It’s mid-August afternoon, the mercury is skyrocketing and all you can think about is stepping off the dock onto your boat and spending the next week cruising along the coast of The Long Island Sound. You’re set to shove off in the morning when your out-of-town crew will turn up but for now, you’re looking forward to an evening of air-conditioned bliss at the marina where you’ll plot your course for the next week.
When you arrive at the dock, things suddenly start to unravel. You immediately notice your boat AC isn’t working – perhaps the timer failed? As you step aboard, the normally welcoming aroma of your vessel has turned decidedly funky. The icing on the cake? When you go to raise your yard mechanic on the VHF, you realize it’s on the fritz as well. The triple whammy – no AC, a smelly boat and no radio. Dramatic? Yes. But not improbable. Two months into the boating season and your vessel has no doubt seen some heavy use so if maintenance or usage issues are going to crop up, now is as good (or rather, bad?) a time as any.
The first thing to note is that we here at Marine Special Products Group are on call for emergency repairs. Call DG on 1 (860) 718-0100. Related – we are experts in Marine Sanitation, Marine Air Conditioning and Marine Electronics so we will be able to diagnose your problem and come up with a plan.
If you are concerned about the viability of these critical systems prior to a lengthy cruise (or a lengthy visit from some out of town guests), we’d be happy to come inspect them for you and provide recommendations on their upkeep and preservation. While we do ask for a nominal inspection charge, it’s definitely in the ounce-of-prevention camp. Another thing to consider are these mid-season maintenance suggestions which might help get an older or stressed system through the season:
Let’s start with the easiest one first; a common cause of overworked or overloaded boat air conditioning systems (and boat refrigeration systems, for that matter), is dirty or clogged air return filters. If you often have a pet aboard your vessel, the buildup of dust and hair can cause clogs. Other causes include docking your boat in more urban environments, construction going on in your marina or, not surprisingly, just you and your family being aboard as the average human being sheds more than eight pounds of dead skin annually! Given all these sources for dust, you can save yourself a major headache with a relative easy inspection and an almost as easy replacement, if warranted.
Most boat air conditioning manufacturers recommend that you chemically de-scale the condensing coil every 24 months so if you don’t recall when you did this last, you should probably look into it. In addition to avoiding breakdowns, a properly-descaled system will run more efficiently saving you power and money.
Another concern is water buildup in the condensation pans caused by condensation drain blockages, potentially resulting in flooding of floors and lockers and, consequently, mold or mildew buildup (and the associated odors). To avoid these costly and unpleasant possibilities, make sure the condensate pans are draining properly.
While we work on a wide variety of marine sanitation systems, our comments here focus on Vacuflush systems which are as desirable for odor abatement as they are delicate. An overarching thought on marine sanitation systems: think of maintaining them in the very same way you treat your engine – monitor its performance closely and service it regularly.
Regarding maintenance, we’ll start with another easy one. When you are topsides, does your nose readily make you aware that a crew member has used the head? If this is the case, you very well may need to replace your holding tank vent filter. It stops odors from escaping through the holding tank vent and it is recommended to replace it annually.
Another area of concern are the duckbill valves in the vacuum generator. Most people don’t service these and just run them until they fail. When that failure happens is key though, isn’t it? The manufacturers recommend these be replaced every other boating season so if you haven’t done that, it’s something you should strongly consider.
Finally, if you are sensing any deficiency in vacuum pressure or seeing water or sewage leakage at the head, it may be time to replace your flush ball assembly or the teflon bowl seal. The manufacturer recommendation on this is to replace these parts every three-to-five years, depending upon conditions and use. A failure here in the wrong circumstances can really foul up a passage or a holiday weekend.
In addition, now is a good time to think about mid-season software and firmware upgrades for navigational electronics. Having the most current software and electronic chart data for your marine electronics can increase safety, ease of use and functionality.
Changes to chart information, GPS satellite constellations, tide and current data, and system reliability can affect the navigation system’s ability to safely guide you to your destination. Manufacturers of marine electronics are constantly making improvements to the user interface and experience. Frequently, software updates offer dramatic changes to the way you interact with your system.
New features are what it is all about. Over the past few years, software updates have unlocked on-screen control of autopilots, marine stereo systems, thermal cameras and electronic switching of devices, as well as networking of previously stand alone systems. We are well-versed in the latest Marine Electronics updates – let us review your system and see what enhancements can be made to your current setup to optimize your safety and enjoyment.
Finally, as we move into that tail end of the boating season, don’t forget to start thinking about both decommissioning as well as boat projects you’d like to tackle in the off-season. We’ll follow up with another post soon about our winter labor discounts.