Tuesday, April 21

Getting Ready for Spring

Part of fitting your boat out for spring is making sure all the required U.S. Coast Guard safety gear is on board. Reconciling USCG requirements with your own state’s regulations makes this a confusing venture. To make it a little easier, we provide a list of web sites that clearly illustrate what safety gear the Coast Guard requires and what your state requires so you can easily comply with both federal and state regulations.

Thursday, April 16

Don't Forget Your Checklist

If you’re just starting out or even a seasoned boater, it seems like you always forget something on that first trip from the boat yard to the harbor. We provide some hard-earned tips and good advice on how to prepare and what to provision on this traditional spring mission.

Below is a checklist to guide you through each phase of preparing the boat for takeoff: Before departure, underway and docking / mooring.
If you have questions, ask around the boat yard during spring fitting out when there’s lots of people around to give their advice.

Kristen Cooper of Chicago was a new boat owner at Crowley’s Yacht Yard last year and she gives this advice: “I'd have to say that, thinking you can maneuver the boat isn't enough. Think things through...what can go wrong? If the boat had run aground, taken on water or weather hit...I definitely wouldn't have been prepared. Know how to deploy your anchor, the location and usage of all safety gear...and how to call for help. Read, read and read some more. Get time on others' boats and gain the confidence to ensure the safety of your boat and your crew.”

If you're not comfortable delivering the boat yourself, hire a captain who is willing to give you some tips while he or she shows you how to safely navigate to the harbor. Customers or employees of the yard should be able to recommend a competent captain who will charge a fair price. Yard employees are often captains themselves.


 Check the weather

 Check and review usage of all safety equipment

 Plot course on chart and in GPS to final destination

 Leave a float plan with friend or relative

 Review Man Overboard Drill procedure

 Discuss equipment on the boat and how it operates

 Discuss getting through bridges (if applicable)

 Provision plenty of sunscreen, life jackets, water and warm clothes


 Monitor time, distance and direction while underway so you can follow your progress on a chart
 Perform Man Overboard Drill (this should be done once annually)
 Practice docking, leaving the dock and tying up to a mooring


 Discuss tying up the boat properly

 Review lessons learned

 Turn battery switch to off before closing up boat

 Secure the boat before leaving it

Wednesday, April 1

USCG Requirements

Photo: Rogan Birnie
While you’re thinking about fitting out your boat for spring, think about safety equipment. It’s never a first priority, but definitely a necessity to keep your boat safe and compliant with U.S. Coast Guard regulations. Crowley’s Yacht Yard offers a handy chart as a quick reference guide to clearly explain the requirements.

Tuesday, March 31


More CROWLEY’S QUICK TIPS this week: Have a guest book handy onboard, see what fabric softener sheets can do and be wary of causing electrolysis corrosion from your power cord.

· Have a guest book handy onboard. Guests can sign it during your boating adventures. In the winter, it’s fun to look back and remember your trips.

· Fabric softener sheets tucked in between cushions and placed around the boat cabin give the boat a fresher smell. Some claim it even repels those nasty black flies.

· When your boat is plugged into shore power, keep the power cords out of the water. If the cord is cracked, it will cause electrolysis.

Thursday, March 26

Log It

As the season gets busier, our tips get quicker. Read Crowley’s Quick Tips to get a jump on getting the boat fitted out for summer. Read about keeping a log book and keeping your head flushing like a poker-playing wizard.
· Keep a log book to record any problems, needed repairs or upgrades wanted. At the end of the season, you’ll know what you need instead of having to depend on your memory. Log books also help keep track of maintenance schedules and costs, fuel usage, repair dates and trips. If you have partners, this is especially helpful.

· When cleaning your head, don’t use chlorine or ammonia. This eats the inside coating of the white sanitation hoses and lets out the smell from inside.

· Flush vegetable oil down your head to keep the parts working. About 2 tablespoons every spring should do it, more often with heavy use. For a vacuflush, take piece of paper towel, coat with Teflon®, and coat the rubber seal at the bottom of the bowl. Do not use a petroleum product for this.

Thursday, March 19

Time for a Fish Fry

Story by Marian Lambrecht
Photos by Dan Bochnovic

The perch are running in the Calumet River. At Crowley’s Yacht Yard Lakeside, employees are catching their share along with the rest of the locals.

Theric Marion, Crowley’s travelift operator, caught the limit of 15 in an hour on Tuesday afternoon, a decent average compared to other catches.

“I caught six or seven in the last hour,” said Jim McInnes, a retired fireman from the South Side. On Tuesday morning Jim was using a crappy rig with live minnows, which was the bait of choice. Most of the perch caught from the bridge were 8-10 inches, no jumbos were reported.

All day Tuesday and Wednesday no less than 25 fishermen and women crowded the 95th Street bridge which borders Crowley’s Yacht Yard. Cars lined the curbs leading up to the bridge and passersby wanted to know how the catch was.

