Batteries - They need attention too
Batteries – They need attention too
Almost all boats have at least one battery. It’s only use might be to start the engine but it still needs attention. The battery is one thing that, if it goes bad while you are out on the water, it can make it very difficult to get back to port. Now, I know, some engines can be started with a rope, but some engines need a battery to stay running. It just depends on the ignition system on the engine. Newer mid-size to large engines have to have a battery to stay running because the engine draws its power from the battery. If the battery is no good, then the engine is no good until the battery is charged or replaced and it is hard to do that while you are out on the water. There are not many battery shops out in the Gulf of Mexico.
Since the batteries are usually tucked away in places that they are not seen on a regular basis, they tend to be overlooked on a regular basis. These places can be a pain to look in to, much less, get access to. There are, however, things that you can do to make things a little less of a pain in the butt.
First, let’s talk about things that happen to batteries that can make them dwindle down to nothing but heavy plastic boxes holding lead and acid.
Sulfation - Sulfation is a buildup of powder or flakes on the plates in the battery. While this is normal to a certain extent, too much build up on the plates can reduce the efficiency of the battery plates, reducing the battery’s efficiency. Things that cause excessive sulfation are: heavy discharging, low electrolyte levels in the battery and too much acid in the battery.
Sedimentation - Sedimentation is the excessive buildup of the above sulfation flakes and other foreign matter on the bottom of the battery potentially causing the plates to short with each other, again reducing the effectiveness of the battery.
Charging - Chargers are a good thing and a bad thing (if used improperly) in that you can slow charge a battery (the best thing to do) or you can charge a battery fast (not good). Typically you want to charge a battery at no more than 10% of the rated amperage of the battery. So, lets say you have a 100 amp hour battery, then you can charge it a 10 amps. Some chargers have the ability to charge much higher than that which is fine but be careful using it because you could actually boil the fluids inside the battery releasing flammable gasses into your boat and causing sulfation
Wingnuts - Don’t use them. If you have them on your battery, replace them with a stainless steel nut. You can’t really get the torque that you need on a wingnut unless you use pliers. If that is the case, why not use a nut and wrench? A lot of starting issues are caused by bad connections at the battery.
Corrosion - Most people have seen corrosion on the posts of a battery. It usually looks like a white powder build up. This is not what you want to see on a battery and should be cleaned sooner rather than later.
All engines have manuals, and those manuals will tell you the battery specifications that the engine requires, cold cranking amps, marine cranking amps and reserve capacity. It is acceptable to use that spec battery or higher, but do not go lower to save a buck. The battery will not last as long and you will end up spending more money in the long run replacing the battery more often. Also ensure that the battery is a marine battery as they are built differently from car batteries to be able to take the stresses of the marine environment better.
Now for starting, deep cycle and dual purpose batteries. Starting batteries are for just that, starting an engine. They can however be used to power a limited amount of accessories on a boat. Like, navigation lights and a bilge pump. If you have a lot of accessories, like VHF, GPS, RADAR, trolling motor, sonar, stereo, stereo amp, live well pumps, lights, electric reels or down riggers, raw and/or fresh water wash down pumps, you will want a deep cycle battery (or more) in addition to your starting battery. These batteries are specifically designed to do certain things. A starting battery is designed to put out high amperage over a short amount of time, whereas a deep cycle battery is designed to put out a small amount of amperage over a long period of time. Now for the dual purpose battery, in this industry, it is generally not recommended for use. It is a hybrid of both, and therefore half as good as either. Not wise for a boat.
Testing a battery should be done on a regular basis. Some people refer to it as a load test. It will tell you how effective your battery is and can indicate some problems internal to the battery.
All of this talk about batteries is good, but there is one thing that needs to be talked about that helps the battery when you are out on your boat, the charging system on your boat. If your engine is not charging your battery, you will have a short day on the water that will most likely end in a tow. Some of the newer engines like Yamaha and Suzuki to name a couple, will not start unless they have nine volts or more. Your battery might show 12 volts when you are not cranking, but as soon as you turn that key to start, the starter motor drops that voltage significantly, potentially below the required voltage needed to start your engine.
