Boat Maintenance

The Ultimate Guide to Marine Battery Systems: Care and Maintenance Tips for Boaters

Marine battery systems are essential for boaters, powering everything from lights to navigation equipment. But without proper care and maintenance, these batteries can quickly deteriorate, leaving you stranded on the water. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to keep your marine battery system in top condition.

Caring for Your Marine Battery System

To keep your marine battery system working at its best, you need to take care of the batteries and the electrical system. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Regularly inspect and clean your batteries: Check for any signs of corrosion, cracks or leaks. Clean any corrosion with a solution of baking soda and water, and wipe down the battery with a damp cloth. Make sure the battery terminals are tight and free of any debris.
  2. Keep your batteries charged: When not in use, batteries will slowly discharge, so it’s important to keep them charged. Use a battery charger designed for marine batteries, and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Maintain electrolyte levels: For flooded lead-acid batteries, check the electrolyte levels regularly and add distilled water as needed to keep the plates covered. Avoid overfilling the battery as it may cause acid spillage.
  4. Check the electrical system: Inspect wiring, connectors, and fuses for any signs of damage or corrosion. Repair or replace any damaged components as needed.

Winterizing Your Marine Battery System

During the winter months, it’s important to properly winterize your marine battery system to avoid damage caused by freezing temperatures. Here are some tips to help you winterize your system:

  1. Charge your batteries: Make sure your batteries are fully charged before storing them for the winter. This will help prevent them from freezing and ensure they’re ready to use when you need them.
  2. Disconnect the batteries: Remove the batteries from the boat and store them in a cool, dry place. Make sure they’re not touching each other or anything else that may cause a short circuit.
  3. Use a battery maintainer: If you can’t remove your batteries, use a battery maintainer to keep them charged and prevent them from freezing.

Battery Testing Procedures

Regularly testing your marine battery system is crucial to ensure it’s in good condition. Here are the steps to follow when testing your batteries:

  1. Check the voltage: Use a voltmeter to check the voltage of each battery in the system. A fully charged battery should have a voltage of around 12.6 volts.
  2. Load test the battery: Connect a load tester to the battery and check the voltage under load. If the voltage drops significantly, it may be time to replace the battery.

Types of Battery Chemistry Available to Boaters

There are several types of battery chemistry available to boaters, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are the most common types:

  1. Flooded lead-acid batteries: These are the most common type of battery used in boats. They’re affordable and reliable, but require regular maintenance to maintain electrolyte levels.
  2. AGM batteries: Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries are maintenance-free and can handle deep discharge cycles. They’re more expensive than flooded lead-acid batteries, but can last longer.
  3. Lithium-ion batteries: These are the most advanced and expensive type of battery available. They’re lightweight, have a long lifespan, and can handle a high number of discharge cycles.


Taking care of your marine battery system is essential for safe and enjoyable boating. Regularly inspect and clean your batteries, keep them charged, and maintain electrolyte levels. When winterizing, make sure to charge your batteries, disconnect them, or use a battery maintainer or charger to insure the batteries are fully charged and cannot freeze.

Types of Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs)

As a boater, you must ensure the safe and environmentally friendly treatment and discharge of wastewater on your vessel. Marine Sanitation Devices (MSDs) serve this purpose, making them a crucial consideration for any recreational boater.

Discover the various types of MSDs available, each boasting unique features and benefits:

  1. Marine Toilets: Similar to household toilets, these toilets use a pump or macerator system to transfer waste into a holding tank or discharge it directly overboard.
  2. Holding Tanks: Made of high-density polyethylene, these tanks securely store waste from marine toilets until proper disposal.
  3. Type I MSDs: Installed on larger boats, these devices treat waste with a specialized system to meet strict discharge regulations.
  4. Type II MSDs: Ideal for smaller boats, these devices use a treatment system to remove contaminants from waste before discharge and require less maintenance.
  5. Chemical Toilets: Popular among boaters for their convenience, these toilets break down waste with a chemical treatment process.

When selecting an MSD, consider the size of your boat, the type of waste produced, and local regulations. Furthermore, factor in the ease of installation and maintenance, as well as cost.