“[The perch] are spawning and the river temperature is warmer than the lake right now,” observed Tom Butkovich of Calumet Park. “On a nice day like this it’s hard to find a place to fish because the fish are biting and everyone’s out.”

Finding a fishing spot will get harder after April 1 according to Lois Varela, the drawbridge operator. He says that’s when the busy season for ships and freighters begins. Then the bridge goes up more frequently and the perch catchers will have to find another platform to use.

Some trivia: John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd jumped the 95th Street bridge in their car in the 1980 hit movie “The Blues Brothers.”

CROWLEY'S TIP #18 - Join us for Yachtapalooza!

This Saturday, March 21, Crowley’s Yacht Yard in Chicago invites you and your family to our annual outdoor event with live music, food, store sales, a boat show, a flea market and educational seminars. Come any time between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. The event is free to all.

Tuesday, March 17

CROWLEY'S TIP #17: Get the right fire protection 411 for your boat from Crowley's own safety expert Rich Goodson

On your boat, fire protection isn’t something you think about every day but when you need it, you need it. While you’re prepping everything else this spring, check your fire protection. We provide a quick and dirty guide below.

Do You Need a Fire Extinguisher?
You do if you have an inboard engine, installed fuel tanks and/or closed living or storage compartments. Basically, if you’re reading this, you need a fire extinguisher.

How Many Do You Need?

Table source: http://www.uscgboating.org/SAFETY/fedreqs/equ_fire.htm

What Extinguishers are USCG Approved?
Extinguishers are classified by a letter and number symbol. The letter indicates the type of fire the unit is designed to extinguish. The number indicates the relative size of the extinguisher - the higher the number, the larger the extinguisher.

Coast Guard approved extinguishers required for boats are hand portable, either B-I or B-II classification and have a specific marine type mounting bracket. It is recommended the extinguishers be mounted in a readily accessible position, away from the areas where a fire could likely start such as the galley or the engine compartment.

Table source: http://www.uscgboating.org/SAFETY/fedreqs/equ_fire.htm

Extinguisher markings can be confusing because extinguishers may have multiple marking systems and can be approved for several different types of hazards. For instance, an extinguisher marked:

Look for the part of the label that says "Marine Type USCG"
 Make sure Type B is indicated
 Portable extinguishers will be either size I or II. Size III and larger are too big for use on most recreational boats.

What Maintenance is Required?
Inspect extinguishers monthly to make sure that:
 Seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing.
 Pressure gauges or indicators read in the operable range. (Note: CO2 extinguishers do not have gauges.)
 There is no obvious physical damage, rust, corrosion, leakage or clogged nozzles.
 Weigh extinguishers annually to assure that the minimum weight is as stated on the extinguisher label.

Fire extinguishers that do not satisfy the above requirements or that have been partially emptied must be replaced or taken to a qualified fire extinguisher servicing company for recharge.

How Do You Stay Compliant?
Coast Guard approved extinguishers usually require that the portable extinguisher be mounted in the bracket included with the extinguisher and properly installed. Internal inspection for USCG approved fire extinguishers is every 5-6 years. If you’re using less expensive or smaller fire extinguishers, it’s not cost effective to have the six-year servicing done. The most affordable way to satisfy this requirement is to keep a more inexpensive brand of extinguisher on the boat. These are usually those with the plastic tops as opposed to the metal tops. When six years is up, send the old extinguisher to your kitchen or garage and buy a new one for the boat.

Friday, March 6

Crowley's Tip #16: Cetol® can be a good alternative to varnish for your boat’s exterior

Photos by Rogan Birnie

Cetol® is a good choice for someone who wants to maintain a boat without a lot of effort. It is less fussy than varnish, both in application and weather conditions. It also requires less initial base coats – three to four versus eight to 10 - although the annual maintenance coats are similar.

It also seems to be less sensitive than varnish as far as water leaching underneath and lifting the finish. This makes it a good choice for a boat that has complicated water issues. Since excessive water will affect any finish, patching Cetol® when it does lift is faster because it requires fewer coats as a base.

It also seems to be less sensitive than varnish as far as water leaching underneath and lifting the finish. This makes it a good choice for a boat that has complicated water issues. Since excessive water will affect any finish, patching Cetol® when it does lift is faster because it requires fewer coats as a base.

Between coats, sanding is not required if recoated within a certain time frame. This is helpful if you are building up a number of coats but not very significant in terms of annual maintenance.

Staining the fiberglass has been an issue with Cetol®. After a certain amount of time it does not come off. Because of this, it is important to tape around your work area and use mineral spirits to wipe up any Cetol® that gets on the glass.

Cetol® brushes on easily, but as with any exterior finish, the thickness of the coat/finish is vital to its survival. When applying Cetol®, it is best to allow the product to flow off the brush, brushing into the wet edge with as few strokes as possible. Do not use a back-and-forth brush stroke because this will apply a much thinner-than-required coat. Evidence of this will turn up as areas of burn-through that appear during the season.

