lifted mine.

Not a week later I was speaking to an eager seller of another  1970 Ericson 32-2 for the same price, located seven miles from my house that had been kept in fresh water for most of its known existence.  I hustled over to see the boat, and I couldn’t believe that it met all of my criteria.  To boot, it had the original gelcoat and it didn’t smell.  The seller offered up “I’m getting married and I just need to get rid of it” – enough said!  I made a purchase deposit to secure my position, I conducted a pretty thorough survey, hired a diver and found no surprises that were deal-breakers.  The purchase was made and that’s the story of how I bought my first boat.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – The boat’s condition, the survey, the repair budget and the restoration.

Posted in Uncategorized by jadams. No Comments

Making Sense of Marine Control Cables

Marine control cables for both throttle and shift are never a problem – until they give you problems. Depending on the vintage of your boat, you may have an old Morse cable or an early Teleflex cable. Your original cable may have lasted for 20+ years (and your new one should last longer) but first you need to figure out what to get to replace that throttle or shift cable. Also note, if one is sticking, the other will follow. Replace both cables at the same time and you will be able to go another 20 years+.

Identifying your cable and what you need:

  1. Look at your cable and find any numbers on it.
  2. Old Morse cables will begin with 6 digits, then 2 then the length in inches. For example Morse # 032377-03-0144 = a 33C style cable that is 144 inches (12 feet) long.
  3. Older Teleflex cables will have a part number that will look like CC17912, which translates into a CC179 Series, 12 feet long.
  4. Identify your ends. If both ends of the cable have a 10-32 thread, then you likely have a common 33C. 40 series has 1/4-28 thread both ends and 60 Series has 5/16-24 thread both ends.
  5. Lastly, you can just measure what you have.

Measuring your cable:

Measure your cable from tip to tip and then round up to the next foot. Replacement control cables are sold in one foot increments. OMC and Mercury cables tend to use specialized ends. Nearly every other manufacturer of outboards, sterndrives and inboard engines uses 33C style control cables. The most common throttle and shift cables on a sailboat are the 33C.

All throttle, shift and control cables are considered as replacement cables. You will need to know how long your cable is and the manufacturer of your controls and engine.


Engine Application Teleflex Cable Uflex Glendinning Felstead Historical Part Numbers
Pre-1979 OMC / BRP / Evinrude / Johnson CC170 C4 N/A N/A CC170, Morse TYPE O 48296
1979 to Date OMC / BRP / Evinrude / Johnson CCX205 C14 A7120 N/A CC205, CC479, Morse TYPE OS 302029
For (2003 to current) 4000 Mercury Gen II CCX189 C36, MACHC36 A7140 N/A CC189
For 600A Mercury Gen I CCX179 C5, MACH5 A7130 N/A CC179
Mariner / Mercruiser / Mercury CCX630 MACH5, C16 A7110 N/A CC210, CC630, Mercury 3600
Honda CCX633 C2, C8, MACHZero A7100 33C CC172, 33C, Morse 301947-003
Suzuki CCX633 C2, C8, MACHZero A7100 33C CC172, 33C, Morse 301947-003
Yamaha CCX633 C2, C8, MACHZero A7100 33C CC172, 33C, Morse 301947-003
Tohatsu CCX633 C2, C8, MACHZero A7100 33C CC172, 33C, Morse 301947-003
Nissan CCX633 C2, C8, MACHZero A7100 33C CC172, 33C, Morse 301947-003
Mercury Sport Jet CC213 C22, C23BC N/A N/A N/A
Universal 33C CCX630 C2, C8, MACHZero A7100 33C CC172, 33C, Morse 301947-003
Heavy Duty Applications – 40 and 60 Series CCX430, CCX433, CCX640, CCX643, 40BC C22, C23BC A7200, A7300, A7210, A7310 Universal 43C, 43 BC, 64C, 64BC, 4300/43, 6400/64 Universal 43C, 43BC, 64C, 64BC, 4300/43, 6400/64, Morse 65835-003, Morse 46348-003, Morse 065885-003, Morse 304262-004, Morse 304263-004
Volvo Using OMC Top Mount Controls CC214 C25 N/A N/A CC214, Morse TYPE OC 310048

Inverters & Inverter / Chargers – Making the Choice

Magnum Energy Inverters

When you need 110 volt power, but you live “off the grid” on a boat, RV, in a cabin or due to emergency circumstances; an inverter can turn a battery (12 volts, direct current) into 110 volts (household alternating current) of useful power. Inverters and Inverter / Chargers are manufactured by industry respected names like Magnum Energy , Go Power! , Xantrex Technology and others, There are several considerations when choosing an inverter.

