Getting Your Boat Ready for Spring: Safety Equipment and Paperwork

We’ve written a lot this off-season about structural and mechanical items to consider before your boat is launched.  We’ve begun launching season, so it’s time to make sure the all the details are considered.  Like compliance and paperwork.  Today, let’s check the glovebox and safety locker.

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Tips on Choosing the Right Fire Extinguisher for Your Boat

An uncontrolled fire is one of the most frightening and devastating things that can happen on a boat. An onboard fire can double in size every 7 seconds, so having the right extinguisher in the right place can make the difference between a problem and a catastrophe.

All fire extinguishers are classified by a letter and a Roman numeral. The letter indicates the type of fire (A, B, C or D) it is designed to extinguish. The numeral (I, II, III, IV or V) indicates the size of the extinguisher. The higher the numeral is, the larger the extinguisher will be. Sizes I and II are portable by hand, and sizes III, IV and V are semiportable.

Class A extinguishers are designed to fight fires that leave an Ash. This includes ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, trash, and many plastics including the fiberglass reinforced plastic used for decks and hulls The best extinguishing agents for an A fire are water or chemical foam.

Class B fires Boil. They involve flammable or combustible liquids such as stove alcohol, grease, gasoline, diesel, kerosene, oil, oil based paint, teak oil, paint thinners, acetone, and varnishes. The best extinguishing agents for a B fire are carbon dioxide, dry chemical or aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF).

Class C fires involve a Charge from energized electrical equipment, and have the potential to electrocute or shock a person if you apply water-based extinguishing agents. Turning off the electricity is the top priority when fighting a Class C fire. Cutting the power will change the status of a Class C fire to a Class A and/or B fire. The best extinguishing agent is carbon dioxide. Dry chemical can be used.

Every boat should carry at least one extinguisher capable of putting out a class A, B or C fire (ABC extinguisher). The Coast Guard requires that all extinguishers used on boats must be U.S. Coast Guard-approved and rated for marine use. Boats that are less than 26 feet long must have at least one B-I extinguisher in place; boats 26 to 40 feet must have two of these. Boats larger than 40 feet but less than 65 feet must have three.

Once you’ve purchased an extinguisher, take the time to read the instructions that come in the box. You might be surprised to learn what it can and can’t do. If you have one that is no longer fully charged, fire it off in a safe spot to learn how to use it. On board, we recommend at least one in the cockpit, one in each stateroom and one in the galley area, reachable even if the stove is on fire.

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Got Leaks?

Tracking down an exterior fresh water leak aboard a boat might be the most frustrating service issue a boater can face.  That nagging drip whenever the rain blows hard onto the forward port quarter … or the puddle on the galley counter that’s there every time you leave the boat for a couple of days.  Water can travel long distances undetected, and you never know for sure if you’ve found the source of a leak until ’til it starts to leak again.  Or not!

If this sounds like a scenario you know all too well, here’s a fix that’s worth its weight in gold.
First, get a roll of painter’s tape – the kind that won’t leave a sticky residue when you peel it off.  Use the tape on the inside of your boat to seal as many of the seams and openings as possible which might allow air to escape the inside of the boat.
Next, open a hatch.  Measure, cut and insert a piece of heavy cardboard into the hatch opening, taping the edges to make it airtight.
Now get yourself a leaf blower.  Electric, gasoline, it doesn’t matter.  Cut a whole in the cardboard hatch cover that’s the same size as the blower nozzle and insert the nozzle into the hole from the outside in.  Once you’ve started the leaf blower, even on idle speed, the air from the blower will exhaust into the sealed boat, creating positive pressure inside the boat.
While the pressure’s building, fill a bucket with very soapy water.  Using a large paint brush, slop the soapy water onto any suspect areas of the boat.  Just like finding the leak in the inner tube of a bicycle tire, air escaping from the boat through even tiny holes will cause the soapy water to bubble!  Now you can spot the leak(s) and make a repair.
You’re welcome.
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Getting Your Boat Ready for Spring: Replacing Your Battery

If it’s time for a new battery for your boat, the main decision you’ll have to make is: wet cell or AGM?

The most common – and least expensive choice – is a wet, or flooded cell battery.  They provide lots of cranking amperage, making them excellent choices as starting batteries. Wet cell batteries are available in many sizes and terminal configurations. Similar to the batteries in most cars,however, these require periodic maintenance and are best installed where you can get to them easily. They can be damaged by excessive vibration, must be kept in an upright position, and can be permanently ruined if left discharged.

At something like four times the cost of wet cell batteries, AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries will normally last longer and deliver much higher power and efficiency.  AGM’s are heavier than wet cells, but they can operate in any orientation and won’t spill, and they are quite impact and vibration resistant.  When stored, AGM batteries typically lose less than 3 per cent of their charge per month at room temperature.

For opinions about when to change your battery, you might want to start with this thread on The Hull Truth. If you have any questions, or would like more information, please contact Chris at (508) 563-7136, or by email at

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Getting Your Boat Ready for Spring: Spark Plugs

The condition of your spark plugs can tell you a lot about what is going on inside your gasoline engine(s).  Removing plugs and examining the tips and electrodes can help you diagnose problems and potentially save future repair costs:

When you first remove a spark plug, look for water droplets or rust.  Either could indicate that water is getting into the cylinder, maybe caused by a bad head gasket, water in the fuel or, on inboard engines, a bad exhaust manifold or riser.