By choosing a high-quality MSD, you play an active role in preserving the health and safety of the water and surrounding environment. Don’t compromise on this crucial component of a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

Safe recreational boat fueling

Safe Recreational Boat Fueling: Understanding the Oil Pollution Act and Clean Water Act

Recreational boating is a popular pastime for many people, but fueling your boat can be a risky business. It’s essential to understand the regulations in place to protect our waterways and the environment. In this article, we’ll go over the Oil Pollution Act and Clean Water Act and provide best practices for safely fueling your recreational boat.

The Oil Pollution Act (OPA) of 1990 is a federal law that governs the discharge of oil and other pollutants into navigable waters and adjoining shorelines. This act requires vessels to have spill response plans in place and imposes strict penalties for any discharge of oil. The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972 is a federal law that regulates water pollution and protects the nation’s surface waters, including lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands.

When it comes to fueling your recreational boat, there are several steps you can take to minimize the risk of oil spills and other environmental hazards. Here are some best practices for safe recreational boat fueling:

  1. Choose a designated fueling area: It’s essential to refuel your boat in a designated fueling area to minimize the risk of spills and minimize the impact on the environment. Look for areas with concrete or asphalt surfaces that are free of vegetation and debris.
  2. Use a fuel nozzle with a shut-off valve: Fuel nozzles with a shut-off valve are designed to stop the flow of fuel if the nozzle is accidentally dropped, reducing the risk of spills.
  3. Avoid overfilling the tank: Overfilling the tank can cause fuel to overflow and spill into the water, potentially contaminating the environment.
  4. Use absorbent pads: Absorbent pads are an excellent tool for cleaning up any spills that occur during fueling. Have a few on hand in case of a spill.
  5. Store fuel in an approved container: Fuel should be stored in an approved container that is designed for the safe storage and transportation of fuel.

By following these best practices, you can help protect the environment and ensure that your recreational boating experience is safe and enjoyable. It’s essential to understand the regulations in place and take steps to minimize the risk of oil spills and other environmental hazards. The Oil Pollution Act and Clean Water Act exist to protect our waterways and the environment, and by following best practices for safe recreational boat fueling, we can all play a role in preserving the beauty of our waterways for future generations to enjoy.

The penalties for violating the Clean Water Act can be severe, including fines and imprisonment. Companies or individuals who violate the act can face fines of up to $50,000 per day of violation, while criminal penalties can reach up to $250,000 per day of violation and up to three years in prison. Repeat offenders can face even higher fines and longer prison sentences.

In addition to these penalties, the CWA gives citizens the right to take legal action against polluters who violate the act. This “citizen suit” provision empowers individuals to take a leading role in protecting the environment and preserving the nation’s water resources.

The Clean Water Act is a critical tool in the fight against water pollution, and it remains a vital part of our nation’s efforts to protect the environment and preserve our waterways for future generations. By enforcing the penalties for violating the act, the EPA and other agencies work to ensure that individuals and companies take responsibility for their actions and do their part to protect the environment.

Fuel Spill Insurance

With hefty fines for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act it is important to make sure your boat insurance covers fuel and oil spills.

Fuel spill insurance for boaters is a type of insurance coverage that provides protection against the financial losses that may result from a fuel spill. This coverage is designed specifically for boaters and protects against the cost of cleaning up a fuel spill, as well as compensating others for any damages that may result.

Fuel spill insurance can be purchased as a standalone policy or as part of a larger boat insurance policy. It is important for boaters to understand that standard boat insurance policies may not cover fuel spills, so it is essential to have this coverage in place.

The cost of fuel spill insurance can vary based on a number of factors, including the size of the boat, the type of fuel being used, and the location where the boat is being used. Some insurance companies may also consider the boater’s experience and the safety equipment on board when determining the cost of the coverage.

Having fuel spill insurance is a critical step in protecting yourself and your boat against the financial losses that may result from a fuel spill. This coverage helps to ensure that you are protected against the cost of cleaning up a spill and compensating others for any damages that may result.

In addition to having fuel spill insurance, boaters should also take steps to minimize the risk of a fuel spill by following safe fueling practices and being aware of the risks associated with fuel spills. This includes properly storing fuel and ensuring that all fuel lines and tanks are in good condition. By taking these steps, you can help to prevent fuel spills and protect yourself and others from the financial losses that may result from a spill.

