Category Archives: Maintenance



Tightened Up

Replacing the trickling, dribbling, leaking and seeping stuffing boxes, dripless shaft seals still need attending to.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Ever since the first prop was connected to the first shaft being turned by the first internal combustion engine, there has always been the dilemma of how to keep water from entering a boat through that all-important hole in the hull while also protecting the rapidly spinning shaft from the ravages of friction.

If your boating years go back as long as mine, you are familiar with the steady dripping of the practical, always carefully attended to stuffing box. This most important piece of gear housed a series of packing rings—numbering three to five and often made of braided flax rope—coated with a waterproof material, and allowed the shaft to pass through the hull and keep turning while under power. It also prevented the water from getting in and flooding the bilges. Once properly tightened down by a collar, the rings were compressed enough to allow a few drops of water every minute or so to ‘leak’ in, permitting the shaft and the packing to be cooled enough to prevent scoring the metal surface or ‘burning’ the packing.

With regular routine maintenance, the Tides SureSeal should do its part to keep the shaft well lubricated and running properly.

With regular routine maintenance, the Tides SureSeal should do its part to keep the shaft well lubricated and running properly.

But as with all things in the marine industry, a change was due. Enter the dripless shaft system. Utilizing highly machine-polished, mechanical mating surfaces held together by pressurized tension on a rubber bellows surrounding them, and a hose connection between the intake side of the engine’s raw water pump and the device, they have become the familiar norm in most applications.

One of the big downstream concerns associated with the old stuffing boxes was one created when there was a more than acceptable raw water flow. Sprayed outward by the spinning shaft, the ensuing salty mist would, of course, hasten corrosion to any metal it landed on. With a fully encased design, shaft seals alleviate this problem.

“We were most likely the first to use a rubber lip seal lubricated by raw water from the engine, replacing the traditional packing,” said engineering and quality control manager Skip Lookabaugh for Tides Marine.

Overheating the housing can be trouble. In most cases, this is caused when air is allowed to accumulate inside due to most inboard engine drive shafts being installed on an angle thus creating bubbles that can travel up the shaft. Dripless systems use the pressurized lubrication water to force any air out.

Dirt and grit can get sucked up if you run aground or operate in shallow, sandy bottom areas. And watch out for fishing line as well. “And as with all devices with moving parts, if you notice a slight leak which steadily increases over time, you might want to check inside,” said Lookabaugh. Prevention includes examining the lubrication system, hoses, clamps, and pump, on a semi-annual basis. Lookabaugh also recommends changing the lip seals on Tides’ equipment every five or six years.

According to Duramax, the design features of this system eliminate problems that other systems experience, and with no lip seals or packing to change there is no maintenance. It is easy to install, with no need for constant adjustments once properly installed. Removal and replacement of the system is simple.

According to Duramax, the design features of this system eliminate problems that other systems experience, and with no lip seals or packing to change there is no maintenance. It is easy to install, with no need for constant adjustments once properly installed. Removal and replacement of the system is simple.

Mike Schoenauer, VP Sales & Marketing, and Lou Foster, VP Sales for Duramax also offered some maintenance insight and highly recommend regular visual inspections especially if you have had any work done in the shaft area where someone could have stepped on the seal. With boats that have been sitting idle, there could be scale, sea growth, or some other debris present, they offered. “Also, and while it should never happen, a noticeable bulge in the outer yellow bellows indicates something is causing the inner one to leak and should be taken care of,” said Foster.

“While we do have tolerances built in to allow for some misalignment and vibration, the main problem most boaters would face occurs when something hits the running gear and really throws things out of whack,” said Justin Romesburg, Director of International Sales for PSS. Therefore, it is highly recommended that should there be any alignment or vibration question, make sure you have your shaft seal checked as well.

The PSS Shaft Seal System.

The PSS Shaft Seal System.

The shaft seal systems on the market today are rather robust and will have a fairly extended longevity with regular and diligent preventive maintenance. Should you have any questions about your particular dripless shaft seal, it’s best to get in touch with the manufacturer and have it serviced. Keeping your boat on top of the water depends on it.

