Lessons Learned – by Pat Carson
Is It Right Or Is It Wrong 15
It is May, it is spring, and it finally appears that the torrential rains and foul weather are behind us. Every seven years or so we get these wet winters and we forget how miserable they can be, but it just makes you appreciate the dry winters more. I thought it would be a good time to start out the 2023 boating season with a new installment of “Is It Right or Is It Wrong,” recapping the hits and misses of the past year. I have been collecting photos and saving contributions from readers of things that we know are just not right, some things we know are right and some we are not sure. I thought that I would share a few of my latest observations in installment 15. I do appreciate reader submissions as I may not see all that is right or wrong as I boat around the Bay, Delta and the Pacific Coast.
Yachtsmen and yachtswomen securing their vessels to the dock utilizing a wide range of strategies and with various levels of success are an endless source of learning what works and what does not appear to work. On just about every trip to just about any marina we can find something that is not quite right.
When I looked at this large motor yacht and the attached stern line securing it to the dock, my first reaction was that it was a fairly small line for the application, and then when I looked closer the line was chaffed nearly 50% of the way through. Clearly, it had been working hard and now was in need of replacement. Wrong to let it get this far past its useful life. One more even mild windstorm and I am quite sure that line would part and leave the stern of the boat loose, putting extra strain on the spring lines.
Well, it is a good thing that no mariner attempted to use this cleat again, but it definitely is a trip hazard and with all those sharp and rusting ends, it really should be removed. Clearly wrong and bad on the marina for not removing it.
OK, so I get it, we are all in a hurry once the boat is secure at the dock, but this skipper not only forgot to clean the weeds off his recently used anchor, but he left it precariously sitting on the dock. It really does not take that much more effort to clean it up and stow it properly.
Tasked with setting up some dock lines, I had the opportunity to practice eye splicing three-strand line while inside a temperature-controlled environment. As Captain Leslie supervised, I admitted I was a bit rusty and although my work did not quite meet her high standards, it far exceeds mine. I had just three more to do and promised to try harder for perfection.
A perfectly tied cleat hitch on a highly polished stainless-steel cleat – right? A broken cleat with the breast line still attached to the dock – wrong! When it is windy and there is a lot of boat movement it is usually better to leave more slack in a breast line so that as the boat rolls this does not occur. Better yet, instead of using a breast line use crossed spring lines so that the boat can roll but is kept to the dock.
Another skipper in a hurry to go home and no time to clean the anchor. These weeds had been on that anchor so long they were dry and crusty. In my world, if you have time to pull the shore power cord through the anchor pulpit then you have time to pull the weeds from the anchor and maybe even give it a quick rinse with fresh water.
Not sure what you are looking at? This is the hull of an aluminum houseboat with what looks like pellet holes in the side. These are actually the result of galvanic corrosion from electrical activity in the water and can sink your boat. Whether caused by the damaged vessel’s electrical system or a neighboring vessel I do not know, but the result is many tiny holes that leak water into the bilge. There are two actions that the owner of an aluminum hulled vessels should take. First, install an isolation transformer on your shore power cord to prevent you from being the cause of electricity leaking into the water and second, add an impressed current cathodic protection system. More about this in an upcoming article in Bay & Delta Yachtsman.
The owner of the vessel attached to this cord indicated that he had lost shore power. The cause was obvious. I found this 240V power connection wet from saltwater and the male and female connectors welded together from the heat caused by the high-resistance connection. This is as far detached as I could get the connectors and resulted in cutting off both ends and installing new ones. Note the missing sealing collar and locking rings as well. While these may not have prevented this, the watertight and mechanical secure connection would have fared better.
More and more marinas are reconfiguring their shore power to include Ground Fault Equipment Protection. These devices can be set to either 30ma or 100ma, and if your boat has wiring or equipment issues the red light illuminates and power to your boat is shut off, preventing your boat from becoming an electrical shock hazard. For more on this, see my article in the June 2018 Bay & Delta Yachtsman. Boaters connecting to renovated marinas are becoming aware of their boat’s wiring issues due to this newly installed, more sensitive equipment. Older boats are not the only vessels with problems as many late model boats also have similar wiring issues. Finding the exact problem in the boat can be difficult but you now know that you have a safety problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Although possibly inconvenient this is absolutely “right.”
I cannot say this is a daily occurrence but I see this often enough that my photo library is full. A securely attached shore power extension, the ship’s shore cord disconnected and submerged in salt water. Although this does not present an immediate safety hazard, we all know shore cord connectors are not designed to be submerged. Salt water will find its way into the electrical wires and cause corrosion of the copper conductors. I have seen instances where we have had to cut five feet off the end of the power cord to find non corroded wires. Definitely “wrong.”
Apparently, some marinas have a shore power cord theft issue that requires shore cords to be locked to the vessel. This is the first time I have seen this and the owner came up with a unique and effective solution. This creative security measure caused me a problem as I was scheduled to move the boat to the yard for haul and the owner no longer knew where she had hidden the key to the lock. I made the entire trip with the shore power cord coiled on deck with the big yellow loop hanging on the rail.
Guy buys boat. Guy finds the boat has some electrical issue. Guy brings boat to us to troubleshoot. We find that every previous owner apparently had added something, had removed nothing and did not pay attention to any marine electrical standards. The solution was to remove everything and start over.
On first glance, I got a chuckle from this. Then I started thinking about it and I now see the value of a placard at the trailer boat launch ramp refreshing the boat operators with the basic steering and sailing rules 12, 13, 14 and 15. Another “right.”
A collapsed exhaust hose is not a good sign. Remember, on vessels with water cooled engines the cooling water is expelled out the exhaust hose and mixes with the hot exhaust gas to keep things cool. If there is insufficient cooling water, the rubber hose melts from the inside given the 1,000-degree exhaust gas. When the hose gets to this point there has been a problem for a long time and upon disassembly, we find the hose to be more than 90% blocked. Wrong, as this should have been repaired much sooner. The first indicators would have been reduced water flow out the exhaust and likely an abundance of steam.
I have no idea of how this occurred, but the blue hull is going to be a difficult repair.
When I saw these throw pillows I immediately started looking to see where I could order a set. I know several boaters that would really appreciate these as they describe them well.
Another oops. Aluminum trailers are great given their lighter weight, but be careful not to overload them as the result could be catastrophic failure. This appeared to have failed at a weak weld seam.
We are all very aware of the torrential rains, high river water and swift currents requiring us all to be aware of the debris these floods bring. It is not uncommon to see trees with the root ball intact, telephone poles and even floating docks in all of our Delta waterways this past winter. Keep a sharp eye out for these prop benders.
Corrosion and more corrosion times two. You ask, how does this occur? Lack of regular haul outs and inspection combined with lack of use and this can be the result. Get ready to write the big check to make this boat operational again.
Well, that is all for this installment. Now I can sit back and enjoy that fine cigar and glass of port as I consider the start of the summer boating season and look forward to attending the Pacific Sail and Power Boat show May 4-7 at Westpoint Harbor in Redwood City. Be safe around our fellow yachtsmen and yachtswomen, and if you do see something that you are not quite sure if it is right or wrong, take photos and email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may include them in the next edition of “Is It Right Or Is It Wrong” so that we can all learn from your experiences.
As we approach the spring and summer boating season in San Francisco, remember that this is the time of year where we get higher winds and cooler days and you thought that was all behind us for the year.
When in Mexico, do as the locals do and have the soup of the day… after the yacht is secure for the day!