Cetol® is available in three base colors, Cetol® Marine (original), Cetol® Light and Natural. Natural is the newest and is a brownish color similar in tone to an oiled teak.

Unlike varnish, Cetol® is pigmented much like a stain, so it mutes the grain and look of the wood. With the annual maintenance coats, the color keeps building until it starts to look almost like paint. Cetol® Clear, a gloss finish, can be used over the regular, light or natural finish, and solves this problem, bringing it back to the look of varnish. Unfortunately, now you are adding at least three coats to the required base - four in my experience. In addition, now the base coat requirement is close to what varnish requires. This is all without the benefit of varnish, which enhances the beauty of the wood.

Bottom line, Cetol® is probably your best option if you already have it on your boat and/or if you have complicated water issues.

Thursday, March 5

CROWLEY’S TIP #15: Use high-quality, traditional varnish on your boat’s exterior

Crowley’s refinishing expert, Jayne Parker, continues her series in Part Two of her three-part series on choosing the right finish for your boat. Here, she talks about varnish and its different characteristics and brands.

After deciding that you want the look and feel of varnish, the next step is to pick which type of varnish to use. Remember that the beautiful depth and color you get from varnish is directly proportional to the amount of work you put into it, even if just normal maintenance is required.

There are many different brands and types of varnish available on the market today. The major brands are Epifanes ( high gloss varnish), Interlux (Schooner), and Awlgrips (Awl spar) all of which have very high UV protection. Among these you have the traditional tungoil/linseed oil based varnishes and polyurethanes. Additionally you have varnishes that require sanding between coats (mechanical bond) and some that do not if recoated within a certain time frame (chemical bond.)

There are also varnishes that you can purchase at the hardware store that call themselves spar varnish from companies like Minwax. Please do not use these on the exterior of your boat. They cost a few dollars less because they are not designed for the marine environment. They do not provide as much UV protection or hold up as well as the varnish you purchase from a marine store. Considering that finishing your boat is so labor-intensive it seems foolish not to use the best quality products available.

I usually recommend using a traditional varnish on a boat because they are a bit more elastic than a polyurethane varnish, and do not crack due to the movement of jointed wood. They are also a bit softer so, if damaged, they are easier to fair in and patch.

Epifanes high gloss varnish is one of my favorites; it has an amber tint, builds well and has a very high gloss. They also make a varnish that they call wood finish, which does not require sanding between coats if recoated within a certain time frame. It is not quite as clear or glossy, produces a slightly softer finish and has a caramel tint. Wood finish can be over-coated with their high gloss varnish producing a finish which will be very close in appearance to one that was built up completely with high gloss varnish. In my opinion, Ephifanes varnishes do not flow as easily as some other brands. In certain conditions, they may even require slight thinning and adjusting your brush stroke but the results are worth the effort.

Interlux Schooner varnish is also a wonderful varnish. It has a golden tint to it, is high gloss and flows easily, even in hot weather. Like Epifanes high gloss, it requires sanding between coats (mechanical bond).

Awlgrips Awl spar classic varnish also has a golden cast - a little lighter than Schooner. It flows easily and does not require sanding between coats if recoated within a certain time frame (chemical bond).

Tuesday, March 3

CROWLEY’S TIP #14: Choose the right wood finish for your boat

With the myriad of teak finishing products available on the market today, it turns choosing the right finish into a time-consuming research project. Crowley’s own refinishing expert, Jayne Parker, offers Part One of her three-part series on choosing and applying the right finish for your fancy.

It is widely acknowledged that varnish provides the most elegant finish for a boat. No other product delivers the look or feel of varnish. Its high gloss and mirror-like finish has both depth and clarity, which shows off the grain and beauty of the wood. Nevertheless, varnish is not necessarily the right choice for all boaters.

When a customer asks me for help in choosing a teak finish, I ask them to consider three factors. If this customer wants to maintain the boat without assistance, a fourth consideration is necessary: ease of application.

1. Appearance - what do you envision your boat to look like?
2. Budget- how much money are you willing to invest?
3. Time - How long do you want the finish to last?
4. Effort – How hard do you want to work for the desired results?

After you have defined your vision and budget the next step is to take a close look at the wood on your boat. This will determine if your boat will require normal maintance or something more.
Generally, a boat that has a lot of uncovered horizontal wood surface will require a bit more maintaince due to these surfaces being constantly exposed to the sun. (Where applicable, a simple solution is canvas covers.)

If there is already an old finish on the wood it will tell you a lot, showing you what areas are going to need more care. Go around the boat and check for areas that are being continually beat up by blocks or anything else that might mar the wood during normal boating usage. Check to see if all the metal fittings mounted on the wood are well bedded and tight so they are not allowing water to seep underneath. Also look at the edges of the wood where they meet the fiberglass. You want a nice tight seal that can protect the wood from water leaching up under the finish. Evidence of leaching is water pooling by the wood.