For more information on these shaft seal products, please visit each of the company’s Websites at;;

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Maintenance


Tags: , , , ,



Antifouling 101, A Comprehensive Guide from Interlux®

Everything you wanted to know, and most likely more, about bottom paint.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Some of my most cherished memories of boat ownership took place many years ago when I owned a 42-foot, Maine-built lobster boat made of wood. She was an East Blue Hill, Webber’s Cove boat with the kind of lines that, well made you see what a boat was supposed to look like. She was seaworthy, dependable, and possessed quite the salty, nautical soul. My boat saw me through college life by six packing her during my undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate studies.

For me, keeping my boat looking good was as important as making sure my single flat head, 90-hp, 6 cylinder Ford Lehman diesel was always running clean oil. To that end, my spring weekends, prior to getting her ready for the charter season, were spent with sander, caulking, and of course, paint brush. And, accepting my hubris on this particular subject, I became quite proficient with preparing the hull and applying bottom paint.

A lot has changed since those halcyon days in the yard and to help you understand the often-complex decisions that go into this most important maintenance item, my friends at Interlux have prepared quite the comprehensive guide to antifouling paint.

Called Antifouling 101, it’s a free PDF download in the company’s Ask The Experts Series. Even if you’re not a DIYer, the information you’ll get will make it worth the read. You can download the guide at as well as visiting the company Website at

If you have any other boat maintenance items you would like us to cover, please let us know by tabbing the COMMENT button on the bottom right side of this page. We’ll do everything we can to get you the right information.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Maintenance


Tags: , , , , , ,



Exhaustive Knowledge

An awareness of what is going on with your exhaust system can keep your engine running at peak performance and avoid costly repairs.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Years back, a friend of mine, short a mate for a late afternoon, early evening six-pack charter, asked me to work the deck for him. Fishing was good and on the way back to the barn, with just a few minutes to his dock, I noticed we were riding a bit low in the water and that the bilge pumps were now discharging fairly regularly. I told him about it and decided we would check things out as soon as we shut down and our fishermen were on their way.

Make your exhaust system part of your regular preventive maintenance regimen.

Make your exhaust system part of your regular preventive maintenance regimen. Photo Credit: DeAngelo Exhaust

We discovered there was quite a bit of water below as well as having collected forward. I asked him to hit the starter button and as the engine turned over, I was shocked to see raw water pouring out from underneath the hose connecting to the riser. Instead of being discharged out the exhaust pipe, it was bucketing into the boat. When we took things apart, we discovered the riser itself was totally corroded from the inside with very little material left being held by the hose clamps. We had dodged a very big bullet and one that neither of us would ever forget.

This kind of extreme corrosion in an exhaust manifold can mean big problems. Photo Credit:  BoatUS.

This kind of extreme corrosion in an exhaust riser can mean big problems. Photo Credit: BoatUS.

Just like any other critical part of your boat’s engine, the exhaust system needs proper attention to ensure safe and smooth operation. Besides the chance of being exposed to noxious fumes, not doing so can lead to severe engine problems and yes, even sinking.

We usually take the exhaust system for granted and expect there is little if anything that can go wrong. First mistake. This is a very important maintenance component and while you should call in the experts if you suspect there is a problem brewing, there are some things you can look for to help you head off the sticker shock of a major engine overhaul.

Water comes in; water goes out. A simple operation that carries a lot of importance in the safe and proper operation of your boat.

Water comes in; water goes out. A simple operation that carries a lot of importance in the safe and proper operation of your boat.

By now, we all know that when an up stroking cylinder compresses atomized diesel fuel—or when a spark goes off in a gasoline engine—there is detonation. Once that occurs, the resultant gases given off need somewhere to go. And it is during the exhaust phase of your engine’s operation that this is accomplished. Not being able to efficiently do so will result in back pressure problems, the first of many that can occur.

“Most people don’t worry about it until something goes wrong; and when it does, it can be pretty bad,” says Jorge Lang, Operations Manager at Ft. Lauderdale’s DeAngelo Exhaust Systems. “Think of it as a human being; it has to inhale, through the air intakes, and exhale through the exhaust.”

Basically, back pressure is the inability for your engine to breathe properly and as easily as it should and results in poor performance, a cut in fuel economy, and decreased speed. In addition, there can be consequential damage to internal engine parts such as valves, stems, injectors, and critical gaskets. “If the exhaust is running straight out, you have no back pressure. But if it has to go through a ninety degree turn or through a muffler, or you’re going to throw water into that gas flow, you’re adding resistance.”