Your Power Usage – most tools, appliances and lights are rated for power draw in the form of watts. A 60 watt bulb uses 60 watts! If an item is listed in “amps”, then multiply the amps draw (rated at 110 volts) by 110. A motor that requires a 12 amp start up would use approximately 1320 watts.

Your Power Supplied – you need to have a battery supply that can keep up with your needs. The longer you want to run without charging and the higher the watt usage, the more batteries you need.

Inverters are primarily chosen on 3 criteria:

  • The maximum number of watts of power at 110 volts.
  • The type of Sine Wave they put out.
  • The charging ability and capacity.

Inverters are available from 300 watts to over 4000 watts. The choice for wattage is dependent upon usage and the ability to draw on a battery reserve to meet the power demand. Any inverter over 300 watts should be connected as directly to the battery as is possible. Remember, motors at start up may use 20-50% more power than is needed for running operation.

300 – 500 watts: For a single household appliance, TVs (up to 27″), VCR, desktop computers, other mobile office equipment. Most of these connect via a 12-Volt vehicle plug. Great for keeping up with a laptop, portable TV or other small items when travelling.

600 – 1500 watts: For larger household appliances, large screen TVs, 5-12 amp power tools. Most of these inverters have three or more grounded outlets for powering several products at the same time and are connected directly to the 12-volt battery.

1750 – 2500 watts: For any household appliances, larger power tools, microwave ovens, toasters, and hair dryers. All of these inverters are designed for direct connection to the battery network and can generally supply 1500 watts of continuous power. These may have a charge built in as well as some self monitoring features.

3000+ watts: With output power generally rated at 90% for continuous loads, these inverters can power virtually all household appliances and equipment. For loads of this magnitude, special wiring and battery banks may be required. Most of these large units have chargers to top the batteries built in to them and are self monitoring.

Go Power! Inverters

There are two types of sine wave produced by inverters; pure sine wave or modified sine wave. Pure sine wave is a nice smooth sine wave current similar to what you get when you plug into your home outlet. Modified sine wave is a slightly ‘square’ or boxed off wave that is cheaper to set up in the world of electronics. Most items will run from well to ‘ok’ on a modified sine wave, but there are some exceptions where the electronics or motor are a bit fussier.

Lastly, if you have your inverter / battery set up so that you can recharge frequently as is the case with a boat, RV or backup power source for emergencies, an inverter / charger will work well. When AC power is available, the inverter/charger recharges the supply batteries while also allowing AC power to pass through and power the system AC loads, such as a television set or microwave oven. When AC power is disconnected, the unit inverts DC battery power into AC electricity.

Dock Ladders – International Dock Ladders

The most popular dock ladder - the straight fixed dock ladder

Many boaters and waterfront homes enjoy their own private dock, seawall or raft. Dock ladders offer an increased level of safety by allowing someone who is in the water to get back up onto the dock. For the recreational user, an aluminum dock ladder can allow a user to get from a kayak, dinghy or small boat up onto a dock or pier. Swimmers can get out of the water at a floating dock or raft. Individual requirements and use will determine the choice of ladder style.

Dock / pier / raft ladders can be either fixed, lifting or swinging. Fixed dock ladders cannot be removed or raised out of the water. Lifting and swinging dock ladders are made to be removed from the water in a moments notice. All types of the International Dock Products ladders can be fitted with a quick release bracket for seasonal removal and storage of the entire ladder. The final choice in aluminum dock ladder construction is the width of the rungs; they come in 2″ wide (a bit hard on feet, the original size) and 4″ wide (much more gentle on feet). Beyond the choice of the ladder, it’s longevity is determined by the construction and materials used.