Due Course Marine Services can assist you with any battery or charging system needs. Just give us a call.
Enjoy your day, and as always,
Stay safe on the water.
Know your Knots?
Know your knots?
There are a few knots that go a long way on the water, and I’m not talking about fishing knots. While I was in Coast Guard boot camp, there was one thing pounded into my brain every day. Knots! As a kid growing up around boats all the time I thought I had a grasp of the knots that were needed in everyday boating, and that was probably pretty true when it came to just one boat operating alone. But, after boot camp I was stationed at a small boat search and rescue station in Grand Isle, LA where all of the knots that I learned in boot camp came to be quite useful.
Here is a list of the knots that I learned in my early days that have helped me and others even to this day, both on and off of the water:
Slip Clove Hitch
And although not necessarily a knot, making a line off to a cleat or bitt
I am not going to show you how to tie these knots, because there are already plenty of videos out there on the internet that can show much better than I can, but here is a link to the Coast Guard Auxiliary that has most of these knots and some others that I haven’t covered.
The bowline is probably the most useful knot to know. It is used to create a temporary eye in a line. It is also easy to untie after it has been placed under a load and holds a good amount of breaking strength in the line. (Anytime you place a knot or even a bend in a line, it loses some of its resistance to breaking.)
The clove hitch and slip clove hitch are used to fasten things, like fenders to a rail to hang over the side of a boat. I prefer the slip clove hitch for this because removing the knot is a lot easier. You just pull on the end of the line and it is loose. I use the clove hitches to hang my mooring line up to dry after I have used them.
Making a line off to a cleat or bitt is most likely needed by every boater out there, in that, you will probably need to use a cleat of bitt anytime you launch, recover or moor your boat. It is simple to do but can be done wrong. What I was taught in the Coast Guard is take the line around the base of the cleat and then complete three figure eights around the horns followed by another round turn around the base. That worked in the Coast Guard but doesn’t always work on leisure boats. Some of the cleats on boats are too small to do that so a lot of people put a weather hitch in after one or two round turns. I tend to not do this because it was frowned upon in the Coast Guard, but I will do it if the cleat is too small for the line that I am using.
All in all, the more knots you are familiar with while boating, the better for you and other boaters. By that, I mean that if it comes to a situation where you need to tow someone or you need to be towed, there are a bunch of variables that need to be taken into consideration and each variable might call for a different knot/s. Variables like sea state, vessels tow line attachment points, vessel all around condition, experience of the boaters involved and a slew of other thing. To this day I still keep a short piece of line around to practice the basics and to learn new knots that I have seen.
We do offer training services to assist you with boat handling, which, can include knots if you desire.
If you have any comments or concerns, please let us know. And, as always, stay safe on the water!
Trailer Axles… Uhhhggg
Hello all of you fellow boaters. Recently I joined the bent trailer axle club. Luckily I caught it before it was a problem for me on the road, but just barely. This past fall, I towed my boat up to Destin for some water time with a bunch of friends. Before I left I checked all of the main things on the trailer. Brakes, bearings, tires, bunks, couplers, etc. All looked fine. I made it to Destin and back no problem with the exception of the back left tire on the trailer. It had a bald spot on the inside half.
I’m not sure how much farther the tire would have made it before it blew, but I can’t imagine much more than 50 miles. I had a spare tire with me along with a floor jack, lug wrench, spare bearings and grease, so I wouldn’t have been stranded if the tire did let go. As I was trying to figure out why the tire had a bald spot on it, it dawned on me. I have had the trailer for 13 years and had not replaced the axles or springs. I’m not sure if I bumped something with that tire or if something bumped into my trailer or if the axle was just sagging from 13 years of supporting the weight of the boat. No matter how it happened, I had to fix it.
As I was adding up all of the costs of replacing the axles I realized that this procurement was going to need the approval of the Admiral, aka. wife. I also added a set of new Kodiak stainless steel brakes to the procurement list so that I would have a high ball offer to her in order to make sure I could get the new axles with a lot less fuss. I mustered up the courage to bring up the subject and dove head first into it. After my sales pitch to her, she just said, “Okay.” I sat there bewildered for a second and then tried to play it cool. Well, a couple of days later I removed the axles from my trailer and took them to American Discount Marine to have the new axles made. The guys there are always super helpful. They had all of the axle mounting hardware and springs onsite and only took three days to build the new axles. I was well on my way after the visit with them.