If any of these conditions exist, you will see old, marred yellowing, lifting or a non-existent finish. If any of the above conditions exist and cannot be easily corrected, your boat will require more than normal maintenance to keep the finish looking like new.

Essentially, there are five different ways to treat your teak.

1. Leave it bare
2. Apply an oil
3. Apply a sealer
4. Apply Cetol®
5. Apply varnish

Oil and many sealers, although easy to apply, have to be reapplied as needed during the season to keep their finish in tact. Both varnish and Cetol® share the advantage of requiring only annual maintenance coats.

If you choose to apply a finish, each one has its own look and pros and cons. Currently, the two most popular are Cetol® and varnish.

Come back in the next week for Jayne’s subsequent installments when she discusses the characteristics and applications of varnish and Cetol®.

Jayne Parker can be reached at jaynep@prodigy.net or (773) 325-9271.

Thursday, February 26

CROWLEY’S TIP #13: Protect your boat from lightning strikes

The odds of your boat being struck by lightning are about 1.2 in 1,000 but when it comes to lightning protection, you’re on your own. No federal or state laws require manufacturers to install a grounding system. While no one has found a foolproof answer, there are some easy preventative measures to take so you don’t end up like this Chicago sailboat.

Lightning is a spark that can reach over 5 miles in length, attain a temperature of approximately 50,000°F, and contain over 100 million electrical volts.

Sometimes a damaged or missing VHF antenna is the only clue that an unattended boat has been struck. Some vessels have little or no damage after a strike, but an immediate short-haul is a must. When lightning exits your boat, it can go through the hull itself or via a through-hull fitting. This may cause a gradual leak that could go unnoticed.

No one keeps track of how much damage boats sustain from lightning each year, but costs likely total millions of dollars. Much of the damage results from ruined navigation, radio and other electronic equipment. On sailboats, grounding the mast is the best way to prevent lightning from sparking around the boat as it seeks a conducting path.

Sailors should ground the masts on their boats using a No. 4 gauge copper wire connected to conductors in the water. Freshwater boats require as a minimum a long metal strip along the bottom of the hull. Sailors should also ground the wire to other metal conductors in the water, such as the prop.

Another option is to mount a lightning conductor, like a push pole, to attract lightning strikes. Boaters should be certain the conductor is well-grounded to the water and they should take care to avoid contact with the conductor or the waterline."

Tuesday, February 24

CROWLEY’S TIP #12: Continuity is key to corrosion protection.

Performing a continuity test ensures that the anti-corrosion devices on the engine package are functioning properly. It also uncovers any breaks in the protection of your engine. A digital multimeter is all you need.

Continuity test
This test can be done with or without Mercathode System installed. To conduct this test, take your digital multimeter and set it for continuity, which is the ohms setting. You need to test for good continuity between all of the major metal parts on the engine and drive unit, especially the sacrificial anodes. Your readings should be no higher than 150 milliohms, 1.5 kiloohms, or .15 ohms. If you find no continuity between any of the external metal parts that you’ve tested, you’ll need to search for the cause of the poor electrical connection. It could be a broken continuity circuit wire. Once you’ve located and fixed the problem, the continuity test should be repeated to ensure you’ve fixed the problem.

Using Stainless Steel Propellers
Stainless steel is a very strong metal that resists corrosion. But stainless steel propellers can corrode if not protected. Deep pits in the propeller blade are signs of loss of continuity between the propeller and the drive unit. This can happen when a continuity washer is not installed. Late-model propellers now have a different type of sleeve inside that keeps good continuity between the propeller and drive unit. The prop should be removed and inspected on a regular basis to make sure it is making good electrical contact with the drive unit. During your inspection, lubricate the prop shaft for further corrosion protection. Never allow fishing line to maintain contact with stainless steel components because eliminating oxygen from the surface of stainless steel allows corrosion to occur.

To wrap up our series on corrosion, following are some basic tips we’ve covered:

· The best defense against corrosion is regular preventative maintenance, like replacing wasted anodes and keeping a complete coat of paint on vulnerable surfaces
· Inspect anodes regularly
· Regularly prime and paint nicks and scratches
· Do not paint sacrificial anodes
· Other corrosion inhibitors are Mercathode systems, galvanic isolators and continuity devices
· Corrosion testing is an important part of your protection plan

Thursday, February 19

CROWLEY’S TIP #11: When your vessel is connected to shore power, it can cause corrosion to your vessel and others.

Continuing our series on corrosion, we’ll talk about the risks when connected to shore power. Then we’ll explain how to test installed corrosion systems to ensure they are providing the best protection.

Whenever a boat is connected to shore power, the hull and drive system is connected to the shore grounding system and to other adjacent vessels (also connected to shore power) via the grounding conductor in the shore power cable. This connection, while required for safety, creates a galvanic corrosion cell involving the dissimilar metals between boats and between a boat and the shore grounding system.