No matter how big your boat is, always know the proper water flow of  your exhaust system and if any restriction is suspected, shut down and have it checked out immediately.

No matter how big your boat is, always know the proper water flow of your exhaust system. If any restriction is suspected, shut down and have it checked out immediately.

Given the fact that diesel engine manufactures do not supply exhaust risers with their engines, this critical piece of equipment is therefore, an after market component where improper system design and sizing, that being the diameter of the exhaust pipe, can worsen the problem. “If the material used is also not of the proper grade, what you wind up with is a lethal combination of metal, exhaust fumes, and salt water that does not get along very well,” said Lang. “We’ve seen it all; some even thinking a Home Depot pipe job will suffice.”

A failed gasket can cause a leak.

A failed gasket can cause a leak in the system.

Poorly designed exhausts can also allow water to flow back into the exhaust manifold, especially during large following sea conditions, and make its way into the engine. “There are a number of factors that determine how long a riser will last. Some of these include the quality of the welds, materials used, if the riser holds water when the engine is shut down, and how well it is supported.” Lang also suggests a regular inspection underneath your engine bed and stringers to look for rust spots, indicating a possible leak coming from somewhere.

Just as with your other important engine parameters, it’s best to have a base line for your exhaust system including correct operating temps for both cooling and exhaust systems, the right amount of visible exhaust flow should you not have an under water system, and of course, taking regular back pressure readings from your engine monitoring data. OEM’s have different predetermined back pressure limits based on critical internal features, so it’s best to check your engine manual or have the discussion with your engine manufacturer. Remember, the higher the back pressure, the more restricted the exhaust system will be. “Exceeding those limits will lead to problems,” said Lang.

But what if your running bottom and props are not fouled and your back pressure is within

Impellers should be changed at regular intervals to prevent any overheating problems with proper engine operations.

Impellers should be changed at regular intervals to prevent any overheating problems with proper engine operations.

acceptable limits? “This happens a lot, especially with boats up north that are stored for the winter,” says Mechanical Engineer and Manager of Centek Industries’ Product Design & Engineering Bert Browning. “Something may have made its winter home in the exhaust pipe and either died or made a nest or some other kind of living space.” A careful check for obstructions before getting your boat back in the water should be part of your regular preventive maintenance regimen.

“While back pressure issues can result in higher exhaust temps you don’t necessarily need to have back pressure problems for this to result,” offered Browning. You can have some cooling water issues as a result of a faulty water raw pump or failed impellers. These should also be checked regularly. If that impeller is degraded or damaged, not only will the proper amount of cooling water be diminished but, should any of the vanes break loose, the rubber material can be pushed all the way through the cooling system and severely clog the water flow. Or, you may have picked up a plastic bag or some other debris through the intake hose. In this case, make sure you shut off—and open once done—the seacock before attempting to have a look. And always make sure, just as you check your oil and fluid levels before starting up, to have a look at your raw water strainer and clean the basket if any debris or fouling is present.

Always make sure to check your exhaust hoses and the clamps for any sign of wear.

Always make sure to check your exhaust hoses and the clamps (right) for any sign of wear.

Another area to check is the condition of the blue and 443606black hoses and the clamps, especially those connected to the riser and the mixing elbow. With high temperature ratings, blue hose, rated at 350F if preferable. Any telltale problems will show up as a discoloration on some portion of the hose, usually at the clamp site. And it’s a given that hoses should be double clamped. Other revealing signs, such as those with fiberglass, gelcoated, or even Awlgripped systems, will be a yellowish-brown discoloration and ‘flaky’ deterioration. “With fiberglass, over time, the resin will ‘cook out’ and start weeping resulting in salt deposits forming on the exterior surface of the exhaust pipe,” said Browning. “Losing the resin will cause the pipe to eventually soften and compress under the clamp force.”

Keeping tabs on your exhaust system is as important as any other aboard your boat. Check with your yard manager during yearly haul out time and have the risers inspected as part of your maintenance regimen. Besides the fact that exhaust fumes are noxious and can cause health problems, your engine will not be running as efficiently as it was designed to do and, allowed to continue operating under diminished conditions, will lead to costly repairs.