Robotic Welding for Precise Welding

International Dock Products uses the most advanced machinery available to produce a dock ladder that is high quality and built to last. To maintain a quality product from the time it arrives, the aluminum is stored as pipe separation with inside storage. When manufacturing the marine dock ladders, the cut, cleaned and prepared parts are superbly welded for a long service lifetime. Currently the robotic Motoman (the same robots used to build cars in Detroit and for 230,000 operations) are welding the aluminum tubing and steps to the highest level with precise, identical welds. International Dock Products dock ladders are made in the USA of marine grade T5-6063 aluminum which is suitable for salt, brackish and fresh water applications. Stainless steel ladders must be used in applications with chlorinated water – never use an aluminum ladder.

The two most popular dock ladders are the straight / fixed and the lifting marine ladder. Dock and seawall ladders can be built up to 16-17 step ladders, however 8′ and longer get standoffs for seawall. The single most popular product is the 5 step lift with 4″ treads which is perfect for most rafts and docks.

Although specializing in aluminum dock ladders, International Dock Products ladders have found use for farm lofts, barns, homes and more. When we enquired recently with International Dock Products, they told us that one of the more unusual uses of their products were when an interior designer in Michigan ordered 2 10′ long ladders, powder coated to two specific colors for children’s bedroom lofts.

No matter what type of dock, pier, seawall or raft you have, there is an International Dock Products dock ladders that will work for you. Check out our complete dock ladder selection:

  • Straight Fixed Dock Ladders – for applications where it is fine to leave the dock ladder in the water.
  • Standard Lifting Dock Ladders – similar to the straight ladder except the bottom portion that is in the water can be lifted straight out.
  • Straight Swinging Dock Ladder – for applications where you have to get the entire ladder up out of the water and to clear the edge of the dock. This ladder flips back straight up in the air and allows the dock edge next to it to be uncluttered.
  • Straight Fixed Finger Pier Ladder – similar to the straight fixed ladder, but without the top hoops. This ladders upper portion terminates in vertical capped pipe.
  • Lifting Finger Pier Ladder – similar to the lifting dock ladder, but without the top hoops. This ladders upper portion terminates in vertical capped pipe.

Go2marine can special order a dock ladder for your use.

Troubleshooting Power Trim and Tilt Motors and Pumps

Tilt and Trim Motor

Tilt and Trim Motor

Replacing Power Trim and Tilt Systems
When replacing your Power Tilt and Trim Motor, first identify what type of Power Tilt and Trim Motor and Pump you have in your boat. There are two basic types of power Trim and Tilt Systems being used in the recreational Boating industry regardless of weather you have an Outboard, Inboard or a Sterndrive.

Some of the older Power Tilt and Trim Systems used an Electric Tilt Motor in combination with a mechanical lifting device. For example, Volvo Penta used a 12-Volt Power Tilt Motor turning a lifting screw on their older Stern Drives. On older OMC Stern Drives, an electric Motor turned a Worm Gear and incorporated a wet clutch pack to Tilt the drive unit as well as lock it into place. The Electric Hydraulic power Trim and Tilt System is more common. This type of system is used on Johnson and Evinrude Outboards, Mercruiser Stern Drives, Mercury Outboards and Volvo Penta Stern Drives. This system consists of two major components; the 12 volt electric Motor with a reservoir, and the Hydraulic Pump or Valve Body.

Trouble Shooting Your Power Trim and Tilt System

When experiencing problems with your power Trim and Tilt System, there are a few easy ways to diagnose just what the problem is. Power Trim Motors generally come in two styles. All use a 12 volt D/C reversing Motor. Some Motors have a two wire connection and some Motors have a three wire connection. All power Trim and Tilt Motors come with one blue wire and one green wire. The three wire power Trim and Tilt Motors have an additional Black wire as well. The Black wire works as a Ground on power Trim and Tilt Motors that don’t ground thru the case. When the blue wire is energized it raises the Motor or drive unit up. When the green wire is energized it lowers the drive unit down.

When having a problem first you need to determine whether your problem is with the power Trim and Tilt Motor or the Hydraulic Pump Valve Body assembly. If you attempt to raise the Motor or sterndrive to the up or down position and nothing happens, first check to make sure your Battery is charged and switched on if your boat is equipped with a Battery switch. If you hear a slight clicking noise you have power coming from the switch to the solenoid. The next step is to go directly to the Motor and test it there. First, disconnect the power Trim and Tilt Motor.

