Heat Exchanger Zincs

We can’t expect everyone who buys a boat which is new to them to know absolutely everything about that boat and often the previous owner is not around to show you all that needs done in order to keep up on maintenance.  One easy maintenance item are the “pencil zincs” inside of 99% of heat exchangers.  The heat exchanger transfers waste engine heat from the coolant loop to the raw (or sea) water.  Because it is metal and in contact with salt water we need to take special measures to protect the heat exchanger from corrosion.  This is accomplished mostly through small zinc anodes which are inserted into a threaded port on the exchanger.  It surprises me how often boat owners have no idea that there is something about the exchanger which needs any service much less regular service.

Below is a photo taken from the online Sailboat Owners Forum:

Heat exchanger

When pencil zincs are left too long there are a number of things that happen.  Most importantly they will loose their protective capacity over time and they will break off and tend to clog the exchanger channels.  This condition will slowly allow damage or corrosion on the heat exchanger itself and will result in having to limp home and a costly repair bill.

I recommend everyone research the different maintenance items required to keep your investment in good working order and if you don’t have any idea of where to start then give me a call and we can set up a time to have a knowledgable person come onboard to make a maintenance checklist.  At Tasman Boat Company, with a survey report we generally include a link to appropriate engine manuals if one is not found onboard and provide any consulting needed to help the new owner understand how to keep things running.  This extra step helps the proud owner get through that first year without any user error caused damage and we always like to hear stories of successful boat ownership.

Happy Boating!


Copper Bottom Paint and the Puget Sound

On 1 January 2020 you will no longer be able to find anti-fouling bottom paint which contains significant amounts of copper at your local marine store.  Copper bottom paints have been the standard for marine bottom coatings for decades but new research suggests that copper levels are rising.  A 2007 study found that copper is pretty toxic to marine life and causes salmon to lose their fight or flight survival reaction to danger.

Clean Boating Foundation

Don’t despair, marine coatings companies have been hard at work to develop products that they argue work better and are better for the spectacular marine environment in which we live.  Tasman Boat Company is in the process of aquiring samples of these coatings and will conduct tests on them in the waters near Seattle.  In the next few years I will be able to report back on those coatings which I find provide the best protection for your boat here in the Puget Sound and are appropriate to how your boat operates.  It is a long time to wait but it is important to simulate a full two years of marine growth inside of a marina in shaded and sunny areas both.  I look forward to the results!

Happy boating to everyone!


Buying a high and dry boat

I did a survey recently on a boat which has sat out of the water on stands for about 8 years.  The engine was, for the most part, properly stored and this post is not really about the mechanical side of boat storage anyway.  What I want to discuss is the hull.  This boat was foam cored fiberglass and was of somewhat light construction.  The yard had also not taken measures to match the stands to any sort of underlying frame or bulkhead material where the boat is more stiff.  As a result, the boat was observed with intense distortion of the hull right at the boat stands.  I measured approximately 1.7 inch inward distortion and this was observed on the inside of the hull as well.  The prop shaft was also well out of alignment and very stiff to turn by hand.  Unfortunately this specific survey did not go far enough for me to get the opportunity to do some detailed inspection beneath where the boat stands were in contact with the boat but in my experience there are a wide array of possible outcomes for this from needing major work to there being no issues.

In all cases the boat should be put back into the water well before use, from a week to even a month.  This allows the boat to rebound back to its original shape as much as it is going to and as the hull shifts back into a final shape then the propeller shaft can be brought back into alignment if need be.  A foam cored boat might sustain some damage to the core material as was likely the case with the recent survey and this might require massive and expensive work to restore.  For some solid fiberglass boats it might not be as big of a deal to sit on land for such a long time but some distortion of the hull is expected.  Do be aware of the issue and if you know the boat has been out of the water for an extended time then make sure your surveyor knows too.  The surveyor will already be doing a detailed inspection of the effected area to determine what is needed to make the boat safe for you and your family but we also like any extra info that we can get about the boat’s past.  Any information helps us to better represent your interests.

Happy boating!


Shore Power Cord Fire

Shore power provides the all important trickle of electricity which keeps our batteries healthy, our bilge pumps with unlimited power in the case of a leak and energy to enjoy our boats at the dock.  While shore power is a beautiful thing the cord is one of many important items that requires inspection from time to time.  Corrosion on the contacts, those pieces of metal which transmit the energy, creates resistance.  Over time that extra resistance will create more and more heat until the plastic casing begins to break down and even burn.


The beginnings of a fire caught just in time.

The shore power connector shown above was replaced after it became evident that heat was beginning to build up due to corrosion on the contacts.  The owner noticed the issue mainly because their inverter/charger unit constantly monitors all incoming shore power to insure that the electricity is the right voltage, frequency and polarity.  While onboard the owner noticed that the inverter unit shut down the incoming AC power feed.  Inspection revealed that it only did this because the tiny smoldering fire inside the connector had done enough damage to make the incoming power feed unstable such that the inverter rejected the feed as being substandard.  It should be noted that most boats do not have a system that monitors incoming power and shore power cord corrosion often results a much more dramatic situation.  It is also important to note that this corrosion results in a persistent brown out and your onboard AC electronics will last much longer if you give them “clean” power.  So be sure to periodically inspect your connectors and repair or replace them as needed.  Your boat and budget will thank you!!!

Happy boating all!!!


Older electronics

On a recent survey I was powering up an older depth sounder in order to test it out and verify its function.  I energized the breaker and then turned on the power key on the face of the sounder.  Upon powering it up I heard a sizzling noise coming from inside the sounder base unit and immediately secured the breaker and set up a fire watch.  Upon closer inspection through vent holes I could see (and smell) where a large bug had climbed inside long ago.  This boat had been sitting for 8 plus years without use and many of the electronics were toast.

I did another survey of a large sailboat built in 1973 with electronics from the early 80’s.  This boat has seen consistent use over the years and had done two circumnavigations over its lifetime, carrying its loving owners all over the world.  This boat had an old Furuno radar system with the green phosphorous CRT screen.  Every piece of electronic hardware worked perfectly.

In both of these instances my client was very concerned about older electronics and insisted that everything had to be scrapped and replaced with thousands of dollars of new equipment.  As a surveyor it isn’t my job to tell people what systems are right for them but I encouraged the buyer in the second case to learn about the systems and try them out before making a decision.  I spent a short amount of time showing him the operation of the green screen radar and how the high contrast black and green makes it really easy to see vessels even if they have a poor radar return.  These older radars are also 100% pure data, completely unfiltered by computers designed to get rid of radar returns it thinks are not real boats and often times I have seen on my radar water getting disturbed by a powerful microburst ahead and even larger logs in the water.  These new units do a great job but there is also a romantic art to mastering an old green screen radar and the one on my boat served me very well in helping me steer through all of the other boats, ice bergs and large logs on my trips to Alaska.

So before you resign yourself to having to pay huge money on new gear I encourage everyone to just start by learning about the older system and then making the decision that works best for you.  If it sizzles when you turn it on then it is probably time to get new stuff.  If it works great then you will either like it or not.  If nothing else it will give you a better idea of the feature you like and don’t like.

Happy boating all!