Shore power corrosion protection
When a boat is connected to AC shore power, the grounding lead provides protection from electrical shock, but it also connects underwater metal parts from your boat to metal parts on neighboring boats that are also using shore power. As a result, destructive low voltage transient galvanic currents can flow between them. These currents can cause severe corrosion damage just in a matter of hours. The increased corrosion potential is more than sacrificial anodes and even a Mercathode can handle. The best remedy is a galvanic isolator. This is a solid state device that is series-connected into the boats green safety grounding circuit inside the boat. The isolator filters out destructive low-voltage transient galvanic currents while maintaining the integrity of the boat’s safety grounding circuit.

Corrosion protection testing
To make sure that the drive unit is getting the best possible corrosion protection, it’s very important to have the system tested on a regular basis. The first test measures hull potential. This requires a Mercathode reference electrode tester and digital multi-meter. If the unit is equipped with a Mercathode system, make sure the battery has a full charge. This test should be performed after the boat has been in service for one or two weeks because new boats may give inaccurate readings. Don’t rock the boat as you board as this may alter the readings. Boats should be moored for at least 8 hours prior to conducting the test. This allows the sacrificial anode or Mercathode system to polarize the surrounding water. When you’re ready to begin, plug the negative meter lead into the negative receptacle on the meter. Then, attach the other end of the lead to the engine ground. Plug the end of the reference electrode tester into the positive receptacle of the meter. Set the meter to read between 0 and 2,000 millivolts. Lower the reference electrode tester into the water within six inches behind the propeller. Then, check the reading.

In fresh water, the reading should be between 750 and 1,050 millivolts. In salt, polluted or mineral-laden waters, the reading should be between 850-1,100mv. If readings aren’t within normal limits, additional troubleshooting should be done. Make sure the test is conducted again if corrective measures are taken.

Mercathode System Testing
If your boat is equipped with a Mercathode system, there is a simple way to test if the system is operating properly. The goal is to check the output from the Mercathode controller. When the boat is in the water, disconnect the orange wire that comes from the anode at the mercathode controller. Set the digital reader to show milliamps. Connect the black meter lead to the terminal on the controller. Connect the red meter lead to the end of orange wire. If using the blue or black Mercathode controller, the reading should be 25 or less milliamps, to as much as 200 milliamps in saltwater areas. If using the red Mercathode controller, the readings should be less than 25 milliamps in fresh water areas to as high as 400 milliamps in saltwater areas.

Stay tuned for our next installment when we talk about continuity testing and stainless steel corrosion.

Tuesday, February 17

CROWLEY’S TIP #10: Protect your investment against corrosion

In CROWLEY'S TIP #9, we talked about the causes of corrosion and said sacrificial anodes are one tool that will help prevent it. This is only one of many preventative measures you can take. Below, we continue the discussion on how to protect your investment against corrosion.

A Coat of Paint
The first line of defense against corrosion is the protective paint covering on your engine and components. It is important that this finish is maintained, as it protects the aluminum from exposure to corrosion. Always repair paint scratches and chips promptly and never use a wire brush to sand an engine surface. This will embed small steel particles from the brush into the aluminum, creating destructive “galvanic cavities” for corrosion to take place.

Continuity devices
While they all outwit corrosion, paint, sacrificial anodes and continuity devices all work differently. Paint blocks corrosion while sacrificial anodes absorb it. By contrast, continuity devices maintain contact between all vulnerable components on an engine. This circuit is then connected to a zinc so that this sacrificial anode takes the hit from any electrical activity going on. There are several types of continuity devices to accommodate your type of engine. Whatever anode the circuit is connected to must be periodically inspected and replaced when corroded 50% or more.

Mercathode system
MerCruiser offers the MerCathode system (available at Crowley’s for $95.45 plus tax), which provides automatic protection against galvanic corrosion for all makes of outboards and stern drives. It is a solid-state device that operates off a boat's 12-volt battery and provides protection by impressing a reverse blocking current that stops the destructive flow of galvanic currents. The Mercathode system has two parts: the controller and the anode.

The controller and anode are connected by a protective current that flows from the battery through the controller to the anode and finally into the water. The controller is located in the boat and it's usually mounted on the engine. It sends a signal to the anode which develops a protective field around the sterndrive unit to protect it against galvanic corrosion. It should be wired directly to the battery’s positive terminal with the included in-line fuse. The Mercathode must stay powered up even if the battery switch is turned off.

The anode is coated with platinum so it won’t corrode away. The reference electrode senses the corrosion potential in the water and then regulates the controller for optimum corrosion protection. The system then compensates for water temperature, movement and salt content, even for changes in the condition of the paint on the drive unit. The current required by the system is so small you can operate up to several weeks before having to charge your battery. Merchatode automatically turns off when the boat is removed from the water.