Take a close look at the tip, or firing nose.  If it’s a gray or light beige color then your spark plug is operating at the right temperature, indicating a healthy engine.  Dry and soft, sooty black deposits indicate that you are running an excessively rich fuel mixture.  A wet, oily coating on the tip may indicate a breached head gasket, or engine oil leaking past worn valve guides or piston rings, allowing oil into the combustion chamber.  Tiny specs on the tip, or a fractured insulator may be signs of detonation, an uncontrolled ignition of fuel which could be catastrophic if not repaired.

Finally, check out the electrodes for signs of excessive wear.  Rapid wear is frequently a sign of overheated plugs.  This, along with misfiring while accelerating and/or difficulty in starting the engine are signs that it’s time to change your spark plugs.

If you have any questions, or would like more information, please contact Chris at (508) 563-7136, or by email at

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Getting Your Boat Ready for Spring: Raw Water Cooling Pumps

With less than two months to go ’til the unofficial start of boating season on Cape Cod, it’s time to get serious about preparing our boats for a summer full of great times on the water!  For example, let’s take a look at the condition of our engine(s)’ cooling pumps.

In marine engines seawater is used to help cool engines, pumped into the boat from overboard.  It is important to keep track of when your pump was last serviced.

On inboard motors the pump’s impeller should be inspected and replaced every couple of years. The impeller (like a small fan blade inside the pump) helps circulate water to the engine and keep it at a normal operating temperature. If the impeller is damaged it will not effectively get the water to the engine. The result of a damaged impeller is overheating of your engine.

The same is true for outboard motors. The pump is located in the lower part of the engine and should be replaced every two years to ensure proper flow of cooling water to the upper part of the engine.

As always, with this or any other maintenance item, if you have questions you can call us for answers at (508) 563-7136 X105.  Or send us an email to

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Sailors: Don’t Neglect Your Winches

If it’s been a while since you serviced your sailboat’s winches, this before and after shot should speak for itself. Regular maintenance prolongs the life of these expensive machines and keeps them functioning properly. Although they may look just fine on the outside, poor maintenance results in friction and inefficiency and allows corrosion to set in. A screw driver, wire brush, lubricant and a little time will make a big difference in your winch’s performance. For an excellent how-to tutorial, check out Not into do-it-yourself projects? Then ask your boatyard to have the work done before the season starts.

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Fishing Tip: Don’t Forget Your Saltwater Permit

Many boaters may not be aware that Massachusetts law requires all recreational fishermen ages 16 to 59 to purchase a ($10) permit from the State. Fishermen aged 60 and older must also obtain a MA permit, but it is free.

The permit is required in order to fish for finfish from shore or from a boat in Massachusetts marine waters, including up to the first upstream bridge in rivers and streams that flow to the ocean. For boaters, everyone fishing on board must have a permit to be in compliance with the law. This permit expires and must be renewed each calendar year. Whether you print your permit or have it stored on your mobile device, State law requires that you always have a version of your current recreational saltwater permit with you, available for display whenever you recreationally saltwater fish in Massachusetts.

You can get your permit, more information or download a paper application at .

For a list of fishing seasons by species, size and possession limits, visit .

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NOAA Invites Public Comment on the Draft National Charting Plan

NOAA invites public comment on the recently released National Charting Plan. Comments are due by midnight, June 1, 2017. The National Charting Plan is a strategy to improve NOAA nautical chart coverage, products, and distribution. It describes the evolving state of marine navigation and nautical chart production, and outlines actions that will provide the customer with a suite of products that are more useful, up-to-date, and safer to navigate with. It is not a plan for the maintenance of individual charts, but a strategy to improve all charts.

Since the introduction of electronic navigational charts (ENCs) thirty years ago, the size of commercial vessels has increased four-fold and navigation systems have become more sophisticated. Additionally, there are now over 15 million recreational boat users in the U.S. and many have joined professional mariners in using electronic chart displays and NOAA digital chart products when navigating. User groups of all types are increasingly expecting more precise, higher resolution charts, and greater timeliness and ease-of-access to chart updates. This plan presents strategies to meet the growing demand.

The National Charting Plan outlines several improvements to chart content, such as:

— Reducing unwarranted alarms in the electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) used by large commercial vessels.
— Improving the differentiation between dangerous and non-dangerous wrecks.
— Resolving uncertainties about ‘reported,’ ‘existence doubtful,’ and ‘position approximate’ dangers.
— Creating an orderly layout for ENC charts that will replace the current set of 1,182 irregularly shaped ENC cells compiled at 131 different scales with a regular gridded framework of cells compiled at a few dozen standard scale.
— Strengthening partnerships with the U.S. Coast Guard by developing methods to ingest changes to the database of USCG maintained aids to navigation directly into Coast Survey’s chart production system. This will save time and avoid any chance of data being entered incorrectly by hand.

For information on how to provide written comments about this plan, see the Federal Register Notice.

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Docking Tip: Tying Off to a Piling

If you’ve been around boats for a while, tying up to a dock cleat or affixing a mooring pennant to a cleat on your boat is second nature. But when confronted with the need to secure your boat to a piling, how many of us are at something of a loss? What’s the best way to tie off at a piling, knowing that your boat will still be there when you get back from lunch?

Thanks to our friends at Salt Water Sportsman for a simple,easy to understand illustration of the proper technique. Go ahead. Tie off to a table leg to see how it works. Come summer you’ll be glad you did.

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