Five Boat Products With Corny Names That Actually Work

Ever buy a ShamWow only to find out that it didn’t have much “wow” factor? What about the Ginsu knife? And let’s not even get into Dump Dinners. Those wacky products and ideas you see advertised on late-night television are often disappointing.

krazy-clean-150pxWell, the boating world has its share of products with corny names, too, but some of them actually work amazingly well, and I’ve compiled a list of them that I have personal experience with. No need to dial a 1-800 number or pay shipping and handling. And no need to wonder if they work—I promise you they do. You can find all of them at your local marine supply shop. You’re welcome.

1. Krazy Clean

If you want most any surface on your boat to sparkle, pick up a bottle of Krazy Clean. This cleaner, manufactured by Marine Development & Research (MDR), is perhaps the best all-purpose cleaner I’ve used on a boat, having purchased probably a hundred of gallons of  the stuff over the years. It can be used full-strength to spruce up and degrease bilges, brighten teak, or remove tough stains like those made by fish blood, grease, rust, and mildew. For maintenance cleaning and general wash-downs, dilute about one cup of cleaner per two gallons of water. Visit MDR for more information.

creeping-crack-cure-350px2. Creeping Crack Cure

No, this isn’t a product you use when your local plumber “over shares” while working on your garbage disposal. It’s actually a self-leveling, penetrating sealant that dries hard enough to accept paint, yet is flexible enough to expand and contract with the movement of your boat. Surprisingly, it’s water-based in its formulation. I’ve used this product to fix small deck leaks, gelcoat cracks, and a pesky drip from a stanchion base fastener. While it’s more of a temporary fix than a permanent repair, you’ll be surprised how long this wonder goo lasts. Visit Captain Tolley’s for more information.

git-rot-350px3. Git Rot

This thin and runny two-part epoxy does exactly what its name implies: It attacks, encapsulates, and strengthens rotting wood. Now let’s be clear: you can’t pour a quart of this over your disintegrating wooden 1930s-era Beetle Cat and expect it to be good as new. This product works best on fiberglass boats with plywood-cored decks or transoms that have fallen victim to water intrusion in isolated areas. I’ve used it to add a few years to my runabout’s spongy outboard well and to stave off major deck repairs under some poorly installed stanchion bases. Its thin viscosity means you can drill holes and inject it into strategic spots, where it will spread out and then cure rock hard. For more information, visit Boat Life.

blaster-150px4. PB B’laster

If you’ve ever found yourself in the middle of a bilge dive with a pair of Vise-Grips and bloody knuckles because a stubborn fastener won’t let go, say hello to your salvation. While I’ve not been able to get the story behind the name, PB B’laster is perhaps the best penetrating lubricant you’ll ever use. Liquid Wrench? Throw that stuff in the trash. You simply squirt PB B’laster the offending nut, machine bolt, or socket screw, let it do it’s work and voila, the alternator bracket that’s been welded to your engine for 20 years comes free. Works great on anything that’s corroded or has rusted itself together. Visit B’laster Corporation for the scoop.

flitz-150px5. Flitz

If you’ve been around boats for any length of time, you know that most stainless-steel doesn’t really stay stainless and brass isn’t beautiful for long without proper care. But let me tell you, no one likes the idea of sitting around with wadding polish for hours, rubbing off years of tarnish or corrosion. Flitz not only quickly removes that corrosion from all sorts of metals; it leaves behind a protective coating that keeps it gleaming, and with surprisingly little effort. And you’ll be astonished at the amount of junk this miracle product pulls off your metalwork when you look at your polishing rag. Check out Flitz for more information.


Five Great Winter Boat Projects

Admit it—you’re bored. The holidays have long gone and with the Super Bowl over the prospects for any chances at fun are pretty slim until spring comes and boating season is in full effect. If you’re spending more time binge-watching House of Cards on Netflix than thinking about your boat, well, it’s time to snap out of it.

Old, stiff hose and rusty hoseclamps are ideal targets for a winter project.
Old, stiff hose and rusty hoseclamps are ideal targets for a winter project. (All photos: Doug Logan)

Despite what you might think, winter is actually a great time to tackle some projects that can add real value to your boat, not to mention keep you out of trouble during the boating season. Most of these projects focus on systems found inside your boat. All you need is a moderately “warm” day, the correct cold-weather gear, or a safe heat source… or a little of all three. Other projects can be done at home.