Using a jumper wire, apply 12 volts directly to the blue wire if your engine or drive unit is in the down position. It should raise up at this time. If it is in the up position, apply power to the green wire reversing the Motor and lowering the unit. If the Motor runs, you may have a problem with a solenoid or lack of voltage coming from the power Trim and Tilt switch to the solenoid.

If your power Trim Tilt Motor won’t run after this procedure it is time to replace it. Some replacement Power Trim and Tilt Motors will come with a new wiring harness and relay kit to convert your old three wire power Trim and Tilt Motor to a new more powerful two wire Motor.  (Tilt and Trim cross-reference)

Power Trim and Tilt Pump Problems

Tilt and Trim Pump

Tilt and Trim Pump

If your power Trim and Trim Motor is working fine but the engine or drive unit won’t stay Trimmed or bleeds down when in the up position, you most likely have a problem with the Hydraulic pump or Valve Body assembly. In that case it can be removed and rebuilt by a qualified repair facility. Replace the power Trim and Tilt hydraulic pump unit and fill the reservoir with the correct Power Tilt and Trim Fluid per your owner’s manual. Generally, Transmission fluid is not recommended. It can be hard on some seals due to the high amount of detergents. Most power Trim and Tilt units will purge the air from the system just by running the engine or sterndrive up and down two or three times with the vent plug loose.

Now get going on repairing your tilt-n-trim so you can get out and enjoy your boat! If you need any parts, visit us at Go2marine.com, or call toll free 1-800-998-9508.

Article by: Michael Weller
Engine Parts Manager

Win $500 and have a great summer on us!

Solas Propellers

Go2marine with Solas marine products is offering a drawing for one lucky boater to receive a $500 Gift Card. Enter the Solas Sweepstakes.

Solas manufactures high quality replacement stainless steel or aluminum 3 and 4 blade propellers for outboard and stern-drive marine engines. SOLAS Stainless Steel Propellers feature the industry’s highest percentage of chromium, nickel, and molybdenum. The material resists rust from salt water and increases the stability of the propeller blades. SOLAS uses a state of the art squeeze casting process to make the aluminum propellers stronger and tougher than traditional die cast products.

Sweepstakes ends June 15th, 2011. No purchase nessesary. See details below**

**You must be 18 years or older to enter. No purchase necessary. $500 Gift Card will be issued from a major credit card company. See full sweepstakes rules and details here.

Lighthouse Windlass – Electric and Hydraulic Power

Cutaway of Lighthouse Windlass


Lighthouse windlasses are manufactured for nearly any vessel; sail or power. For use on boats from 32′ to 70′. These electric or hydraulic windlasses are built for continuous duty use and are available with nearly any chain, rope rode, chain/rope combination of wildcat /capstan drum combination for chain from 1/4″ to 7/16″ in BBB, HT or PC and 1/2″ to 3/4″ rope rode. Lighthouse windlasses are proudly made in the USA.

Lighthouse windlasses are are rated at continuous duty use, not maximum pull as with most other winch manufacturers. Optional reversing is available without changing motors, and can be added at anytime. This rugged motor should never let you down, but in the unlikely event of an electrical system failure, you will never be stranded, this is the only winch with 3 manual back-ups. Can be tailed just like a sheet winch. Has rapid manual rewind with use of a standard or ratcheting winch handle in capstan end.


  • Built of 316L Stainless Steel (no chrome plated parts to peel off)
  • 100% stainless steel gear box winch housing
  • Vertical drive with DC motor mounted below deck out of the weather
  • Built in the USA
  • Available in 12, 24, 32 Volt as well as hydraulic
  • Continuous line pull at 12v – 32v 1000 lbs. @ 37 fpm
  • Required deck space for mounting plate is L10″ X W11.6″
  • Weight 110 lbs. (50.00 Kg)

Lighthouse 1501 Windlass

The Lighthouse windlassoffers a continuous line pull at 12v (80 amps) – 32v (27 amps) = 1000 lbs. @ 37 fpm, maximum line pull rating depends on available amperage & power supply. This windlass is built to withstand nearly any punishment offered in operation. In manual use, there is a fast rewind socket port & starboard, or an amazing 10,200 lbs. of pull on second speed with only 35lbs hand force. The mechanical portion of the windlass is built to a rugged standard that no other manufacturer matches.

