Obvious To Me
Having spent no small amount of time in Formula's Technical Assistance Group (TAG) providing customer service and dispensing product information and advice, I have had a few conversations and the questions for which the answer seemed "obvious to me."
Thinking of these conversations did inspire an idea for this edition of “Boat Care.” Working with boats daily, there are certain ideas that seem obvious to me, but perhaps not so much to the newer or occasional boater. Therefore, I would like to present you with a few miscellaneous tips that may or may not have occurred to you.
Use Your Canvas!
Reminiscing about this issue is what got the article started. One day many years ago, before Formulas were manufactured with wood-free cockpits, a gentleman called me to say that the plywood in his cockpit seating was getting soft and issuing a "Coke-colored liquid." This set my radar off, and the first thing I asked him is if the boat was stored outdoors. After he answered in the affirmative, my second question was, "Do you use your canvas?" The answer, of course, was "No." When told that the cockpit needed to be protected from the elements, the caller responded that he felt he didn't need to use it since it was on a boat.
The good news for Formula owners with boats built over the past ten years or so is that modern Formula cockpits are wood free, built with a StarLite XL® polymer substrate, Dri-Fast® foam, Tenara® thread and tough Nautilex marine vinyl. Your Formula is a world-class product, but it still needs reasonable protection from the elements. Be nice to your boat and remember to store it outside with your full bimini cockpit or storage cover.
Formulas are a pleasure to experience—the way they look, the feel of the artfully designed and assembled upholstery, the fresh smell of the cabin. Unfortunately, though, the latter is often an impermanent condition. We all understand that boats live in moist environments, although some are in more humid conditions than others. Unless you live in a desert, if you don’t pay attention, your cabin or bilge might end up smelling more like Grandpa’s basement than a pleasure craft. Boat cabins can be notorious for trapping moisture, particularly if left unattended for long periods of time. The easiest solution is to open the boat up and air it out once a week. If you can’t get to it regularly, enlist someone to do it for you. There are also dehumidifiers you can install if you have access to an AC electrical outlet or shorepower.
Also, check for standing water. No bilge pump will get every last drop out of the engine room. If the boat is stowed out of the water, take a wet-vac to the remainder of the water so it won’t get stagnant. And don’t forget the cabin bilge, usually located beneath the cabin entry steps. If the air conditioner condensation tray might get clogged and overflow, the water will collect in the cabin sump—that’s what it’s there for. If it stands in there for a long period of time, that musty smell will come calling. Check your cabin bilge regularly!
Here's an oldie but a goodie: discharged batteries. I don't remember a lot of calls on the subject, but I believe it happened more than we got calls on it, mainly because once it happened, folks realized what was probably causing the problem. Although the issue is sometimes something odd, like debris getting caught under a float switch running down a battery, it can usually be avoided by turning off the battery switch(es) every time you leave the boat for more than a few hours. That way, there is no unnecessary drain on the batteries. And it doesn’t hurt to get the batteries load tested every season or two if possible. If a cell is going bad, you’ll know before the battery is completely dead.
My hope is that these tips will save one of you out there some grief one day. If you have similar ideas (or any ideas for a future column), I would love to hear from you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Give me an idea I can use and I’ll give you credit. In the meantime, keep living the boating dream!