For more information on exhaust systems and proper operation, contact;

If you would like us to cover a maintenance issue that is of particular interest to you, please feel free to drop us a line by tabbing the LEAVE A COMMENT key located at the bottom, right hand side of this page.

1 Comment

Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Maintenance


Tags: , , ,



Your marine toilet is the one system you do not want to have problems with.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Let’s cut to the chase here shipmates. You DO NOT, under any circumstance, shape, manner, or form, want to, pun obviously intended, mess with your marine toilet. I’ll take dealing with sopping up bilge water rather than hear the dreaded news that something is wrong with the boat’s toilet system.

No matter what, make sure everyone on board heeds this warning.

No matter what, make sure everyone on board heeds this warning.

My worst experience? Luckily we were in the dock when a backed-up MSD, being attended to by one of my crew members, coughed up not only the clog, which in this case was caused by a significant plug of way too much toilet paper, but whatever else was sent down on its way to the holding tank as well. A long, hot shower at the marina, and a complete change of clothing was necessary before we were able to continue on our way. Not fun.

The best way to prevent any problems, no matter how small, is to become familiar with the particular operation of your system, its parts, how they work, what can go wrong and why, and what you can do to head off any confrontations with it.

For most of us, our concern is with a Type III U.S. Coast Guard approved Marine Sanitation Device designed to simply hold waste material for pump-out into a shore-based facility. Whether you have a simple portable unit or a top-of-the-line electric system with multiple locations plumbed into a holding tank and utilizing a macerator, you will want to make sure it is properly maintained and cared for..

Simple and easy to care for, Thetford's 550P can make life aboard a bit easier.

Simple and easy to care for, Thetford’s 550P can make life aboard a bit easier.

With smaller boats, the most simple and easy-to-care for unit is the basic portable unit like that of the Thetford Porta Potti® 550P. As with all similar models in the marine line, this compact system requires only minimal care, including proper replenishing of the deodorizing chemicals and cleaning, to ensure trouble-free operation. “It’s always advisable to keep the slide lock seals between the upper and lower parts properly lubricated as they do tend to wear,” said Thetford’s Scott Mason. However, as a vessel’s length increases, so does its need for a more sophisticated system and in there, to quote the Bard, is the rub.

One of the biggest problems is the result clogging the system by using way too much of the aforementioned t.p. or throwing something down there that, as with your toilet at home, just does not belong. This includes tampons, sanitary napkins, paper towels, and baby wipes. It’s best to use t.p. specifically made for marine use that is both biodegradable and fast dissolving.

“The number one trouble maker is using improper tissue,” agreed Dometic’s Bill Friedman. “Household products are hard to break down, especially going into a pump or with systems using level indicators.”

If you use a saltwater flush, you are going to have to deal with the possibility of pipe and hose

Regular preventive maintenance can keep your Dometic Sealand Masterflush free from problems.

Regular preventive maintenance can keep your Dometic Sealand Masterflush free from problems.

scale forming within the system. A careful check of the bowl and even any accessible hose or piping, making sure all seacocks are shut, will help. For scale buildup on the discharge side, you can dump the proper agent down the bowl. On the intake side, remove the intake hose from the thru hull—make sure you shut it off first—and, in a bucket filled with a decalcifier, pump the liquid through the system as well. And regardless of fresh or saltwater operation, you should regularly check all hoses, connections, clamps, and fittings for leaks and wear. If found, or at the very least, suspect, replace them as soon as possible.

 “Over time, odor is going to be a problem due to organisms being brought in and constantly replenished by the saltwater,” said Mason, adding many a service call for a leak was actually the odor of decaying sea life in the lines. While you can try and mask the smell with deodorants and air fresheners, obviously switching to a fresh water system will alleviate this problem.

General wear and tear can also be trouble and in the case of most electric systems, there is not too much you can do. It’s best to keep an eye on things and pay careful attention to your owner’s manual for scheduled upkeep. Most of the major manufacturers such as Dometic, Thetford, Headhunter, and Raritan, all have convenient service centers and dealers in the major boating areas.

As far as macerators are concerned, today’s units are fairly robust and, but for the errant foreign object—again, tampons and sanitary napkins for the most part—forcing an electrical pause and being unable to start up again, you should have uninterrupted service for many years. However, should that EFO (errant foreign object) finds its way into the system, and if you are not the kind who can follow the schematics in your owner’s manual, it’s time to call in the experts.