Crab and Shrimp Pot Pullers / Haulers

Crab and shrimp pot pullers lead a hard life. Pullers and haulers are one boat part that is exposed to the elements, harsh weather, hard operation usage and general negligence for it’s entire service life. Whether it is a small pocket puller used in an oarlock or a gas or electric pot puller pulling hundreds of pounds, pot pullers must do the work without fail.

There are three main types of pot haulers; manual, electric and gas operated. The choice of this marine part is based on how often you intend to use the hauler (recreational or professional), the weight of the pot and the power source available on-board the vessel.

A Pot Puller for the Oarlock

Manual Pot Pullers

Manual crab and shrimp pot pullers are great for smaller vessels with limited power and limited use with pot weights less than 100 pounds. The smallest pot puller is designed to be used in a dinghy or rowboats oar lock. The Pocket Puller fits right into the oarlock (which you could mount on the transom) and allows hand line hauling without being near the gunwale or transom.  The Handy Hauler is a davit with a block on the end of it. Rated at 300 pounds capability, the Handy Hauler may be used by hand or with a user supplied motor for the davit or on the gunwale.

Electric Pot Puller

Electric Pot Pullers

The most common pot puller arrangement is 12 volt electric powered. The options for pulling total pot weight range from 100 to 300 pounds. There are two main styles of pot pullers; The first where the puller motor is supported on a swivel at the end of the davit and the second is where the puller motor is mounted on the davit, over the gunwale and the line is run through a block. For those working in the Pacific Coast shrimp and crab industry, the davit end mounted puller motor is more familiar and common. The puller motor mounted to the davit is more typically seen on the Atlantic Coast in the lobster, crab and shrimp industry. The choice of styles depends more on what a fisherman finds comfortable using and the vessel they are using it on. The Ace +40 Line Hauleris a recreational hauler that can handle up to 100 lbs pot pull. For a davitless installation or for use with the Handy Hauler, the Quick Catch pot puller can be gunwale mounted recreational use. Quality Productsbuilds recreational to light commercial pot haulers of both puller motor styles and accomidating continuous pot pulls with the:

Honda Powered Pot Puller

Gas Pot Pullers

The Honda powered gas pot pulleris an option for those boats that want to avoid electric motors. The biggest advantages are the incredible line speed of 180 feet per minute coupled with the heaviest lift capacity of 550 pounds. For the professional who needs speed and hauling capacity as well as the rugged reliability of the Honda engine, this puller meets the needs.

Fire Extinguishers and your Boat

Nothing causes as much concern for a boater than a fire aboard while underway. Here is what happens in a boat without an automatic engine room extinguisher. Most boat fires start in the confines of the engine room, killing engine and electrical power to the vessel. One or two 2BC extinguishers cannot put out the enclosed fire.  The fire then spreads quickly to the rest of the vessel through all the flammables that are readily available, such as the wood trim and foam cushions. Soon the very fiberglass the boat is built from is burning. Ultimately, leaving no alternative but to abandon the vessel. The vessel burns to the waterline.

The key to fighting a boat fire is done at the dock before you leave the marina.

Here are the USCG minimum requirements for fire extinguishers onboard pleasure craft

  • For boats under 26′ – At least one B-I type approved hand portable fire extinguisher.
  • For boats 26′ to 40′ – At least two B-I OR one B-II type approved hand portable fire extinguisher.
  • For boats 40′ to no more than 65′ – At least three B-I OR one B-I plus one B-II type approved hand portable fire extinguisher.

Keep in mind that these minimum requirements are exactly that; the absolute minimum. A B-I type extinguisher equals 2 pounds dry chemical. A B-II type extinguisher equals 10 pounds dry chemical. These portable fire extinguishers are also rated to the class of fire they will be able to put out.