So, put down that remote, don your bilge-diving outfit, and consider adding one of these five boat projects to your winter itinerary.

Give Old Hoses and Hose Clamps the Boot

Underappreciated and unloved—that seems to be the life of hoses and hose clamps. That is until one or the other fails and you have a bilge full of holding tank contents. Winter is a great time to make a thorough inspection of all the hoses and accompanying hose clamps on your boat — before trouble happens.

You’ll want to inspect each run of hose carefully and methodically. Any hoses that are cracked, kinked, abraded, or just plain worn out should be removed and replaced. Areas to check include freshwater systems, heads and holding tanks, drains and overboard discharges, raw-water supply lines for generators and engines, fuel supply and return lines, and washdown pumps. You can check the hose clamps at the same time, making sure to replace any that are rusted or suspect in any way.

If you’re unsure of which hose to use for your given application, see Picking the Correct Boat Hose. Confused about hose clamps? Read Hose Clamps for Boats: Below the Waterline for the scoop on which clamps to use.

Inspect your hatch and portlight gaskets. Cold weather can degrade them. Know where to find replacements.
Inspect your hatch and portlight gaskets. Cold weather can degrade them. Know where to find replacements.

Pare Down Your Boat’s Honey-Do List

If you’re anything like me when it comes to home projects, you’ve got a “honey-do” list a mile long that you duck from time-to-time. And while I love working on my boat much more than I do the house, it always seems as if I go into winter each year with a list of pesky items onboard that have gone bad and I’ve put off fixing. Unless you’re hoping to dodge and jury-rig broken gear all season, consider fixing some of these common items in the off-season.

Offer Your Bilge an Upgrade

“That Smell” isn’t just the name of an old Lynyrd Skynyrd song —  it’s often what boat owners think about when they delve into their bilges. But it doesn’t have to be that way—giving your bilge a much needed spring cleaning or refit is a great way to bid those smells adieu.

This engine pan could use a good scrubbing, and most likely the bilge does, too. Oily rags and wash water need to be disposed of properly..
This engine pan could use a good scrubbing, and most likely the bilge does, too. Oily rags and wash water need to be disposed of properly.

Although a thorough scrubbing and rinse will generally do (take care to not discharge any oil- or fuel-laden bilge contents overboard), sometimes a makeover is in order. This involves not only scrubbing, but stripping the bilge of any bilge pumps or pickups, wiring, hoses, etc. before sanding and prepping for the appropriate bilge paint. Keep in mind that you may have to heat the bilge or wait until warmer weather to apply the paint.

Once you’re done, assess whether your old bilge pump is worth saving and reinstalling. If not, read Bilge Pumps: Selecting One With the Right Stuff for tips on buying a new one. Then check out Submersible Bilge Pumps: Installing One Like the Pros to find out how to put it in.

Make Your Wiring Look Wondrous

Ever try to grab something from under the console of your center-console boat and get tangled up in electrical wires? Does the nest of wires wrapped around your bilge pump embarrass you? Is your fishfinder’s transducer lead piled up under your tackle box? Well, there’s no better time than the off-season to remedy what ails your electrical system.

No, this doesn’t mean that you need to rip everything out and start from scratch–unless you have wires that are damaged or broken. Those will need replacing. You can easily neaten up and trace wires from end to end, making sure they are secured at least every 18 inches with the appropriate cable clamps or wire ties. Remember, neatness counts here.

A winter day on the warm side is a good time to neaten up your wiring, check terminals for corrosion, replace them if necessary, and make sure you have good current flowing to your systems.
A winter day on the warm side is a good time to neaten up your wiring, check terminals for corrosion, replace them if necessary, and make sure you have good current flowing to your systems.

Also have a look at your wire terminals and replace any that are corroded. If you find any twist-on electrical connectors like you may have seen in your home, these are a no-no. You can either splice the two ends of the wire together where they meet with a butt connector of the correct size, or, if the wire is in terrible shape or too short, replace it. If wire terminals are voodoo to you, read Boat Wiring: Use Good Terminals and Tools, which describes how to choose and install marine wire terminals.

Promise Your Old Pumps New Life

If you’ve got a raw water washdown that just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore or your pressure freshwater system feels anything but pressurized, chances are the pumps that power these systems are due for a rebuild. Luckily for you, sourcing the repair kits and rebuilding them are relatively easy endeavors.