Using holding tank treatments such as Thetford's AquaKem (left) or Dometic products can help to alleviate odors.

Using holding tank treatments such as Thetford’s AquaKem  can help to alleviate odors.

Odor and flushing problems can also be caused by a tank vent and filter being clogged by water or debris. Check both these on a regular basis and swap out that filter according to the manufacturers recommendations. You also might want to consider having a yearly cleaning of your holding tank as sediment can settle on the bottom and build up over time.  “To help keep it somewhat clean, you can also try sending a couple of capfuls of liquid laundry detergent into your holding tank, filling it with water, and then doing a proper pump out at your marina,” offered Friedman.

Your best bet in preventing problems with your marine toilet is make sure everyone aboard knows how to properly operate the system and what does and does not belong in it. Check all hoses and connections for leaks and try to keep your holding tanks relatively empty whenever possible. In this way, you will have one less thing to worry about while enjoying being on your boat.

For more information about proper MSD operation, it’s always best to contact your specific manufacturer. With those mentioned here, it’s;;;

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Maintenance


Tags: , , , ,



Like Running On Empty

Taking precautions to get your fuel system and engine room squared away, whether on a day trip or spending time away in foreign waters, can help prevent breakdowns, costly repairs, and a ruined vacation.

By Capt. Ken Kreisler

On the subject of our country’s energy problems, investigative reporter and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Russell Baker was quoted as saying: “Is fuel efficiency really what we need most desperately? I say that what we really need is a car that can be shot when it breaks down.”

That’s a sentiment those of us who have had problems with fuel-related breakdowns can relate to. It is an all too familiar feeling as we stare, with deck hatches akimbo, at that inanimate hunk of metal and hoses and wires and begin spouting, justifiably so, the proper salty and appropriate epithets.

Cap'n Ken at the helm

Yours truly at the helm on a day where everything went according to plan. Regardless of your time away from the dock, taking the proper precautions with some basic preventive maintenance measures can and will ensure a splendid time is had by all.

During one of my many extended forays away from the dock and outside of U.S. waters, I was at the helm, tanks just topped, and enjoying the mild conditions of the sunny passage back home. Totally content and in harmony with the familiar and slightly hypnotic rhythm of the twin diesel rig under my command, I had just checked the info on the GPS unit—43 miles to Palm Beach inlet—when I heard the timbre of the port engine change. And then the resonance of the starboard dropped as well. Quickly sitting up, and no longer enjoying the aforementioned feeling of nautical bliss, I clocked both gauges and immediately noticed a drop from 1900 to 1500 to 1000 to a quivering 600 rpm to a dead stop. It was all hands on deck for my two crew members and me.

Using an external funnel such as this one from Shurhold right from the pump, can often trap dirt, water, and other contaminants from getting into your fuel tank.

Using an external funnel such as this one from Shurhold right from the pump, can often trap dirt, water, and other contaminants from getting into your fuel tank.

That well-known three-hour cruise had turned into an all day constant travail of draining the Racors and changing both gunked up secondary and primary filters until finally limping back into the inlet and our dock at the Sailfish Marina. A day later, I was still at the filters, trying to get all the water out of the tanks. Not fun.

Taking on a load of dirty and water-laden fuel can all but ruin your well-planned travels. But just like downing a Prilosec as a preemptive strike before that night of gastronomical fireworks with your favorite uber spicy foods and drink, so can taking the right steps with your fuel and fuel system make sure you cut the odds against experiencing a mid-travel breakdown in your favor.

Before setting out, always remember that no matter where you fuel up, there is going to be some sediment, water, and mystery stuff present. It’s the nature of the beast. From refining to either gasoline or fuel oil, until it’s stored, shipped, stored again upon delivery, and finally pumped into your tanks, it has had plenty of time to play host to a veritable cabal of evil doers.

If you have the space in your engine room, you may want to research some of the offerings from Algae X.

If you have the space in your engine room, you may want to research some of the offerings from Algae X.