  • Class A: Ordinary Combustibles Includes wood, paper, cushions, canvas, fiberglass, rubber, many plastics, and other materials that burn easily and account for many boat fires. These can be extinguished with water.
  • Class B: Flammable Liquids Includes gasoline, propane, diesel fuel, oils, grease, paints, tars, lacquers, and flammable gases.
  • Class C: Energized Electrical Equipment Includes wiring, fuel hoses, circuit breakers, machinery, and appliances.

You will likely be using an approved BC Class (although it may be ACB) extinguisher. Using a portable dry chemical extinguisher will allow you to fight a fire ONLY if it is in the first couple minutes of a burn and you can spray the extinguisher at the base of the fire; after that, you are using the extinguisher to fight the fire as you exit the vessel. A portable fire extinguisher should be kept handy between the galley and the exit and a second one near the engine room.

Sea-Fire with FM-200

Now for the engine room. Because of it’s caustic, noxious agent, discharging a dry chemical extinguisher into a fire may cause damage or even destroy the items that you are trying to protect. There is a superior, modern extinguisher medium (agent) called FM-200. This unique product leaves no residue and is safe to discharged near any electrical or mechanical equipment. FM-200 is even safe enough for discharge in occupied spaces! FM-200 systems reach extinguishing levels in 10 seconds or less, stopping ordinary combustible, electrical, and flammable liquid fires before they cause significant damage.

For use in enclosed spaces like an engine room, there are two operation modes available for Sea-Fire FM200 systems; automatic and manual / automatic models. A Sea-Fire automatic extinguisher is activated by the attached temperature sensor valve. Discharge will occur when the sensor valve temperature rises to the system activation point as shown in the specification table and on the label attached to each unit. The manual / automatic offer the ability to lead a manual discharge cable to a position outside the enclosed compartment (often the helm station) so that the extinguisher may be operated remotely. If an automatic / manual extinguisher is not activated manually, it will work as a normal automatic model and discharge when the system activation point is reached.

Sea-Fire manufactures FM-200 FD Series manual and automatic fire extinguishers for areas as small as 175 cubic feet and up to 1500 cubic feet.  The Sea-Fire FG Series are made to fit small engine rooms an other closed areas, from 25 to 240 cubic feet. Sea-Fire also manufactures the FT Series which are supplied with long, flexible narrow tubing that can reach into hard to access areas; such as the backside of electrical panels for spaces from 25-150 cubic feet.

In summary, dry chemical fire extinguishers are fine for trying to put out a fire on the stove, heater or open area. Sea-Fire FM-200 extinguishers are useful in enclosed spaces, occupied spaces and hard to reach spaces.

Simple Boat Fire Safety Tips

Regularly Inspect Fire Extinguishers, Courtesy of USCG

Courtsey of USCG

According to the USCG, in 2009, there were 5 deaths, approx. 130 injuries and over $12,557,513 in damages from boat related fires in the United States. Fires can spread rapidly on a vessel and it is always best to be prepared for any fire-related situation. Here are some safety tips from the Seattle Fire Department:

  • Use Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) marine-approved cord sets and connections. Do no hook up if you see burn marks or your cord set will not firmly connect.
  • Routinely replace cord sets. Worn or overloaded cord sets and damaged shore power connections are a common cause of fires.
  • Regularly inspect electrical and fuel systems. Have a professional upgrade the wiring to maintain the needs of your navigational equipment and other appliances.
  • Never leave operating electrical equipment, including heaters, unattended. When leaving your boat for any reason, turn portable heaters off.
  • Smoke alarms are important life-saving devices and should be installed in your boat.
  • Plan your escape. Having an escape plan can save your life in an emergency.
  • Have a U.S.C.G. approved fire extinguisher onboard and know how to use it. Fire extinguishers should be mounted near an exit so you are moving toward an exit as you access the extinguisher.
  • Do your part to keep the dock clean and clear. Don’t leave engine parts, tools or other equipment on the dock.
  • Properly dispose of oily rags in metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Leaving oily rags wrapped up in a grocery sack is not safe. The chemicals will begin to breakdown the rags, causing heat and possibly a fire.
  • Boat owners must take responsibility for preventing fires on their boats and in the marina. The most common causes of boat fires are: electrical malfunctions, unattended portable heaters and poor housekeeping.