Removing the offending pump from the boat and taking it into your local marine supply shop is the easiest way to get started with the task. There you can find the appropriate rebuild kit, which generally contains all sorts of valves, seals, impellers, and the like. Once you’ve sourced the kit, you can disassemble and rebuild the pump at home before reinstalling it in your boat.

Other pumps you might consider as candidates for rebuilding include macerator, bilge, and air-conditioning pumps. Don’t remember the last time the impeller in your engine’s raw-water cooling pump was changed? Open the pump, inspect the impeller, and replace it if necessary, but read Water Pump Impeller: Priority One for a primer, before you do.

Winter projects are a great way to stay in tune with your boat in the off-season, and the time you spend will give you peace of mind come spring.


G-10: The Secret Weapon of DIY Boat Repairers

People who enjoy fixing old boats all have their favorite products. Some like working with wood, some on fiberglass boats, others with epoxy etc. Regardless of the type of boat or construction, one product I’ve come to love is G-10. What is G-10, you ask?  It’s also known as Garolite, and is the same stuff used on your computer’s motherboard, that pressure-  and heat-formed sheet to which all the electronics are attached.

An 1/8 inch piece of G-10 can withstand 40,00 PSI, so this use of G-10 as washers for keelboats in a wet bilge is perfect.
An 1/8 inch piece of G-10 can withstand 40,00 PSI, so this use of G-10 as washers for keelboats in a wet bilge is perfect.

What is so great about it? and What is it good for? are easy questions to answer when it comes to boating applications: It is impervious to water; it is super strong yet lightweight; it won’t rot; it can be cut and shaped with wood tools; and it is fabulous for high-stress applications like backing plates for handrails, jib tracks, turning blocks, or stanchions. When used in thin 1/8-inch sheets, it has some flexibility to conform to minor contours, like cabin tops.

It is not very expensive–a 12 x 12 1/8-inch sheet costs less than $14.00. It is flame-resistant, stronger than aluminum plate of the same thickness, and, of course, is a good electrical insulator.

G-10 comes in different shapes, so this half-round on the leading edge of a keel provides perfect shape and lift
G-10 comes in different shapes, so this half-round on the leading edge of a keel provides perfect shape and lift.

In thicker ½-inch sheets, I’ve used it to customize mast partners. In solid tube form I’ve even used it to do a “nose job” on the front edge of a keel—to get the perfect round edge. The fact that it comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors lends itself to your imagination on how and where it can be used. You can order it online from industrial suppliers like McMaster-Carr.

The only drawback I can think of is that G-10, like other epoxy based products, is susceptible to breaking down when exposed to UV sunlight—so if you do use it topside, a simple coat of paint will protect it; otherwise you don’t need to paint it and it is maintenance-free.  G-10 is truly a wonderful material for repairing boats.

(Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in December, 2010.)

Boat Hatch Gaskets

One of the responsibilities of boat ownership is performing maintenance to keep your pride and joy in tip-top shape. After a few years out in the weather, any boat will begin to need the kind of maintenance and repair that’s a level above the simple oil change and waxing. One of those maintenance chores is likely to be the replacement of gaskets in the ports and hatches that let in light and air — or provide access to certain tucked-away areas. They’re also supposed to keep out water, but can also be major sources of leaks when the gaskets that seal them dry up and crack, come loose, or just go bad.

 A Bomar hatch and its various parts. Note the sticker on the back end of the hatch frame that identifies the manufacturer. Photo courtesy of
A Bomar hatch and its various parts. Note the sticker on the back end of the hatch frame that identifies the manufacturer. Photo courtesy of

We’ve covered how to source gaskets for ports in another blog. Luckily, many of the manufacturers who make port lights also make hatches, so the detective work in discovering the right maker and the right part number is similar.

Open a suspect hatch and look either on the frame mounted to your boat, or the lid. Sandwiched in there somewhere you’ll find a rubber or closed-cell foam gasket .

Once you’ve found it, examine the gasket closely for cracks, tears, or missing pieces. If it appears to be in good shape, then you may have a leak from the lens, or from failing sealant/bedding compound around the hatch frame or fasteners. In this case, make a closer inspection. If you found defects in the gasket, the next step is to remove it, and not just so you can replace it, but to aid in identification.