High on the list is water. While life as we know it could not exist without it, once inside your fuel tank, it can wreak havoc with both diesel and gasoline engines. How does it get there? Carefully check your fill cap for leaks or a compromised deck seal. Condensation can also exacerbate the problem as regular heating and cooling can cause moisture to form in the tank’s air void. Best to keep fuel tanks topped off on a regular basis.

Algae and fungi growth are the other culprits. Feeding on both fuel and air, these malicious microorganisms can easily gunk up your filter elements and stop you dead in the water. While there are many biocides on the market, avoid those with alcohol as this can cause damage to many rubber parts in the system. And remember, if you use a biocide, the resulting ‘body count’ can add to the already soupy mix on the bottom of your tank and those churned up while underway or in rough conditions. Take extra caution when monitoring your filters.

Having a primary fuel water filter is often your first line of defense against allowing water to get into your engine.

Having a primary fuel water filter is often your first line of defense against allowing water to get into your engine.

On that note, your first line of defense is to carefully check the ubiquitous primary fuel/water separator filter. Racor is most popular but there are also units manufactured by Dahl, Separ, Fram, Groco, and a host of others. Drain any water and sediment out of the bowl and check and replace the filter element as per your engine manual. Or, as most seasoned travelers say: When in doubt, swap it out. Don’t forget to check your secondary filters as well and always carry several spares. If you are a regular cruiser, you might want to check out Algae-X’s offering of fuel conditioning units or a more advanced fuel polishing system.

If you want to take an extra ounce of prevention, try using an exterior filter during fill ups such as Shurhold’s Mr. Funnel. This portable unit is used to catch impurities right from the pump as the fuel is going into your tank. While it will slow your fill time, if you are away from a reputable marina, it can help.

Finally, on the fuel system topic that is, and again, depending on how you use your boat, you may also want to give your fuel tanks a cleaning every once and a while, especially if you are changing those filters a bit too often. Get a reliable mobile company to come dockside to take the appropriate sediment samples and properly polish your fuel.

Using oil absorbent pads, such as these from 3M, can help keep your bilges oil free.

Using oil absorbent pads, such as these from 3M, can help keep your bilges oil free.

Now, let’s discuss your engine room. What could be worse than setting out for a day away from your home dock or on that extended and long-planned voyage to the Bahamas, and having problems with something gone terribly wrong down there? Compounding the dilemma is the afterthought that, with a bit of preventive maintenance, it could have been avoided. Here are a couple of engine room tips and thoughts to help cut down the chances of something stopping you dead in the water.

To begin with, clean your bilges and dispose of any oil-laden material with your marina manager. Once done, and if you already do not do this, position a couple of oil absorbent pads under your engine(s) so as to not only catch any oil drips, but to see if there is a problem with any suspect oil leak. And as any leaking water from the raw water system or expansion tank will also show up, this will help in identifying where the problem is. It’s also a good idea, especially when setting out on a long trip, to and make sure you carry enough oil and filters to do one complete oil change. In fact, make that two. As one old salt used to remind me: “Y’can’t get out and change a flat kid,”

Keeping both bilge pumps and float switches free of debris is an important part of your preventive maintenance regimen.

Keeping both bilge pumps and float switches free of debris is an important part of your preventive maintenance regimen.

Check your sea strainers for any fouling as well as any possible blockages to thru-hull connections, especially those to the air conditioning and raw water intakes; examine the hoses and clamp connections for any signs of degradation; and give all your seacock handles several open-and-close shifts. If you see any signs of wear and tear on any of these, replace them immediately. And make sure all your bilge pumps and float switches are free of debris and that bilge alarms are operating properly in both auto and manual modes.

Examine your internal main engine and genset zinc anodes for wear. If they are even half gone, replace them. Also, give those on your hull and running gear a look-see as well.

Let’s hope that another Baker witticism is not in your future voyaging plans: “The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately defeat him.” Safe travels everybody.

If you have any maintenance tips or a first-hand account of trouble along the way, use the COMMENT link on the bottom right corner below and send it on in.

Leave a comment

Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Maintenance


Tags: , , , , ,



A Right Proper Tool Box

Whether at the dock or underway, being ready for a fix requires having the right tools,
and then some, at the ready.