When I first started this project I wanted to go with torsion axles, but I didn’t want to lose any overall ride height. If I went with torsions I would have lost two inches of height on my already a little low riding trailer, so I went with spring axles. After I installed all of the new hardware, including new springs I was happy to see that I gained about an inch and a half of altitude on the trailer, with the boat on it. Now, I know I could have used spacers and what not to increase the height with torsions, but I got to thinking, I have had the old axles 13 years when they started screaming for replacement. The rule of thumb that I have seen for torsion axles is a ten year life span. I chose the cheaper option of the two because to me it made sense.
Anyways, after another trip to Destin and back, the axles are working great and I couldn’t be happier. My new mission… getting the Admiral’s approval on a bigger boat.
Wish me luck, and as always, stay safe on the water.
Why filing a float plan is for you
Why filing a float plan is for you
There are many reasons to file a float/sail plan. The most important one is that it helps the rescuers out with accurate and timely information. If a float plan is filed before leaving for a day/night out on the water, it drastically reduces the search area if a boat does not return when it’s scheduled too. That is huge! Think about this, you tell your spouse that you are going fishing and will be home tonight. Now its tonight and you are not home. Your spouse calls the Coast Guard and informs them that you haven’t made it home. Now the Coast Guard will be asking your spouse a whole lot of questions about you, your boat, where you were going, when you left, when you were supposed to return… the list goes on. With a float plan, most of those questions are answered and your spouse doesn’t even have to try to remember what you said that morning while they were still half asleep. This helps the rescuers out tremendously.
If the Coast Guard can get the float plan information, they know where to go, what to look for, how many people are on your boat, what type of boat you have, safety devices you have onboard and a slew of other things. If there is no float plan and your spouse doesn’t know where you are going, then you are the proverbial needle in a haystack. Chances of finding your boat have dropped drastically. Now imagine if your boat sank and you are floating in the water with your life jacket on. That has dropped the chances of finding you even more. When it’s dark or reduce visibility, even more.
If you told your spouse you are going fishing in Tampa Bay, that narrows the search area down to around a couple of hundred square miles. A couple of hundred!!! Tampa Bay! Now imagine that you said you were going fishing in the gulf. That goes from hundreds of square mile to thousands of square miles. Try this, go to a room without a lot furniture in it, and have someone throw one grain of sand in that room without you looking. Ok, now find that exact grain of sand. The room is Tampa Bay and the grain of sand is your boat. That is roughly the equivalent of what the Coast Guard has to do whenever they are searching for a boat or a person in the water.
Here is a Float Plan that the Coast Guard Auxiliary has on its website. It can be a little intimidating the first time you fill it out, but the next time you use it most of the info is filled in from your initial use. Using a float plan is one of the best things you can do before leaving the pier to ensure your safety if something happens out on the water. Do you and your loved ones a favor and fill it out.
As always, stay safe on the water.
A little advice on launching and recovering your boat at the boat ramp
A little advice on launching and recovering your boat at the boat ramp
Going out on the boat for a day trip or even an extended trip should be something to look forward to and usually is. But, once you get to the boat ramp and you see the line of trucks and trailers trying to launch or recover, it is sometimes a kill joy. There are some things that you can do to speed up the launch time for yourself, and in turn, others. I like to use Maximo park boat ramp cause it is usually not too busy, but it does get crowded. Here is a link to some boat ramps in St. Pete. If one is too busy you might consider using another.
First of all, load anything that you can into the boat before you head out to the ramp. Things that won’t blow away on the road, coolers, fishing poles, tackle boxes and the sort. If you have closed compartments on your boat, you can put light stuff in those before trailering too. Like towels, bags of groceries, life jackets and throwable floatation devices. Loading as much gear as you can before leaving for the boat ramp saves time and frustration. Also, check all of your fluids the day before your trip and the morning of. I have seen quite a few people get to their boat to the ramp area and then realize that they need this or that before they can get underway for their trip. This is a great time to check the weather too.