Taking measurements when trying to identify the make and model of your hatch is very important. The most common identifying dimension is the hatch opening size, but you may also want to take other measurements, as well. Photo courtesy of Vetus.
Taking measurements when trying to identify the make and model of your hatch is very important. The most common identifying dimension is the hatch opening size, but you may also want to take other measurements, as well. Photo courtesy of Vetus.

But before you go to too much trouble, contact your boatbuilder if your particular model is relatively new, as they may be able to get a replacement for you.

Of course, once you remove the gasket , your hatch will no longer keep out water. Consider picking up some thick polyethylene plastic and some weather-resistant tape (I like 3M’s “Preservation” tape) at the marine supply shop so you can seal things up once the gasket is out and you search for a replacement.

Some hatch gaskets are glued in, while some fit into an engineered groove or notch in the hatch. Either way, be careful when you remove the offending gasket. Getting it out in one continuous piece earns you bonus points.

Your boating supply shop may very well have generic (or even specific) lengths of hatch gasket material that it sells by the foot. If this is the case, it’s a simple matter of matching up the profile and size of your gasket, and then procuring the amount you need. If your hatch gasket is pre-molded—as many are—ask one of the folks at your marine supply retailer about hatch gasket kits. If they don’t have any, they may be able to order you one.

Many marine supply shops sell all sorts of different gasket material by the foot with different shapes and profiles. Bring an example in, if you can, to make things easier. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Many marine supply shops sell all sorts of different gasket material by the foot with different shapes and profiles. Bring an example in, if you can, to make things easier. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If you are still unable to find the gasket material, the next thing to do is attempt to identify the hatch manufacturer and model. Look around the hatch to see is there are any identifying markings, serial numbers, or anything else than can help you figure out which company made the hatch. Some are boldly labeled and identified, while others are not.

If you get lucky and find the manufacturer, you might be able to sleuth around their website, find your particular hatch model, and then contact them to see if you can order the gasket. You may also want to look in marine retailer catalogs to find a match. Here are some popular hatch manufacturers, with links to their websites.




Bomar (See Pompanette)

Gray Marine (See Pompanette)



If you don’t find it, well, more homework is in order. Most hatches are classified by either the size of the opening they fit into (the cutout size), the opening size of the unit itself, or its outside dimensions. Definitely take some digital photos with your smartphone or camera. In short, measure everything you can and take lots of photos; it will make your search much easier in the long run.

Lots of fishing boats have these plastic deck access hatches, and they have gaskets that fail, too. Photo courtesy of Beckson.
Lots of fishing boats have these plastic deck access hatches, and they have gaskets that fail, too. Photo courtesy of Beckson.

No dice? There are still some options. Try looking online for owners’ associations for your particular make and/or model boat. Those associations or groups typically have a discussion board where you can post pictures and ask questions about your own boat. Also give general boating enthusiast sites a try. And consider perusing one of the big box marine store catalogs—you may just come across your particular hatch and be able to order parts for it.

For more used-boat part sourcing ideas, see the following:

General tips for locating hard-to-find replacement parts for your used boat:

Compare photos

Take digital photos of the item you need to replace and compare them with photos you find in Google Search –> Images. When you find a match, click “Visit page” in the image dialogue box.  That will often get you to the source – or at least a step closer.

Google the part numbers

Look for a part number on the item you need to replace. Even if you don’t know the manufacturer you can enter the information you do have in Google Search, e.g. “SPT 10-437A, 12-volt cabin light” and you’ll often get good results.


These days a tremendous number of manufacturers and distributors of marine parts have storefronts on Amazon, and Amazon has really superior search, reference, and logical abilities.


Boat Trader has plenty of  Buying and Selling advice, but also check out the hundreds of articles in the Boating section, with tips on everything from seamanship to maintenance, how-to, where to find replacement parts, and much more.


Boat Wiring: Use Good Terminals and Tools

Maybe you’ve seen this at your marina or boatyard before: an able-bodied weekend warrior hanging upside down in a bilge or wet locker mumbling obscenities as an electrical project gets underway. It’s a frequent sight, because basic electrical system upgrades and repairs are one of the most common do-it-yourself projects we undertake as boat owners.

This ratcheting crimper places a precise amount of pressure on the crimp fitting while also making two crimps—one on the wire and one on the wire jacket—at the same time. Photo by Gary Reich.
This ratcheting crimper places a precise amount of pressure on the fitting while making two crimps—one on the wire and one on the wire jacket—at the same time. Photo by Gary Reich.