Problems With Ethanol Fuel In Boats

Ethanol fuel has been widely used in boats for many years, but it is not without its problems. As a boater, it’s important to understand the potential issues with ethanol fuel and take steps to protect your engine and fuel system. In this article, we will explore the problems with ethanol fuel in boats and provide tips on how to minimize these issues.

One of the main problems with ethanol fuel is its corrosiveness. Ethanol, being an alcohol, can cause damage to the fuel system, including the fuel tank, hoses, and filters. This can lead to leaks, clogs, and even engine failure over time.

Another issue with ethanol fuel is its hygroscopic nature. Ethanol absorbs water, which can lead to the formation of water droplets in the fuel tank. This can cause the engine to run poorly or stall, and can also lead to the growth of microorganisms in the fuel tank, causing further damage.

Ethanol fuel also has a lower energy content than gasoline, which means it does not provide the same amount of power. This can lead to a reduction in engine performance and can cause the engine to run hotter. This can be particularly problematic for boats used for high-performance activities such as water skiing or wakeboarding.

Ethanol fuel is also more likely to cause vapor lock, a condition where fuel vaporizes in the fuel system and causes the engine to stall. This can be caused by high temperatures or a faulty fuel system.

To minimize the problems with ethanol fuel, boaters can take steps to protect their engine and fuel system. They can use fuel stabilizers to prevent corrosion and use a fuel filter specifically designed for ethanol fuel. Regularly checking the fuel system for leaks and clogs, and keeping the fuel tank as full as possible to reduce the amount of air in the tank can also help.

Another solution is to switch to a non-ethanol gasoline. It’s important to check with the manufacturer of your boat and engine to make sure that they are compatible with the type of fuel you plan to use.

By understanding the potential problems with ethanol fuel and taking the appropriate steps to protect your engine and fuel system, you can continue to enjoy boating without interruption.

Dripless Shaft Seals

Dripless shaft seals are an essential component of a boat’s propulsion system, helping to prevent water from entering the boat’s hull and causing damage. These seals consist of a stationary part, which is mounted to the boat’s hull, and a rotating part, which is attached to the shaft. When the shaft turns, the rotating part of the seal spins against the stationary part, creating a barrier that keeps water out of the boat.

One of the key components of a dripless shaft seal is the lip seal, which is made of a flexible material such as rubber or silicone. As the shaft turns, the lip seal compresses against the stationary part, forming a tight seal. Additionally, some dripless shaft seals also incorporate a water-lubricated bearing, which helps to reduce friction and wear on the seal. This bearing is typically made of a durable material such as ceramic or Teflon.

Dripless shaft seals differ from traditional, or “packing” shaft seals, in that they don’t require the use of packing material to create a seal. Packing material is often made of a braided rope or cord, which is compressed around the shaft to form a seal. The problem with packing material is that it can become worn over time, causing leaks and requiring frequent maintenance. Dripless shaft seals, on the other hand, are designed to be more durable and require less maintenance, making them a more reliable option for boat owners.

Another advantage of dripless shaft seals is that they don’t rely on the boat’s engine to create a seal. In traditional packing seals, the engine must be running in order to compress the packing material and create a seal. This can be problematic in the event of an engine failure, as water can flood the boat’s hull. Dripless shaft seals, on the other hand, create a seal independent of the engine, providing an added layer of protection in case of an emergency.

Overall, dripless shaft seals are a reliable and efficient way to keep water out of the boat’s hull, helping to prolong the life of the propulsion system and protect the boat from damage. They require less maintenance, are more durable and provide an added layer of protection in case of an emergency. They are considered to be a better option than traditional packing seals for boat owners.

Storing Batteries On Concrete Myth

We’ve all heard the storing batteries on concrete myth before. Some of us refuse to store a car or boat battery on concrete because our mechanic or trusted friend said it will drain the battery. Turns out this myth had some truth in it but is no longer relevant with today’s battery construction.

Early Batteries

Early Batteries were constructed from wooden crates holding glass encased cells. When the wood was subject to moisture or temperature changes it would warp and break the glass cells causing the acid to leak out and the battery to fail. You would have definitely wanted to keep one of these batteries off of the floor and in a cool dry place.

