John Adey: To troubleshoot any dash gauge, I always start at the
back of the instruments. The wires are generally crimped in ring
terminals and bolted on studs. These are prone to coming loose
and giving a bad signal, either ground (black) or tachometer sender
(generally dark-gray). To add insult to injury, sometimes the negatives are “daisy chained” from stud to stud; one bad connection
may affect the rest. Check the backs of the gauges, and then check
the gauge itself. Flick it while running to see if it jumps to the
proper reading; if so, replace it with the appropriate tachometer.
Next I’d check the engine harness connection at the outboard. Sometimes water gets in these connections and corrosion
results. Disconnect the battery then pull the harness plug, inspect,
clean if necessary, and apply “dielectric grease” available at a good
marine-supply place or an auto-parts store. This grease is conductive and will maintain a good connection.
Do you recommend that seacocks be in the open or closed
position for equipment (generator, air conditioner) that is not
being used? — John Roesch
Tom Neale: Normally, the safest thing to do is to close all seacocks that aren’t going to be used when you leave the boat for a
time — for example, between weekends. Of course, you wouldn’t
want to close a seacock if it’s used by the bilge pump or drains
In theory, it’s safer to close a seacock for equipment not being
used when you’re on the boat, but this means that when you turn
on that generator or air conditioner, you must remember to open
the seacock. Failure to
remember could cause
some very expensive
damage to the equipment and even to your
boat. And few of us
have memories that
good. (I don’t.) So most
people don’t close seacocks for equipment
they’re not using while
they’re on the boat. That’s why you should have good, loud bilge
alarms. The alarm should give both visible and audible warnings,
hopefully loud enough to be heard by a passerby on the dock as
well as by you with the engine running. If a leak from a hose or fitting or the seacock itself is getting water into your boat, the alarm
should let you know because you’re there.
If you do close seacocks when you’re away from the boat, it’s
important to place a sign or warning to that effect at the ignition
for the engine and generator (and any other device that may be
damaged if it’s run without the seacock being opened). Marinas
may need to move your boat in certain circumstances, and the
operator will need to know about that closed seacock. The same
is true, for example, of an air-conditioning technician whom you
may ask to do work.
My wife and I cruise the East Coast (Charleston, south to
the Florida Keys and the Abacos, and north to the Chesapeake).
We’ve been doing this since 1991 on our Catalina 30 via the ICW
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