The Mercathode system does not protect internal surfaces which pocket moisture and dirt. Therefore, remember to flush the drive with fresh water before storage. Like sacrificial anodes, the mercathode anode and reference anode should never be painted. Never clean the anode, this could scratch the platinum coating and cause backing to corrode. The mercathode system should be checked once/year to ensure it’s providing adequate protection. Whenever a boat is using stainless steel props or other stainless steel components below the waterline and tied into continuity circuit, a mercathode system or anti-corrosion anode kit should be installed.

Keep reading for future installments of how to prevent marine corrosion.

Thursday, February 12

Crowley’s Tip #9: Know the enemy: Corrosion

Corrosion rates right up there with chafe, moisture, and overzealous birds in terms of universally-despised-by-boaters. But corrosion is not only despised, it is down-right feared. A lot of this fear probably comes from lack of information. If you know what to look for and what you’re dealing with, then you can prevent it from ever being a problem.

Corrosion happens in many types of metals and many types of environments, but there are a lot of misconceptions about what corrosion is and what causes it. Many people mistakenly think that putting metal in water causes corrosion. It is actually a reaction that occurs when certain metals are connected or grounded through water.

For corrosion to occur, five things must be present:

• Two dissimilar types of metals

• A connection between the two metals

• An ion solution to conduct the electricity (electrolyte)

• A potential difference between the metals.

All metals range from very chemically active like zinc and aluminum to less active, like stainless steel or gold. When two or more dissimilar metals are immersed in water, a flow of electrons occurs between them – despite the fact that the metals are not connected to any external source of electric power. The flow of electrons causes the metal that is most chemically active to change. This is called galvanic corrosion. This process speeds up in salt water, polluted water or water with a high mineral content.

Aluminum is especially prone to corrosion. If a drive unit is not protected, galvanic corrosion will destroy components exposed to water. The first signs of galvanic corrosion are paint blistering below the waterline and white corrosion forming on exposed sharp metal edges. As corrosion gets more advanced, exposed metal parts start dissolving away resulting in pitting of the metal. Because gold is the least active metal, it would be the most resistant to corrosion. Unfortunately, most boaters can’t afford a solid gold drive unit. To build a drive unit that delivers the best performance and durability, it takes a variety of metals like lightweight aluminum alloys, hardened steel and stainless steel.

The way to counteract galvanic corrosion is to add a third metal into the circuit, one that is more active than the other two. This piece of metal is called a sacrificial anode, and most often it is zinc. In fact, most boaters refer to sacrificial anodes simply as zincs.

Sacrificial anodes are specifically designed to provide additional protection against galvanic corrosion. Because they’re more active than aluminum, these inexpensive anodes dissolve instead of the expensive drive components. These anodes are easy to replace and must be replaced when erosion reaches 50%. Make sure the anode is tight to ensure electrical contact. Never paint anodes because this will block the anodic protection. For the trim tab anode to work, it cannot inhibit corrosion if raised out of the water. When a boat is removed from the water, anodes do not provide protection. This is why it’s important to flush the engine after each saltwater excursion. Ear muffs, the rubber gaskets that fit on each side of the outdrive’s intake, make this easy. Connect the muffs to a hose, flush the outdrive for two minutes and you're done.

Tuesday, February 10

Crowley's Tip #8 - Know Your Mechanical Limits

engine compartmentKnow your limits when working on your boat’s engine says our lead mechanic, John Stanis. He tells a story about a customer who came in and needed his old Volvo diesel engine rebuilt. The customer didn’t want to pay for it so he tried to do it himself. Six months later, he came to the yard and gave his engine to John – in paper bags.

“The engine was beyond his ability,” John says. “It took me longer and it cost more to rebuild the engine after he worked on it than it would have if he never touched it.”

Another situation you don’t want to touch without a professional is an undiagnosed problem.

“If something smells like harmless exhaust, it could be much more serious, like a fuel spill in your bilge,” John warns. “If you’re not absolutely sure what the problem is, the safest measure is to call a professional.”

When you do bring the boat into your mechanic, always make sure you have clear access to your mechanical systems. This isn’t just so John can get to the problem, it is so you can access the engine space in an emergency. John saw a customer ruin his transmission by starting the engine with a fender line wrapped around the shaft. If you don’t keep your storage separate from your engine compartment, you could also be in trouble if a fire starts or the stuffing box springs a leak. Worse yet, a piece of gear could block your steering completely.

Thursday, February 5

Crowley's Tip #7 - Choosing an effective winter cover

Covering the boat at the end of a Great Lakes boating season is no one’s idea of a good time. The season’s over, the days are shorter and putting the boat away is no small task. Make this big task a little easier by having a plan and the right equipment.

Making and/or applying a good cover is time-consuming and hard work, but the reward is a clean, dry boat when the cover comes off in the spring. The penalty for skimping could be serious damage. A lot of do-it-yourselfers spend hours creating a canopy with the intention of protecting the boat in high winds, heavy snowfall or heavy rains. Unfortunately, time spent does not equal the protection gained.