Next Generation Batteries

The next generation of batteries were Nickle-Iron batteries that were encased in steel and covered with a rubber coating. These batteries were susceptible to discharge when placed on the ground due to the rubber coating breaking down, absorbing moisture from the ground and allowing current to flow through the pores of the rubber membrane. These batteries were not meant to be stored on the concrete or on the ground.

Current Day Batteries 

Batteries made today are contained in a hard plastic case that is impervious to moisture and actually will benefit from the relatively stable temperature of a concrete floor.  New batteries can be damaged by extreme temperature changes and should be kept in a relatively cool environment when storing them.

What Damages Modern Batteries

  • Dirt and dust can become carbonized, creating electrical conduction which drains the battery. Combat this by using a clean rag to clean wipe off the tops of the battery.
  • Self-discharge occurs over time with lead-acid batteries. Reactions within the plates happen as the battery ages creating a leak. The warmer the air surrounding the battery the faster the rate of discharge. Keeping the air around stored batteries cool will help slow the rate of self-discharge.
  • While cold temperatures are rarely the cause of battery malfunctions, a battery that is at a low state of charged and exposed to freezing temperatures can freeze causing the case to crack. Keeping your battery fully charged during the winter months is an easy way to prevent this from happening.
  • Knowing the shelf life of your battery can help a lot as well. A car battery stored in a cool and dry place can last a few years if you keep it topped off with a trickle charger.

Today’s batteries are well insulated and no longer take on water that can cause discharging or leaking. That being said, there are clearly right ways and wrong ways when it comes to battery storage. Keeping your batteries clean, dry and understanding their shelf life can make a big difference in preserving their longevity and the quality of their performance. So go ahead and leave that battery on the cool dry floor of your garage. Kinda great, right?


Cleaning Your Boat

One of the simplest and most effective things you can do to maintain your boat is to keep it clean. When proper steps and effort is put forth cleaning your boat you not only gain a sense of pride but you are taking an important step in safeguarding your boats fit and finish.

Choose the right equipment for your type of boat. Sturdy brushes with telescoping handles help alleviate stress on our back and muscles and allow you to reach out of the way places. Consider the materials your boat is constructed of when buying cleaning tools. Generally a medium soft bristle brush is desired and won’t harm most surfaces. Some tougher non-skid decks may benefit from a stiff bristle brush. A sponge, clean rags, mop and detail brushes will also help you keep your boat clean. Applicator pads for vinyl cleaners and polishes are also suggested. Choose items that will stand up to the rigors of marine usage and the elements like salt water and the sun. Choose items that can be broken down and stored easily in the confines of your boat. Store your cleaning supplies in the same place and in good condition after every use and you will be able to find them and use them with little issue the next time you have to clean your boat.

Use only environmentally friendly products to clean your boat. It may seem like a proverbial drop in the bucket but imagine the environmental impact of every boat in your area using unsafe products to clean with. Try to avoid using concentrated products at full strength. This will potentially damage or strip finishes from your boat.  Don’t use dishwashing soap to wash your boat as this will strip the wax or polish from surfaces. Don’t use bleach as it will corrode certain metals and is harmful to marine life. If you have stubborn stains try to use hydrogen peroxide or a cleaner like oxyclean diluted in water. Borax is also an alternative to bleach that works well on decks.  Make sure you are using the proper cleaning agent for the proper surface. On isinglass or strataglass only use cleaners recommended by the manufacturer. On vinyl only use cleaners and protectors made for vinyl. Steer away from using a magic eraser as these are technically little blocks of sand paper and will remove finishes.

When washing your boat wash in sections so that soap doesn’t dry on the surfaces. Pay attention to the condition of your boat and note any damage or areas of concern where items might need re-bedded or repaired. A good wash is followed by a good rinse. Make sure to rinse all of the soap and dirt from scrubbing off the boat to avoid streaks. In areas with hard water hand drying with a towel is necessary to avoid water marks. To remove hard water marks try using vinegar and if they are on glass try using Bar Keepers Friend to polish them out.

