This picture is an example of what can happen when someone who may be famil- iar with house wiring works
on a boat. In a house, the neutral and
ground wires are connected together
at the fuse box. But on a boat,
this is a serious safety concern, and
especially in freshwater, it’s potentially lethal.
Tying the neutral to ground could
allow 120 volts of deadly AC current
into the boat’s ground and bonding system. If there’s also a problem
with the safety ground going ashore
(not unheard of in marinas), all the
underwater metals of the boat can be energized with 120V shore power. This
can result in electricity in the water and, especially in freshwater, could injure
or even kill nearby swimmers. Called electric shock drowning (ESD), the
energized boat hardware creates a large electrified circle around the energized
boat. When a person in the water enters that circle, he or she becomes paralyzed, loses the ability to tread water, and may drown.
The other clue that this installation was not done by a boat pro is that the
wire is typical “Romex” solid-core type that’s fine for a house, but because it’s
not made from stranded, flexible wire, can be subject to cracking from vibration and become a fire and shock hazard on a boat.
Freshwater expands in volume by about 9 percent when it freezes and can push outward with a force of tens of thousands of
pounds per square inch. That expansion can crack an engine block, damage
fiberglass, split hoses, or crack a sea
strainer and sink your boat.
Damage happens all over the country, not just from the states that get
snow every year. Boaters in the frozen
north know they need to winterize,
Aside from going way too fast for the conditions (dark), one reason the boat in the photograph ran afoul of this seawall in Lake
Michigan was because the skipper had
zipped up the aging cockpit enclosure
to stay warm. While it cut the wind, the
old vinyl was not transparent enough to
see the looming hazard. One man was
hospitalized, and a couple of others were
bruised. The boat was a total loss.
so their freeze problems almost always
involve an issue with how the boat was
winterized. In the temperate south, there
are many more problems where the boat
wasn’t winterized at all, or where the
boater was depending on a heater to
keep the engine from freezing, and the
electricity went out.
For a complete guide to winterizing
your boat, visit BoatUS.com/Seaworthy/
Winter to download the “BoatU.S.
Boater’s Guide to Winterizing,” complete with checklists to make sure you
don’t miss anything.