Monday Minute - Midsummer Maintenance


I live in an area that has had ridiculous amounts of rain this season. Chesapeake Bay, and the entire U.S. East Coast has been not been the best place to enjoy cruising this year. I suspect we broke all kinds of records in terms of rainfall and nasty weather. As a result, for many, boating around here has been minimal this year. Wish I could say that about the mosquitoes!

Cruises were cancelled, and plans changed with the forecasts. This past weekend, where normally one might find a dozen or more boats anchored here in Ridout Creek, with several rafts of boats, there wasn’t a single boat anchored overnight. Definitely not a typical summer.

An informal survey of my boating friends validates that we have used our boats far less this year, far fewer engine hours. My sailing friends have not done any better, spending less time on the water. Guess it can be chalked up to climate change, or blamed on any number of other factors. But whether it can be explained or not, this has been the reality of 2018.

So here we are in the first week of August, and perhaps it is time to spend a little time checking out boat systems. Why not take a half hour in the engine space and rinse out all raw water strainers. They may have stuff growing in them, whether the boat is used or not. Engine-cooling systems, air conditioning strainers, and any other raw water through hulls are worth a look. Blue Angel sits on a lift, so that is not an issue for me.

It is also not a bad idea to check out the hydraulic steering reservoir to make sure the level is where it should be. If the level is down that is a sure sign of a leak in the system. It is always best to catch any developing issues early, and mid-season is a good time to take a look. Any rust stains around the engine? Any salt water get inside the boat for any reason? If so, fill a spray bottle with soapy fresh water and a rag and wipe off the salt before corrosion begins. There is no need to have plumbing components stained, rusted, or green.

My 25-foot Hunt Harrier is now 12 years old. She got a new Ocean X sterndrive back in 2013, so I am not concerned with that part of the drivetrain, but what about the rest? The rubber fuel hoses are 12 years old, and we routinely wrote in PMM that one can expect fuel and exhaust hoses to live 10 years before replacement. A winter project, perhaps? And add an external fuel filter/water separator.

I just replaced one of the batteries last week, as it was no longer holding a charge and would not turn over the engine. The two batteries on the boat are AGM batteries, and now eight years old. The guy at Stevens Battery Warehouse in Annapolis was quite insistent that I must never put the battery switch on Both, as it will void the warranty if the new and old batteries are tied together, as the new battery will be dead in a couple of years. It is an AGM thing. Ideally I should have bought two new batteries together, but for now I will be careful to heed this advice.

Also a couple of weeks ago I looked at my flares and safety equipment only to find the flares had expired. So taking advantage of the new electric lights that Weems & Plath and Orion now offer, which eliminate the need for any onboard pyrotechnics, I replaced the flares with one of those units which also came with a orange flag to comply with Coast Guard day marker requirements.

Howard and I already converted the navigation lights to LED, and upgraded the chartplotter to a Garmin unit that is light years brighter and faster than the original unit from 2006. And the charts are current.

Blue Angel Aug5-18.jpg

The brightwork just got a touch up and the boat is looking great. Sure doesn't look 12 years old!

Another sign of a waning season are the fall boat show promotion emails starting to arrive in my inbox. The Annapolis shows proclaim the largest number of new boats in recent years.

I wonder what I will fall in love with this year? Sail or power or one of each? Well, that would depend on what I figure to do when I go cruising again. I would love to redo the Rideau Canal, and go back to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. And just hangout in Southport for a month.

The Rideau Canal is one of the most fun and least stressful cruise adventures one can enjoy on a smaller boat.

The Rideau Canal is one of the most fun and least stressful cruise adventures one can enjoy on a smaller boat.

Now back to my mosquito reference, I want to praise a product that really, really works. I bought a Stinger insect killer last month (maybe $50), an electric device that uses a small container of Octenol to lure mosquitoes and other biting insects. It is not an annoying bug zapper. I installed it under one side of our deck at home, well away from where we sit, about eight feet above the ground as per instructions, and plugged it in.

Well, I replaced the container of Octenol yesterday (to do every 30 days), and could not believe it. I shook out hundreds of dead mosquitoes, falling like rain out of the bottom where the Octenol slides in. Very impressive, considering all of the rain and resulting breeding grounds. It also explains why we have been able to sit comfortably on our upper deck in the evening (when it wasn't raining) without being attacked. 

Have a great week.