When cleaning vinyl clean off heavy dirt and debris with mild soap and water then use a vinyl cleaner to remove stubborn stains.  A mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part ammonia can be used to remove mildew or mold stains. There are also commercial cleaners that will safely remove mildew stains. Follow up with a good marine quality vinyl protectant.

Clean your canvas with a soft bristle brush and a marine canvas cleaner making sure when rinsing all the dirty water rinses clean off of the boat. Then apply a marine canvas protectant to protect your canvas from UV light and the elements.

Depending if your boat is painted or has the factory gelcoat you will need to wax your boat. In most areas of the country waxing twice a year is recommended with spot waxing when needed. In places with harsher UV light levels more frequent waxing might be needed. I wax twice a year, in the spring I apply several coats of a high quality marine liquid wax and one coat of a high quality paste wax. In the fall I apply one coat of cleaner wax and two coats of liquid wax. This protects the finish all year and makes the boat stand out. Painted surfaces may need a polish applied yearly or nothing at all depending on the brand of paint used and the amount of shine the paint has.

Washing and caring for your boat’s exterior shouldn’t take away from the fun and enjoyment of boating but a small amount of time spent caring for your boat will pay off in the long run. A clean shiny boat is worth more to a buyer and is more appealing to your guests.


Keeping Your Boats Head and Sanitation System Odor Free

We all know those smells and how they affect our time on the boat. No one wants to spend quality time working on your boats head (toilet for you land lubbers!) We’d all much rather be on the water enjoying the day.

Head odors can be caused by a number of things. The biggest culprits are; Using raw water for flushing, old permeated hoses, lack of airflow in the holding tank, mixing of waste products, lack of beneficial bacteria in the holding tank, not pumping out the holding tank often enough and mechanical issues with the head.

Compact Electric Head

Unfortunately many of use have an electric flush head that draws raw seawater from a through hull located somewhere on the boat and uses that water to flush the head. This introduces all kinds of bacteria and elements to the sanitation system that can and will cause odors. If you have this setup, there are a few tricks you in order to help keep the smell down.Flush using freshwater once a day. I use the shower head to fill the head and flush it every time I shower on the boat.  Flush or use the head daily, this helps keep the water from becoming stagnant in both the pickup hose and the hoses that lead to your holding tank.  The longer the raw water sits without being oxygenated the more anaerobic bacteria grows and creates odors.  This odor is typically a sulfur like smell. You can disconnect the raw water intake and with proper check valves and anti siphon devices hook the head intake to your freshwater tank. Another option is to replace the electric flush head with a vacuum flush system that uses freshwater only to flush the head. A concern with this set up is contaminating your freshwater system with wastewater from the toilet, either through failure of a check valve or from a siphon created when the water tank is lower than the head. There are industry standards regarding hooking up a fresh water tank to a sanitation system. Another concern with tying into the freshwater system is over using your fresh water for flushing the toilet. In some areas and for some long range cruisers water is an important and expensive commodity. Adding freshwater flush capability will improve many foul odor issues drastically.

High Quality Sanitation Hose

Sanitation hoses are another common area odors originate from. Make sure you have marine grade impermeable sanitation hose installed on your boat. Even impermeable hose will allow odors to leach out after a few years of use. I’ve read recommendations that say to replace your sanitation hose with high quality hose every 4-5 years. Waste sitting in low spots along the hose can and will permeate through the hose. One account I read from a boat owner claimed just replacing the hose eliminated almost all the waste odors from her boat. To test if your sanitation hose is causing odors on your boat wet a clean rag with very hot water and wrap it around a low section of hose and leave it on the hose until it cools. Remove the rag and sniff it. If you smell any bad odors on the rag it’s time to replace the hoses.

The boating community is never short of debate and differing ideas on what works no matter the topic. The next item on our list is a hotbed of debate amongst many boaters. A holding tank with poor airflow will be a hotbed of odors from anaerobic bacteria that thrive in low oxygen environments. To tackle this you want to make sure your vent lines to the holding tank are adequate and unclogged. Vent lines can become clogged from the waste itself when the tank is overfilled or from spiders or other things crawling into the vent and setting up a home. A good charcoal filter on the vent line also helps with odors outside of your boat. Now, the debatable item. A newer trend is to install an aerator pump to the holding tank and aerating the waste 24/7. From what I’ve researched and read most people claim aerating the waste tank eliminates most of the odors emanating from it.  The detractors claim it is unnecessary and a waste of battery power. Either way large 1 inch vent hoses or an intank aerator both will help encourage aerobic bacteria to form and digest the waste in the tank. Aerobic bacteria are good for the health of the sanitation system. Using bleach or other products that kill germs may reduce the level or kill off all the good bacteria in the system.

