in accordance with the manufacturer’s
instructions (able to be discharged in an
upright position, etc.). These extinguishers
should be clearly marked for engine-room use only and mounted near the
Whether you use a portable unit and
fire port or an automatic extinguisher,
shut down the engine as soon as possible.
Wind from boat movement can spread the
fire. And importantly, a running engine
can pump fire suppressant out of the
engine compartment while continuing to
suck in fresh air. It may also be feeding
the fire with fuel. Most automatic units
have an option for installing an automatic
engine shutdown, an excellent idea that
should be seriously considered. As clean-agent units kill the fire without damaging
the engine and components, boaters can
often restart their engines (after locating
and correcting the initial problem) and
return to port under their own power.
Captain Frank Lanier has more than 30
years of experience in the marine and diving
industries, holds a 100GT master’s license,
and is a SAMS-accredited marine surveyor.
THE 6 MOST COMMON WAYS
BOAT FIRES START
If every boater paid attention to these six potential problems, more than a third
of all fires aboard boats would be prevented. Here are some real-life lessons from
■ 26% Off-The-Boat Sources: Most fires start when something else goes up in
flames; the boat next to yours, the marina, a garage, or even a neighbor’s house.
■ 20% Engine Electrical: For boats older than 25 years, old wiring harnesses take
a disproportionate chunk of the blame here. Inspect them for damage.
■ 15% Other DC Electrical: The most common cause of battery-related fires is
faulty installation of batteries – reversing the positive and negative cables. Take a
picture before removing, and use red fingernail polish to mark the positive lug.
■ 12% AC Electrical: Most of these fires start between the shore-power pedestal
and the boat’s shore-power inlet. Inspect the shore-power cord monthly.
■ 9% Engine Issues: These start typically from overheating due to a blocked raw-water intake or worn-out impeller. Replace the impeller every other year.
■ 8% Outboard Electrics: On older outboards, by far the most common cause of
fires is the voltage regulator. Once it hits 15 years old, replace it.
To help keep our members and their boats safe, our editors are always on the
lookout for lessons we can learn and share from the real claims filed with our
BoatU.S. Marine Insurance. www.BoatUS.com/Seaworthy
From BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Files