And while most folks start these projects with the best intentions, many of the materials they use are often ill-suited for life in the marine environment. With that in mind, let’s take a look at one area where using the wrong parts is a recipe for disaster: electrical terminal fittings.

Electrical crimp terminals do exactly what the name implies—they provide an attachment point for a wire where it terminates. Good examples include a ring terminal where a wire is screwed to a fuse block, a spade terminal connecting lead wires to a removable depthsounder or fishfinder, or a butt connector joining two pieces of wire. These terminals are crimped down on the wire using a tool engineered for that purpose, and provide a good connection between the wire and its termination point. So why not just use the cheap terminals found at your local auto parts store or Radio Shack? Three words: corrosion, vibration, and moisture.

Let’s start with corrosion. The crimp terminals you generally find at your local auto parts shop are what you might call “mystery meat,” meaning it’s difficult to know what type of metal they’re made of. I’ve seen them made of anything from mild steel to zinc, and neither of those materials is good at much of anything electrical, save for sacrificial zinc anodes. Tin-plated copper terminals are what you’ll want to look for at your marine store. Tin is highly resistant to corrosion, and copper is an excellent conductor of electricity. In tandem, they make for a great marine-grade electrical terminal. Plain copper terminals with no tin plating can be found on many boats, but they’re all susceptible to that funky green corrosion that can cause connectivity issues in the future.

A double-crimp, ring-style marine terminal installed on a section of 10 AWG wire. Note the double crimp points as illustrated. Photo by Gary Reich.
A double-crimp, ring-style marine terminal installed on a section of 10 AWG wire. Note the double crimp points as illustrated. Photo by Gary Reich.

Moisture and corrosion-resistance go hand-in-hand, especially if your boat operates in a saltwater environment. Tin plating will definitely help suppress this corrosion, but if you really want to nip it in the bud, use not only tin-plated marine terminals, but tin-plated marine terminals with integral heat-shrink tubing. This integral tubing often is lined with sticky adhesive that melts and seals out the end of the termination when heat is applied. Alternatively, you can apply your own heat-shrink tubing, cut it to size, and shrink it on the connection yourself. If the electrical work you’re undertaking is in a bilge, underneath a center console, or in any location where there’s a remote possibility of water contact, it’s absolutely essential to use these high-quality marine-grade terminals and heat-shrink protection.

An assortment of ring-style marine crimp terminals. Photo courtesy of Ancor.
An assortment of ring-style marine crimp terminals. Photo courtesy of Ancor.

Vibration is an electrical system nemesis we don’t generally think about, but a nemesis it is. Engine and drivetrain vibrations, shock waves from wind and waves, encounters with docks and pilings, bumps and bangs caused by hatches and locker doors — all of these  bad vibrations (not like the good ones the Beach Boys were singing about) can make a terminal fail at its connection with the wire, causing circuit failure or a fire. To battle these connection failures, a good marine terminal uses not one crimp, but two, and is aptly called a “double crimp” terminal. Look for terminals labeled as such. A double-crimp terminal makes one connection onto the bare wire, and another on the wire jacket, which provides excellent strain relief and resistance to the effects of vibration. Last detail: Make sure you use the proper tool when installing double-crimp terminals. There are many different types of tools out there, but I like ratcheting double-crimp tools. Not only do they release when the proper amount of pressure is applied to the fitting, but they also crimp the terminal fitting to both the wire and the wire jacket in one motion. You also can use a standard strip-and-crimp tool, but make sure you crimp at both the wire and the wire jacket.

You’ll find these double-crimp, marine-grade electrical terminals at any good marine supply shop. To find out what size terminal you need for your job, look for the American Wire Gauge (AWG) specification on the jacket of the electrical wire you’re crimping to. For example, “16 AWG” designates a 16-gauge wire, which will use a 16-14 AWG terminal. A “22 AWG” wire needs a 22-18 AWG terminal, and so on. Make sure you use the right size terminal for each job you’re doing, and crimp using the right slot on your tool. And never use a pair of pliers or Vise-Grips.

So there you have it. Next time you’re rewiring a VHF radio or installing a new navigation light, spend the time to find the right terminals for the job. In the long run, you won’t be sorry you did.