Anyone that has a composting head will tell you they are great until you mix the urine and feces. Poop by itself in the composting head doesn’t smell all that bad but if you mix urine into the equation you end up with horrible smells. Anyone that has used a camp toilet or composting toilet in years past can relate to the horrible smells. New composting toilet designs keep the pee from the poop. They use a urine diverter to store the urine in a separate detachable container from the main waste receptacle. Installing a composting head in most cases and when used properly will eliminate most head odor issues. I am considering replacing my head with a composting head for these reasons.

Composting Head

Waste shouldn’t be in your holing tank long enough to set up shop and start stinking. Pump the holding tank out frequently and before leaving the boat sit unattended for any length of time. The simple act of having the tank pumped and flushed will drastically reduce odors plus who wants all that stuff sitting around anyhow. After pumping the tank out flush the tank with water a few times and pump it empty. Adding a few capfuls of liquid fabric softener to the tank while washing it out will help make it so waste doesn’t stick to the sides and bottom of the tank.

Marine Holding Tank

A poorly maintained head and tank can also contribute to odors. Duckbill or joker valves need replacing and can be damaged by using household chemicals to clean the head. Seals and tank fitting can leak into the bilge and cause boat wide odors. Check and maintain your head and tank, inspecting the system often. Never use bleach or other caustic chemicals to clean the head or tank as they can breakdown seals and parts. If needed vinegar is a decent alternative to bleach.

Controlling Mold and Mildew On and In Your Boat

I have an older 35 foot Chris Craft Catalina that has a few little leaks and because of the way the bilge is designed I always have a little bit of water in the bilge. I recently started having a problem with mold in the cabin and on the soft top canvas enclosure at the helm. I tried a few different products to remove and prevent the mold from coming back with varying results. I had unbelievable success with Concrobium Mold Control. This isn’t a paid review, I am just so happy with it I thought I’d share my experience.

Mold Control Aerosol


Mold control comes in an aerosol can, spray bottle, gallon jug, and a fogger. I used the aerosol can version on my boat. They also sell a Mold Stain Eraser. I didn’t have to use this product as the Mold Control I used took the stains out without needing anything else.

I started cleaning the canvas and vinyl at the helm first. Spray the Mold Control onto the entire affected area and wipe with a clean terry cloth rag. That’s it! For me I only had to spray the area, wait a few minutes then wipe the damp area off with a rag dampened with the mold control. My canvass and vinyl looked brand new! For this post I wish I had before and after photos but I didn’t think to take them at the time. The way I did it differs slightly from the directions on the Concrobium website but it worked great for me. Mold Control also helps prevent mold growth and odors. If the area treated is regularly exposed to water, retreatment with a light coat may be necessary every so often. My canvas hasn’t needed retreatment this year and I did the original application in may of this year.

I have used Mold Control on just about every surface of our boat since I have a serious mold allergy and am very sensitive to mold and musty odors. I treated the walls, carpet, A.C coils in the air conditioner’s, Drain lines for the A.C units, finished wood on the boat, the head and shower, and the headliners in the cabins. It didn’t discolor any of those items or surfaces and so far only the A.C coils needed a re-application of the product. As always test in a hidden area first before going hog wild and spraying everything down. I’m interested in buying the fogger for next year and treating the entire boat at once. I did read one online review that said while the fogger works great you have to wipe down all the surfaces right after using it and that you have to be careful with fabric surfaces as it may leave residue.

They also have Moisture Grabbers that are suitable and recommended for boats. These combined with good airflow and fans will help keep your boat’s cabin and closed areas mold free. I keep a small fan running 24/7 on my boat to improve airflow on days we are away from the boat. You might also be interested in solar powered deck fans that you can rig to keep air moving in your bilge.

Moisture Grabbers XL

The boat smells and looks much better and is a healthier place to be now!