When planning to cover your boat, you have a few options: buy an inexpensive tarp, order a custom cover, or shrink wrap. Each option has pros and cons, but they all share an important component: a strong frame to support the cover of your choice.

Whatever cover you choose, it must be supported underneath. Otherwise, it can create pockets that collect water, which turns into ice, which adds exponential weight on your cradle or trailer and can damage your boat. Traditional wooden frames are expensive, clumsy and time-consuming to build. They are also difficult to store. You can buy clamps that allow you to custom-build a frame out of steel electrical conduit. These frames are easy to store and erect year after year. Plastic pipe can also be used to build a framework in a similar manner.

Collapsing and torn tarps are usually the consequence of those purchased from home building supply stores that are not installed securely. Although these inexpensive covers can be effective, they must be secured to stand up to very high winds, rain and snow. The key with these tarps is to fit them tightly so they don’t flap in the wind. A flapping cover can wear itself out in one or two storms. Worse, winter-long movement of the cover or the tie-down ropes against fiberglass can scratch or completely wear through the gel coat. Brass grommets flailing in a 40-knot wind will destroy gel coat in one afternoon.

This canopy collected the huge
chunks of ice you see on the ground

Plastic tarps cost a lot less than real canvas, but a custom canvas cover will last longer and is a better fit. Good quality plastic will last a full winter, but by spring there will be worn spots and the grommets will have begun to pull out of the hem. Canvas tarps are heavier, so they don't flap as much. A good canvas shop should turn out a fitted cover that virtually never flaps, even in high winds. Sure, it will move in the wind, but not flap around like an ordinary tarp. This means less likelihood of fiberglass damage from tie-down ropes, grommets or the canvas.

The most hassle-free of all options is shrink wrap. Boat builders initiated the use of this plastic material to protect new boats while they were being shipped via truck. Now shrink wrapping is available to any boat owner. You cannot shrink wrap your boat yourself. A team of professionals equipped with expensive tools cover your boat with a special plastic that shrinks to the shape of your boat when heat is applied. The plastic needed is not sold through retail stores. Because of the labor and materials involved, shrink wrapping is somewhat expensive. And, it is nearly impossible to re-use a shrink wrap cover so you must buy a new one each season.

Shrink wrap covers are the tightest of all covers. They don’t flap, chafe, scratch or wear the fiberglass. They cover so well that decks emerge nearly as clean as they were the day the boat was covered.

In the long run, a fitted cover and its supporting framework is probably the most cost-effective way of covering your boat. Over eight or ten winters, you'll spend a lot more on plastic or canvas tarps than you will on a fitted cover. The only problem is coming up with the money to cover the initial cost.

Tuesday, January 27

Crowley's Tip #6 - Clean your water tanks

That egg smell in the boat is probably coming from the water tanks. And if your water tanks smell, what do your water lines look like? In any case, you should clean and sanitize your tanks and lines annually. Better to get to it before the smell starts.

That foul odor or taste is typically caused by letting water stagnate in the tanks and lines, creating the ideal dark and damp environment for molds, fungi and bacteria. To flush the system, you have a few options.

Crowley’s Ship’s Store carries Puriclean, a biodegradable powder treatment that sanitizes the system and dissolving tabs keep it clean after every fill. Puriclean powder is $13.95 and the tabs are $11.25 at Crowley’s Ship’s Store. An alternate solution is one cup of household bleach per 10-gallon tank capacity.

Whatever your choice, follow these easy steps for cleaning your water tanks, do it annually, and you’re good to go. Fill the water tank with your chosen solution. Turn on every faucet on the boat, including the deck wash, and allow the water to run until it smells like bleach. Now turn off the faucets but leave the system pressurized so the solution remains in the lines.
Let this stand overnight for at least eight hours but no longer than 24. Then, drain every faucet on the boat. Remove the diffusion screens from the faucets so they don’t get plugged. Fill the tank again with fresh water only, drain again through every faucet on the boat, repeating till the water runs clean and smells and tastes clean. Cleaning out the tank addresses only the least of the problem...most of the problem occurs in the lines, so it's very important to leave the system pressurized while the solution is in the tank to keep the solution in the lines too.

If you have aluminum tanks, Puriclean is better than bleach because bleach is corrosive, but the effect of an annual or semi-annual cleaning with bleach is negligible compared to the cumulative effect of holding chlorinated city water in the tank for years. If you use bleach, it's a good idea to mix the total amount in a few gallons of water before putting it into either a stainless or aluminum tank. In the future, keep your water system cleaner longer by using your fresh water regularly. If you don’t keep water flowing through the system, molds, fungi, and bacteria will grow in your stagnant lines. Another tip: Before filling the tank each time, always let the dock water run for at least 15 minutes. The same critters that like the lines on your boat love the dock supply line and your hose, both of which sit in the warm sun.