Here’s a video that walks you through the steps of how to install a heat-shrink terminal:

Teleflex Steering: Maintenance

The Teleflex arrangement is simple: Disconnect the nylon lock nut on the right, then the tilt-tube nut on the left. Detach the assembly from the engine, clean it, and replace it, using a fresh nylon lock nut.
The Teleflex arrangement is simple: Disconnect the nylon lock nut on the right, then the tilt-tube nut on the left. Detach the assembly from the engine, clean it, and replace it, using a fresh nylon lock nut.

In my blog from last week, I described how to replace an old worn out Teleflex steering cable for your outboard boat. This week, let’s look at how to maintain a steering cable in like-new condition, so you’re unlikely to have to replace yours for a long time to come. It’s pretty easy with an outboard boat: What can shorten the life of a cable is dirt, salt, and debris. If your boat is in salt water, Teleflex recommends cleaning and greasing the cable twice a year. For freshwater boats a once-a-year inspection, cleaning, and greasing should suffice.

First remove the cable from the engine by removing the nylon lock washer from the drag link, then loosen the nut from the tilt tube to free the cable from the engine. With the cable free of the engine, extend the tube cover to expose the ram inside. Clean the entire tube with a soft cloth, removing any old grease or debris. Check the tube to make sure there are no score marks on the inner tube, and if all is well, liberally grease the inner tube ram with white lithium grease. Then retract the tube and reattach the tilt tube to the engine.

Again, Teleflex recommends using a brand new nylon lock nut when reattaching the drag link, and to make sure the nut that attaches the tilt tube to the engine is snug, so there’s no play in it. For a visual review, watch the video below from Jamestown Distributors video on steering cable maintenance.

With a clean cloth, some lithium grease, a new nylon lock nut, and 15 to 20 minutes of time, your steering cable is serviced for six months to a year depending on the waters that you boat in. Happy boating!

Boat Maintenance: The Satisfaction of Hard Work

It's a fact: fixing up and maintaining boats can be hard, painful work. It's also some of the most satisfying work you can find.

As I begin to type this blog, I look down at the backs of my hands, and they look like they’ve been put through a cotton gin. My hands ache from tugging on wrenches. My fingertips are callused and numb from starting nuts and bolts. The tendons and muscles are throbbing, and there’s a fine layer of dirt and petrochemicals in the crevices of my fingernails. The knuckles are all scabbed and cracked.

I suppose that’s what fitting out a used boat for its first outing will do for you.

Of course I could have started earlier. Work kept me from getting to it after I first bought it in December. Then, of course, came Christmas and New Year’s, which is a busy time of year for everyone. Once the college bowl games were over, I went out to the driveway, looked at everything that needed to be done, lost all motivation, and walked back in the house — and then it hit me. I had promised to take my kids boating the first weekend in March, which was two months away, and there could be no more delays. So I headed back out to the driveway, surveyed what needed to be done, opened my toolbox, and got to work.

It’s a used boat, so I had to change all the fluids. It also needed a bellows boot on the stern drive, which revealed that it needed a gimbal bearing repair. Then I needed to take it to a shop to have the engine and drive aligned properly. I had to find the slop in the steering and throttle cables, clean all the electrical connections, and replace an exhaust manifold gasket.

I still had to make time for my family and have some energy left for them, too. With no daylight-savings time to provide light after dinner, that meant working in the dark. And I really don’t like working in the dark. Then, on the Monday before the weekend I promised to take the kids out, I looked at my wife and said, “I don’t think I’m going to make it. There’s just too much to do.”

By the Friday before the first outing, I was in a sprint. I dropped the kids at school, came home, hooked the boat and trailer to my truck, and took it to the shop where they could align the engine and drive.

I got home just in time to get the kids off to a couple of “away game” play dates. When they were gone, I began to load the truck and trailer for the weekend. I went back to pick up the boat from the shop and arrived home just in time for the kids to come home.

I don’t think I have worked that hard physically in a long time, and I can’t tell you how many times I questioned my own sanity. But a promise is a promise to 8- and 10-year-old children. At the end of that first weekend, as I pulled the boat back onto the trailer, I knew it was all worth it. The kids were all smiles. Nothing leaked, broke, or failed, and that brought a sense of satisfaction that made all that hard work worthwhile.

During the drive home, something else occurred to me. All across the country, there must be thousands of boaters experiencing the same sense of satisfaction. I hope they found hard work as rewarding as I did.

