June 2006

At Your Service

Q & A Time

By Rick Feldmann

Hale’s Marine Services

Q: I keep my boat in dry storage at a local lake, and it seems that every year I must buy a new battery. Can I avoid this somehow? (Mr. Moore in Carefree)

A: Any battery will lose some charge in periods of none-use. If you have any current-draw, as from a clock built into your stereo radio, the battery will be drained every minute of the day.

A complete disconnect of the battery will help, but you’ll lose your settings in the radio, such as the time and programmed channels.

If your boat is close to a 110 volt power outlet, I’d suggest a battery maintainer. These are not battery chargers but will supply replenishment to a battery that has not been drawn down before connecting the unit.

Another alternative would be a trickle-charger and a simple timer. You can set the timer to turn on the charger for an hour or so of every day.

And, keep the battery fluid level above the plates at all times. Heat beneath a boat cover will tend to evaporate the liquid in a battery, and always use purified water to refill the cells.

Q: I keep my boat in a slip at the lake. I have anti-fouling paint on the hull, but there’s always some growth at the waterline. I thought the bottom paint was to prevent this. (Dave in Tempe)

A: Dave, algae is an organism that contains chlorophyll, which needs sunlight to live. The biocides in anti-fouling paint don’t allow the algae to "root," so they’re easily washed away by the boat being underway, or an owner can use a soft-bristled brush to wipe them away from the waterline.

Q: One of our readers, Frank, has two pumps that run too often. He asks, "My fresh-water system pump runs about every five minutes for no reason, and there’s enough water in the bilge to make the bilge pump run about once an hour. Am I sinking? "

A: Relax a bit, Frank. Your freshwater system has a leak somewhere, pumps into the bilge, and your automatic bilge pump takes over.

A freshwater pump has a pressure switch built in. If system pressure drops, as when opening a faucet at the galley sink, the pump should run a few moments to build pressure, and shut off.

If it’s running when there is no demand on the system, you probably have a loose fitting, or a faulty hose.

Q: Jill and Tony asked about a tune-up. "We’ve had our 1998 boat since 2001, and wonder what a tune-up might cost. We’ve had a tune-up done every spring at another shop before moving to Phoenix."

A: Why do you think you need a tune-up, Jill and Tony? Is the motor hard to start; does it run badly?

If the motor starts easily and runs well and smoothly, I’d say you don’t need a tune-up. Modern marine motors are fitted with electronic ignitions, which means the spark plugs will last longer; there are no points and condensers to replace.

Please feel free to call me at Hale’s Marine if you need more reassurance and we’ll address the particular situation.

Q: How much is my boat worth? Should I spend more money on repairs?

A: Worth can be interpreted many ways. If you have sentimental value in the definition, it may impact on any actual assumed resale value.

Local resale approximations can be researched through Boat Trader Magazine or through an Internet search at www.nadaguides.com .

Q: (panic call) I’m at the lake and I just had my water pump rebuilt, it ran fine at the shop, but after an eight-mile run, my motor is overheating. Where should I go out here? (The person asking this question was more than a hundred miles away)

A: We asked him to shut down and let the engine cool on its own as he drifted. When he started it up again, his engine ran the whole way back down the lake with no trouble.

We’re not sure why this happened, but this particular gentleman may have run through a debris field in his outing, and caught , perhaps, a plastic bag or some other trash that clogged his water-intakes, thus choking his cooling system temporarily.

Stopping may have allowed the obstruction to sink lower in the water, and his water intakes cleared.

Need we remind everyone not to leave trash in the water?

Q: I’m a new boat-owner, and I’m not sure what I need for safety-sake on my boat. My kids and wife and I just want some fun.

A: Rule number one is to be safe. Everyone should have properly fitted life vests that will keep them afloat. As the person in charge, you also need a through knowledge of all the systems on your craft and to make sure everything is in good operating order.

For instance, that bilge blower you may think insignificant evacuates potentially explosive fumes and should be run for about two minutes before you try to start the motor.

Read your owner’s manuals before you operate anything on your boat.

Brochures concerning regulations and rules of the road are available at Arizona Fish and Game Department, online, or you can pick them up at Hale’s Marine.

Safe boating classes are offered by The US Coast Guard Auxiliary and the US Power Squadrons. These can help you learn the many safe-boating practices.

Another resource we recommend is Chapman’s Seamanship and Piloting.