By Ken Kreisler

During my formative years, that being specifically my time as a junior and senior in high school, I was a yard snipe at the now long-gone Schatz Brothers yard in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, New York (USA for those of your reading this in the international sectors). If you can’t figure out what a yard snipe is, well think of how the non-mammalian use of one of Nature’s most noble animals, the gopher, is often employed. As in, “Hey kid, go and find me a left-handed Phillips screw driver, will ya?” Now you get it.

In those seemingly endless halcyon days of summer work, and when not engaged in cleaning up the yard, I often found myself in the company of some veteran, expert, and habitually very salty workers; craftsmen who not only knew the intricate art of their work, but were as adept with plane and chisel as a skilled surgeon was with scalpel and hemostat. And repeatedly, when referring to such implements of the nautical trade, many a whatsis, thingamabob—and its red-headed stepchild, the thingamajig—doohickey, thingy, and whatchamacallit, among many other descriptive terms were used to identify and request a certain tool. I have to say, that even after all these years, I take pride in knowing a thingamabob is a thingamajig one need not have to point to.

During the learning curve, I also realized that a properly outfitted tool box was not only a respected sign of a good mechanic, but a clear indication of how thorough one was prepared, as ready as ready could be, to handle the job and what might possibly show up. As one old hand said to me: “Ya can’t pull over an’ change a flat tire out there kid.”

Stanley tool boxThere are some basic necessities to putting together a proper tool box. Firstly, and for obvious reasons, get yourself a good one made of heavy-duty plastic or other non-corrosive material. If you have connections in high places, Space Shuttle tile stuff will suffice.

Levity aside, and as with whatever tools you are going to put in, go with the top brands; Stanley, Plano, Grainger, Craftsman, Pelican, and DeWalt come to mind. Make sure it’s the appropriate size for your boats’ needs, is preferably as airtight and waterproof as possible, and can be stowed for easy retrieval. An 18 foot bow rider does not need a rolling, 11 drawer, master mechanics work station.

Irwin Vice Gripspanner wrenchTo know what you require, eyeball all the places, spaces, compartments, and work areas around your boat both inside and out including the engine room, heads, helm, and living and entertainment quarters. Basically anywhere these tools would be needed. Above and beyond Archimedes’ idea of the ultimate tool, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world,” and based on the size and complexity of your boat, you need to have an assortment of flat head and Phillips screw drivers; adjustable, needle nose, channel locks, and vice-grip pliers in several sizes; nut drivers, wire cutters, spanner, crescent, and open end wrenches; a fairly inclusive socket set; a utility knife with extra blades; a tape measure; cordless drill and bits; wire stripper; and a set of hammers—Craftsman socket setrubber, claw, and ballpeen. (All hand tools should be rubber-gripped to protect against possible electric shock and check if you need any metric tools as well.) Other essentials include electrical tape, duct tape, a can of WD40, ScotchBrite pads, safety glasses, multi-meter, plastic tie-wraps, hex key set, the right size batteries, a top-of-the-line Swiss Army Knife and a suitable Leatherman tool, telescoping inspection mirror, a package of disposable gloves, filter wrench, rechargeable LED flashlight.

Gorilla Duct TapeIf you are away from the dock for an extended time, carry enough filters and lube and transmission oil for two complete changes. You should stock spare impellers, hose clamps, and belts and have a roll or two of self-bonding, air and watertight Atomic Tape aboard as it can provide temporary fuel and hose line repair.

I am sure there are many other useful tools you can find to help you out of a jam but this should get you started. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the many years I’ve spent in on-the-fly repairs is to get friendly with the biggest boat in the marina; that hands-on owner or skipper usually has the best equipped engine room and the knowledge and tools to go along with it; ones that you will want in your tool box as well.

To put a dog latch on this conversation, my advice is to always be thinking on your feet and be ready to improvise and be ingenious with your tools and perhaps, anything else you can get your hands on to solve the problem and make the fix. Kind of a nautical MacGyver if you catch my drift.

A quick P.S.: I was once working on replacing a head gasket on a six cylinder Ford Lehman diesel with a friend of mine when I dropped a valve tappet down into the crankcase. After several expletives on the condition of the human experience, I then tried to figure out how to squeeze and extend my hand through the tight-fitting labyrinth of machine parts so I could get down there and retrieve the critical piece. In a eureka moment, he looked at me and said, “Hey, how about trying that thingamabob we use when we need to get a grab on a hook that’s way down in a blue fish’s gut.”