Once you get to the boat ramp, pull off to the side and load the rest of your gear into the boat. If you try to load your gear while you have your boat on the ramp, it is an unnecessary delay for you and the other boaters trying to launch and is not the most courteous thing you could do. This is the time to put your boat plug in too. Don’t forget your boat plug!!! I keep a boat plug in one of my boat’s cup holders as well as in the map holder of my truck door with a cheap adjustable wrench to tighten the plug.
Check and recheck. Make sure that you have everything you need now. You don’t want to back down the ramp and figure out that you forgot your fishing license or boat keys. Done that. Not fun.
Ok, now that you have everything in the boat, get in line with the other trucks and trailers, if there are any, and wait your turn. If the boat ramp is busy, this is the time to break into your meditation Zen, light some incense, sip that coffee, etc.
It can get frustrating at times. I do my best to watch all of the other boaters to see what they are doing that I might learn from, good or bad. Once it is your turn to get onto the ramp, go ahead and make your approach. If you don’t have a lot of experience backing a trailer, take your time doing it. It will take less time to go slow and get it right the first time than to approach, mess up and re-approach again and again. A term I learned a long time ago is, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast”. The overall goals to launching at a boat ramp are safety first and speed second. So now that you are on the ramp, launch your boat and get your truck and trailer off of the ramp as safely and quickly as possible. If you are launching alone or with no help, get your boat in the water and moor it up at a side pier that is not in line with one of the ramps if at all possible. Once moored up, go back to your truck and park it with the other trucks and trailers. Due Course can provide training for proper trailering techniques and other things. If you are interested, just give us a call.
Now go out and have a great day on the water!
This king made great tacos
Frank the Tank
OK, now you have spent the day fishing and funning, it’s time to go home. Prior to getting to the boat ramp, make all possible preparations to trailer the boat. Fenders rigged, mooring lines out and ready, bait well empty, light gear placed in a compartment so they don’t blow away on the road. Basically all the stuff that you prepped before leaving the house. Doing this before getting back to the ramp gets rid of any rushing that you might be urged to do to get home. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.
Ok, you are at the boat ramp area, if you have someone with you that you trust and is capable, have them get the trailer or drive your boat. Make sure you recheck the trailers coupling, light connection and safety chains before moving the trailer. This is by far the fastest way to trailer the boat and get out of the way. If you are alone or do not have anyone capable of helping, moor the boat on that side pier again, if there is one. Go get your trailer and get in line with the others if there are any. Back your trailer down the ramp when it is your turn. Get in your boat and trailer it.
I see a lot of people get their boat on the trailer and pull the truck and boat up the ramp before hooking up the bow strap and safety chain. I am not a big fan of this. All it takes is one little slip of the foot on the accelerator or one little bump and the boat could slide off of the trailer onto the ramp. This could cause lots of damage to your hull and engine potentially costing thousands of dollars to you and also causing more congestion at the ramp. Just hook up the boat properly while the trailer is still in the water and avoid any damage and delays.
Great! Your boat is on the trailer, your engine is trimmed up and the bow strap and safety chain are hooked up. Now, slowly pull the trailer up the ramp and out of the way. There are usually spots dedicated to allow room to get your boat all secure prior to getting on the road. If not, just make sure that you are out of the traffic lane so others can get by if needed.
Now you can get all of the gear that you need out of the boat and into the truck, put on the transom straps and pull the boat plug. Don’t forget your boat plug!!! Too many times I have seen a boat going down the road and the bilge pump kicks on and pumps water out on the road. Can you imagine if a convertible was driving by when that happened? If you pull the boat plug, this should not happen. I like to find an area that has a little bit of an incline in the ramp area to stop to allow more drainage through the plug while I am getting the boat/trailer road ready.
If the ramp area has a hose, I would use it to flush your engine. The sooner you flush your engine the better. If you wait until you get home, the warm engine will cause the salt water to evaporate in the cooling passages leaving salt crystals, so if you flush right away there is less chance of salt build up in your engine.
Check and recheck your boat and trailer and trailer to truck connections. If all is good, hit the road.