Brett Becker

Anodes for Outboards and Outdrives

Scientists discovered a couple of centuries ago that when you fasten two metals together in seawater, electrons will flow from the more active metal, the anode, to the less active, the cathode, due primarily to the difference in the metals’ electrical potential.

Mercury sells replacement kits, which include all mounting hardware, for about $75. Just specify which drive or outboard you have to get the right parts.

The anodes are the sacrificial zinc, magnesium, or aluminum pieces that attach to your drive or lower gearcase, and the cathode is the drive and its components. As the anode supplies light current, it gradually dissolves into ions in the seawater and produces electrons that flow to the cathode, which becomes negatively polarized and protected against corrosion. Simple, right? Kevin Anderson, who may well have the longest job title at Mercury Marine, explained the process more simply.

“Any time you couple two dissimilar metals in water, one will corrode at the expense of the other, and that type of corrosion is called galvanic corrosion,” said Anderson, manager and technical adviser, metallurgy, chemistry, plastics, and corrosion for Mercury Marine R&D. “In the most basic sense, a sacrificial anode is a piece of metal that sacrifices itself by corroding to save the rest of the boat and motor from corroding. So it actually is sacrificial metal that is electrically coupled to the rest of your boat, and primarily your motor.”

As you might imagine, the lifespan of a sacrificial anode varies with where you use your boat. In general, for boats used primarily in salt water, sacrificial anodes should last around nine months, Anderson said. For freshwater environments, anodes last longer, upward of three years. The general rule is that if 50 percent of the mass of the anode is gone, replace it. And be sure to replace all your anodes at the same time.

Where you use your boat also determines what material works best.  Boaters who run exclusively in fresh water benefit from magnesium anodes. If you use your outboard or outdrive in salt water, aluminum is best. Likewise, if you regularly go from salt to fresh, aluminum is the way to go.

When replacing anodes, Anderson said you can just remove the old and bolt in the new and they should work fine. Factory kits come with new hardware. If your anodes bolt to a bare metal surface, use a 3M Scotch Brite pad—not a wire brush—to clean the surface where the anode rests to boost the anode’s continuity.  If you use a wire brush, you will embed iron particles in the surface, which decrease the effectiveness of the anode slightly, Anderson said.

It’s also a good idea to coat the threads with Mercury Marine’s Anti-Corrosion Grease (Part No. 802867A1). Be sure your bolts are tight, but remember that you are threading stainless steel into delicate aluminum. Hand tight is fine.

Sacrificial anodes aren’t sexy and they won’t make your boat any faster. However, they are essential hardware and they are easy to install, and relatively inexpensive. And if you use the right material for your environment, you can benefit from added protection.

Brett Becker

Cabin Top Handrails: New Life for Your Old Boat

Adding new or replacing old cabin top handrails on your boat is a great upgrade that will give you confidence when moving about your boat.  If your boat does have old worn-out wooden handrails, I’ll tell you the easiest way to remove them and also give you some suggestions on installing new rails that are sturdy, cost effective, maintenance-free, and look great.

Old fire trucks are the best source for metal handrails for your boat. Notice the back of this truck which has longer handles than near the cab, making customizing for your project easy

Most wooden rails are attached by screws from the inside of the cabin, and the screw heads are typically covered by a liner.  Unless the liner is a removable soft liner, removing the liner is not usually an option, so the easiest way to remove old handrails behind a solid liner is to cut them off as close to the cabin top as possible using a Sawsall.  You’ll have to push out or drill out the remaining screw heads, making a hole in the inner liner, but the liner should be easy to patch.  If you decide to replace the rail with the same type you can use these same holes to mount the new rail.

My suggestion for new or replacement rails may surprise you: repurpose them from an old fire truck. The proprietor at my local heavy vehicle salvage yard (where I get rails) is always interested in my boat improvement projects and so sells used fire truck rails to me at very reasonable prices.  The last pair of 2-foot nickel plated bronze rails cost me a 30-pack of beer.  I had to remove them myself, but still it was a bargain.  And they had already been polished to a fair thee well.

Chrome or nickel plated bronze fire truck rails are ideal; they won’t rust or rot, come in myriad sizes, are strong and great looking.  They are bolted on so they should be stronger than screwed on rails. Just remember to use some large washers or even better G-10 backing plates to spread the load.

Good luck with your boat improvement projects, and don’t forget to keep one hand for you and one hand for the boat.

