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Boating: Yikes! Is your boat being eaten alive?

February 22, 2012
by boatguy Ed , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

I got an urgent call from "Lonk Island Phil." It had been six months since he bought one of the canals foreclosed homes, yet his new boatlift was still not finished. The dock was in but a previous electrical problem prevented his construction company from getting a 'Certificate of Occupancy' in order for his boat to occupy the new boatlift. "Lonk Island Phil" had been furious at the county and his dock builder but this call was about his boat.

"I've got oil leaking out of my lower unit? What the heck did your bottom paint do to my boat," he asked with a very accusatory tone.

"The yard didn't put the copper paint on your aluminum outdrives," I said as calmly as possible. We all know that aluminum can be eaten away by galvanic corrosion when two different metals like copper, that makes most bottom paint work, and aluminum are submerged into salt water and can create a small electrical current called electrolysis.

"I need a tow over to XYZ Boat Yard to have my boat hauled out, and I think you should do it and be there when we look at it," "Lonk Island Phil" said.

I dropped everything and hooked up "Viagra Falls" and away we went. Twenty minutes later "Viagra Falls" was in the forklift dock and the massive machine was picking it out of the water. The assistant operator was busy throwing white diapers into the well to absorb the oily substance running out of the starboard drive.

"Lonk Island Phil" stood back as the lift backed away from the well. He was extremely angry, and I was sure he blamed the bottom paint that my former company manufactured. The appearance of the drives was shocking. The black aluminum cases were white and crusty from the effect of the current generating effect.

"Look at that," "Lonk Island Phil" said with fire in his eyes. I walked around the boat and inspected every dripping inch of the bottom. There were plenty of indicators of the powerful attack on the underwater metal. I'd seen a lot of electrolysis, some caused by copper paint over aluminum, but this was different. There was a 'burn' in the bottom paint around bronze thru-hull fittings that indicated some strong electrical source.

After my inspection I just hung back while 'Lonk Island Phil' and the boat yard manager did their own look-see. I could see that 'Lonk Island Phil' wasn't accepting his explanation. I made a suggestion, "I think we need a marine surveyor or two to give their opinions. I'll recommend my old company fix your drives if they agree it was the paint's fault."

'Lonk Island Phil' agreed to the suggestion but didn't agree to pay a third of the cost. He did insist, however, that he would pick them, which meant he wasn't feeling any mutual love at the moment. And in the mean time I went off to find the marine diver that cleaned most of the boats on our local canal.

'Tommy the Diver' was an unofficial member of the 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club.' He didn't want to be a full social member because we'd all want club discounts like I gave 'Lonk Island Phil' on the paint. "Tommy, could you check out 'Lonk Island Phil's dock?" I told him to be very careful because I suspected that an open circuit was pumping electricity into the canal.

I convinced 'Lonk Island Phil' to shut off his main power supply despite his objections about how many clocks he would have to reset. Just to be safe I asked Cap'n Roger, an electric general contractor to supervise the operation. First the power was cut off, then Tommy put an electrolysis meter into the water and it read very minimum energy present.

Tommy entered the water and checked around the dock, he reported that there were remnants of an old dock with some old wiring still attached. 'Lonk Island Phil' was angry with me, the former homeowner, the yard that painted the bottom and even Cap'n Roger, but he still wasn't sure who was the most to blame. At that point we turned the power back on and the meter lit up indicating a strong 'leak'!

After the independent marine surveyor's reports came in pointing towards a strong electrical current, I was convinced. The dock builder and the boat yard owner were convinced but 'Lonk Island Phil' was thinking it was all a big conspiracy. "I'm going to sue someone because this wasn't my fault," he said.

"Who are you going to sue? The surveyor's report exonerates everyone except the dock builder and you signed his contract that said you didn't want to pay to have the remnants of the old dock removed. You might sue the family who lost the house but what are you going to get? Call your insurance company and hope they'll spring for a couple new out-drives or at least two new cases," I said.

We will never convince him. The fact that he didn't employ a diver like most of the canal residents do is one reason that his boat cooked so long. Tommy said that if he'd tried to enter the water with the power on, he would have cramped up immediately and warned the boat owner. So check your sacrificial anodes (zincs) regularly and if they suddenly disappear, call an electrician and have him check your dock and the docks and boats around yours.

Boatguy Ed is a retired anti-fouling bottom paint maker (www.supershipbottom.com). Visit the Dead End Canal Yacht Club Facebook page and like them! No, his son isn't doing the television show anymore because he has a real job and the people who saved 50 percent on dining certificates weren't very supportive. Sorry, but stop calling. Send comments to boatguiEd@aol.com.

 
 

 

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