We hope that this has given you a few things to think about. If you have any good pointers or lessons learned, let us know.
As always, stay safe on the water.
Gasoline – Ethanol Blend and the Marine Industry
Gasoline – Ethanol Blend and the Marine Industry
As most people know, there is a push to clean up the environment, and there are many things that are being done to do this. The one that is impacting the marine industry the most is arguably the use of ethanol blended fuels. In the automotive industry ethanol blended fuel is not that big of a deal, but we are in the marine industry. This fuel in boats can be a non-issue or it can cost thousands.
Most of the boating public use their boats once or twice a month, and that is where the problem lies. As it sits in your fuel tank it absorbs the moisture from the air and the condensation from your tank as it warms up and cools off throughout the day. As this water infused fuel goes through your fuel system and engine, it can do a lot of bad things.
If this blended fuel sits for long enough, the ethanol that has absorbed water can actually separate from the rest of the gasoline and settle to the bottom of the fuel tank. The pick-up tube in the fuel tank is installed in to be approximately one inch from the bottom of the tank… where all of the separated ethanol is hanging out. If that happens, and you try to use your boat, you could be sucking about 98% ethanol and 2% water into your engine that is designed to run on gasoline. Bad things happen.
Here are some of those things.
Fuel tank - A lot of the older boats out there have aluminum fuel tanks and the water absorbed into the ethanol can actually increase the corrosion rate and eat away at the metal eventually causing a leak of fuel into the bilge. What happens when liquid pools up in the bilge? That’s right, the electric bilge pump turns on and now you have a boat bar-b-que. I’m pretty sure those are not as fun as the regular backyard kind.
Some boats actually use the inside of the hull as the bottom and sides of the fuel tank and the ethanol fuel doesn’t play well with that either. It can actually turn the gel coat and fiberglass into a gel like substance. The engines of yesterday and today don’t like to run on a gel coat/fiberglass/gasoline mixture, if it even gets through the filters.
Most of the newer boats are using a plastic based fuel tank now and that seems to be working better with the fuels.
Fuel lines – Ethanol in the fuel has actually separated the inner lining from the outer lining in a lot of boats. This can lead to a lack of fuel getting to your engine causing it to run lean. In the short term, no big deal, but in the long term, poof! Your engine could burn up from this. Thousands of dollars to repairs.
It can also make your fuel lines hard and brittle allowing them to crack or break apart and cause a fuel leak.
Filters – All engines have some sort of fuel filter on them, and a lot of boats have water separating filters as well, and it is a great idea to have them. The problem lies in the fact that once a filter gets water in it, it is generally junk and needs to be replaced. Not a lot of money, but a little bit of hassle and time.
Some things you can do to combat the damaging effects of ethanol blended fuels:
Don’t use it. There are quite a few gas stations that sell non-ethanol gasoline in the Tampa Bay area. I don’t think I have been to a WaWa that didn’t have it. If you are fueling on the water, most of the marinas have a non-ethanol option too. Be warned, buying fuel on the water is around a dollar more per gallon on average.
If you cannot avoid using ethanol blended fuel, add a fuel stabilizer immediately. This will postpone the phase separation but not prevent it. In most cases the ethanol will still absorb moisture, it just won’t separate itself from the fuel.
Make sure that you are getting the regularly scheduled maintenance done on your boats engine. This alone can save you thousands, not only from ethanol but also from other things that could go wrong with your engine from everyday use.
All in all, this is an issue that has gone all the way to Washington, DC, and in fact, is still there to this day. There is a push to increase the maximum percentage of ethanol in our fuel from 10 to 15. Many of the marine manufacturers are saying that this would be detrimental to the industry as the engines will not be as reliable with a higher percentage of ethanol. The National Marine Manufacturers Association is working with the EPA to waive this in the marine industry. In the long run, most likely, that would be the best for the consumer.
I hope this helps answer any questions you might have, and Due Course is here to try and answer any other question you might have on any matter of a nautical sort.
Stay safe on the water!
Tips to Ensure Longer Life of Your Motor
Content provided by client
Prevent Costly Breakdowns
Testing - client providing content
Gel coat maintenance
Winterizing and long term storage
Testing - Content added by client