Rotten to the Core: Fiberglass Core Repair, Part Two

In my last post, I explained how to identify where the core of a fiberglass boat needs repair. When repairing core problems it is important to find the extent of the damage.  Moisture meters can help, but I find simply drilling test holes into the suspect area more effective. Drilling will definitely show you if water has gotten in, and if you see rot on the tip of the drill, carefully drilling more holes will show you the extent of the damage. Using a marker, note which test holes contain problems.

Exposed Rotten core with test holes showing the extent of the damage

You’ll need to keep the area dry while you repair it, so getting the boat, or at minimum the area of repair, under cover is helpful. The next part of the repair is to remove as much water as possible, so go ahead, drill some holes on the bottom side of the affected area and let it drain.  You will have to open up one side of the fiberglass sandwich skin to get at the affected area.  Before you cut the skin back to remove the rotted or delaminated core and allow access to lay in the fresh material, connect the test holes with a marker to show the extent of the damaged area and act as a guide for your cut. I usually like to remove the top skin and let gravity help with the repair.  In other words, if you have a delaminated deck, repair it from the top. If the problem is in the hull, repair it from inside the boat using the outside skin to support the repair. There are some exceptions to this, particularly if you have a molded surface such as a hatch opening or non-skid that would be hard to replicate. In that case you may choose to go in from the underside. The best tool for removing one skin area is a roto-zip set to a shallow depth.

Repairing the deck of this boat was done from inside the cabin because of the difficulties replicating non-skid. Notice the ingenious way that the repair is supported by spring loaded shower rods.

Carefully pry off the skin and use a sharp chisel to remove rotten or delaminated core.  You’ll want to keep going until you are into solid core.  If the area is still wet, allow to dry. Acetone can help drive moisture out in a pinch, but remember to wear latex gloves.  Now cut and dry fit the replacement core.

Tape up any drilled holes with masking tape.  This will keep the liquid epoxy from oozing out as you apply it.  You are now ready to epoxy in the new core.

Before you epoxy here are a few tips for staging your materials, and techniques for epoxying that will help make this go smoothly:

Have an adequate supply of latex gloves, disposable quart containers, foam brushes, stirrers and acetone.  Chandleries such as West Marine or online suppliers such as McMaster-Carr carry most of the materials you will need for the repair. Core material comes in various thicknesses. You can also obtain it in rigid sheets or sliced and mounted to backing paper(preferred) for use on contoured areas. Note: epoxy gets hot when it cures so have a clean trash barrel for waste and don’t mix acetone laden rags in with the refuse to avoid a fire.  Epoxy will set up in roughly ten to fifteen minutes depending on air temperature and which hardener you choose, so you’ll have to work fairly quickly.

I find the quart containers the right size for mixing and applying the goo before it starts to “kick”.  I prefer West System Epoxy from Gougeon Brothers because it will bond to almost any prepared surface—fiberglass, wood, foam…  If you buy all the measuring pumps and follow the instructions it is pretty straightforward. When doing this kind of repair with West System, I recommend using their 403 Microfiber Adhesive Filler for a better bond.

The thing about West System Epoxy is you can keep adding resin while it is “green” or not completely hard, but upon hardening it emits a surface sheen called Amine Blushe, which needs to be sanded between coats to form a mechanical bond.  In a perfect scenario you want to avoid sanding if possible and take advantage of the “green” chemical bond– even if this means making up several small consecutive batches of epoxy resin.  Simply throw out the old container and applicator, change gloves and keep going.

The repaired area awaits painting and the remounting of hardware.

Using a disposable foam brush, generously “wet out” the inner skin with epoxy mixture, do the same to one side of the core material, and lay the two wetted surfaces together.  Use peel ply or wax paper to cover the area and then put something heavy on top of the wax paper to hold it in place until the epoxy is completely set.  For larger repairs you may want to do a section at a time. With the core in place, take a piece of cardboard, cover it with wax paper and fiberglass roving, wet out the top of the core and the roving,  and secure in place until set.

When remounting any hardware, overdrill the holes, tape and re-fill with epoxy. In this way, when you drill the right size hole through solid epoxy, you will have sealed the core against further water intrusion and a repeat of the problem.

For a couple of hundred dollars in materials and plenty of patience, you can make an old boat new again.

Editor’s Note: This is part two of a series on fiberglass repair.  Read Repairing Fiberglass Boats, Part I