 I knew exactly what he was talking about.

If you have a maintenance story of your own, or have done a unique quick fix while on the fly, send it on over by using the Leave A Comment key just below the text here on the right hand side of this page. If it passes muster, we’ll put it up.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 22, 2013 in Maintenance


Tags: ,



A boat’s dash can be filled with electronic instrumentation, including touch screens that can easily be marked up with fingerprints.  Many boats with a more open design get a lot of salt spray on their dash as well.  Shurhold shows owners how to properly clean these products with a step-by-step guide and video at

To begin, owners should have a hose nozzle that can do a soft mist, PVA chamois towel, microfiber towels and Shurhold’s Serious Shine.  Then, turn off all the gear.  While most electronics are all-weather rated, it doesn’t hurt to check the specific user’s manual for cleaning recommendations and warnings.

Hard pressure or forced water should not be used on electronics, no matter how weatherized the gear.  When doing a full wash down of the boat, owners should be sure to only use a light mist when rinsing electronics.  These areas should be quickly dried with a PVA towel to remove all standing water.  This will help prevent water spots and remove any other foreign particles.  Shurhold’s PVA Towel absorbs 50% more water than natural chamois, making for faster and more effective drying.

Once the dash is dry or if owners are starting with a fairly clean and dry dash already, the area should be sprayed and wiped with Shurhold’s Serious Shine.  The perfect one step detailer, Serious Shine cleans, polishes, and protects virtually any solid surface in one easy step, leaving no greasy, artificial residue.  It also contains UV inhibitors.

Only a fine mist is needed and the product should be worked using a clean microfiber towel with light pressure.  This is going to clean and remove all the finger prints from the touch screens and provide an antistatic protection that will help reduce finger printing in the future.  This product is safe to spray on the screen, frame, buttons and the surrounding fiberglass and steering wheel, too.

Owners should always use a clean towel.  Using a dirty towel might scratch the screens with grime that may have already been in the towel.  Also, microfiber towels can be washed in laundry machines, as long as fabric softeners aren’t used.  This will clog the fibers in the towel and make it less effective.

Shurhold’s Microfiber Towels lift and trap dirt, moisture and grease, unlike regular cotton towels, which just push contaminants across the surface.  These towels are extremely soft, gentle, and super absorbent so they won’t scratch.

A boat’s dash and instrumentation is one of the most important parts of a vessel.  Clean electronics are easier to see, last longer and run better.

Dedicated to educating boat owners, Shurhold provides key tips for boat value preservation at  Inventor of the One Handle Does It All system, Shurhold manufactures specialty care items and accessories to clean, polish and detail.

            Contact Shurhold, 3119 SW 42nd Ave., Palm City, FL 34990.  800-962-6241; Fax: 772-286-9620.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Maintenance





Boats and RVs laid up for the winter usually need sprucing up before returning to the public eye.  For spring cleaning and routine maintenance, Fiberglass Stain Remover (FSR) from Davis Instruments keeps small projects from becoming large, tedious ones.

Versatile FSR has long been a popular item on the cleaner aisle.  With no need to scrub, nonabrasive FSR gel absorbs oil, rust, exhaust and waterline stains, and road dirt.  In addition to fiberglass, it can be used on chrome, stainless steel, metal and painted surfaces.

On boats, it leaves cushions, galley surfaces, railings and steel stanchions looking like new.  The blue gel makes quick work of sinks and shower stalls.  It gently cleans clothing and sails, yet is tough enough to remove stubborn grime from grills and RV fenders.  Versatile FSR can also tackle household cleaning jobs from fabrics to bathtubs to patio furniture.

With no need to sand or compound, FSR is easily applied with a cloth, sponge or soft brush.  It remains on the surface to quickly absorb stains, then is simply wiped and rinsed clean.  Davis recommends cleaning a small test spot first on sensitive fabrics or finished surfaces.

Davis’ FSR has a suggested retail price of $10.99 for the 16 oz. jar, while the economical 2-liter Big Job jug costs $29.99.  The containers display multi-language labeling, including French for Canadian Provinces.

            Contact Davis Instruments, 3465 Diablo Ave., Hayward, CA  94545.  510-732-9229
Fax: 510-732-9188.;


Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Maintenance