Friday, January 16

Crowley's Tip #3: A clean bilge is a happy bilge

A clean bilge has many advantages including keeping the pumps clean and making any new leaks obvious.

When is the last time you stuck your head in the bilge? Not a tempting concept, but keeping a clean bilge makes the whole boat smell better and makes any new leaks obvious. Dirty water and oil can mask a problem that would be glaring without the muck. Preventing corrosion of equipment that lies in the bilge is also a motivator to keep it clean. Start with Starbrite Heavy Duty Bilge Cleaner available at Crowley's for $11.95 plus tax. Starbrite is biodegradable and makes the whole boat smell great.

Some boats take in more water than others. It is normal for some water to be in the bilge since it can leak in at the stuffing box(es) and rudder post(s).
However, if you find an unusual amount of water, make sure that you don't have a leaking through-hull fitting. If your boat usually has some water in the bilge just add the Starbrite to the bilge and let the rocking of the boat do the cleaning for you.

So that water can travel to the lowest part of the boat, limber holes are cut into the stringers, the structural ribs. The water passes through these holes
to the lowest bilge points, which is usually where the bilge pump is located. This allows the water to be pumped out either automatically or manually.

You should keep these holes clear of residue to prevent blocking the water flow. A great trick is to run a continuous chain through every limber hole which allows you to pull it back and forth to dislodge any foreign matter.

Water is one thing in the bilge, but oil is another issue entirely. Later model boats have drip pans installed under the engines to prevent oil from dripping directly into the bilge. Whatever your case, it is a good idea to put absorbent pads under the engines. They not only absorb the oil that could drip but provide a quick way to find leaks. Each time you do an engine check, which should be each time prior to starting, check the pad to see if any new oil spots have appeared. If so, try to track down the source immediately.

You should inspect the bilge and its surroundings with a flashlight at least once a month. Look for:

  • The float switch on your electric bilge pump - lift it to make sure it turns on the pump automatically.
  • Excessive water – find the source.
  • Through-hull fittings – check for leaks.
  • Double hose clamps on all fittings below the waterline – for double protection.
  • Seacock handles - ensure they operate freely.
  • Excessive corrosion and rust – find the source.
  • Unusual growth or mildew – find the source.
  • Excessive wear or corrosion on pipes, hoses and clamps.
  • Clogged limber holes – clean with chain or a stick.
A dirty bilge makes the whole boat smell and
corrodes vulnerable equipment.

Tuesday, January 13

Crowley's Tip #2 - The January boat check

Your boat may be “put away” but she still needs a little attention. Midway through the winter season is a good time to make a special trip down to your boat yard to check on how she’s resting.

You want to inspect how the boat is sitting on the hard. Your boat may be on a cradle, jack stands, trailer or free cribbing. All these systems can support your boat just fine, but each system needs to be looked at with a critical eye at least once during the season.

As you approach your boat, stop a few boat lengths away and get a good overall picture of the vessels attitude. It should be level from side to side and a little bow up or down, depending on how the deck drains.

Next, go right up to each contact point between your cradle and the boat. You are looking for even, consistent pressure across the supports. Shake or tap on each support to get a feel of how much pressure is on each pad. This is a hands-on job. You will not get a good read unless you touch each support.

Now follow the pad down to the ground. Look for bends, breaks, kinks and twists. Any signs that the boat has shifted should be reported to the service department immediately. Inspect continuously from the contact point all the way down to the ground. You want her to be on a nice firm footing.

Steel cradles with adjustable screw pads are the safest, simplest and most adjustable of all types of blocking. With this type of cradle, your major concern is one pad punching into the hull. This can usually be remedied by simply adjusting the pads. On occasion, the boat may have to be shifted fore or aft on the cradle to balance her out.

Jack stands are similar to a steel cradle. They have an advantage in being able to be positioned anywhere on the hull, but they are individual components that must work in unison. Each jack stand must be inspected on three major points. First, the pad must be resting firmly against the hull. Second, the stand’s feet must be on solid ground. Third, opposing stands must be secured together, athwartship, with chain.

Loose blocking, whether wood, steel or even brick poses the possibility of collapse. Any tower of blocking should be carefully built, larger blocks on the bottom and interlocking rows. This type of blocking should be inspected for shifting monthly.

If your boat is resting on a trailer, chances are the bunks or rollers contacting the boat have not moved. To know for sure, You’re going to have to get way down and take a look at the contact points. The trailer has tires that need attention. Now is a good time to bring along a small air compressor and properly inflate each tire. Also, add a support block to the back of the trailer to
prevent the bow from flipping up and causing damage to the rudder or outdrive.

Crowley's Yacht Yard has over 20,000 pads, blocks and stands in use this winter. Our storage team inspects every one regularly. Now is a great time to drift down to your yard and make sure your vessel is safe on the hard.