Electroshock Drowning in Freshwater Marinas

Electroshock Drowning  is a topic in which myself and many others have been very vocal about these past few years and I have written about it many times in my magazine articles. It is a phenomenon which has been occurring in fresh water marinas, cottage docks and anywhere boats are moored and plugged into shore supplied AC (alternating) electrical current. It occurs when AC current, by way of faulty electrical wiring or appliances either on board the boat or on the dock leak current into the water and if persons or animals (yes pets and wildlife are susceptible to this too) are in the water nearby, the current travels through their bodies causing paralysis and even death.

Here is the equation: AC electrical power is supplied to boat shore power systems typically in the range of 15-30 amps   ……   .6 of an amp of electrical current is enough to stop your heart almost instantly if it travels through your body in an effort to reach ground.

How does this occur: It occurs when, through a wiring fault or a fault with an AC appliance allows stray current to  travel through the boats DC ground circuits which include underwater metallic components such as the prop shaft or stern drive. Think of your boat when plugged into shore power as similar to a hair dryer plugged in and floating in the bathtub. This in effect electrifies the water in the immediate vicinity of the affected boat. Anyone swimming nearby can be affected by this as the electrical current moves from the charged water to ground. If you remember your basic electrical theory electricity always moves from the source to ground and if your body gets in the way it will pass right through you and your heart.

Another point that you need to be aware of is that this occurs mostly in fresh water situations, much more so than in salt water. This is because salt water is a better conductor than fresh water and any current dissipates rapidly after it enters the water. In fresh water it remains at a concentrated level in the immediate area surrounding the boat. And when you take into consideration that the high salinity levels of the human body actually make it a better conductor than the water itself, just by being in the water we actually provide the best path for the current to move to ground.

This is a very brief overview on how this can occur and is occurring. I will have much more to say in future posts. For more on this I invite you to visit a couple of websites dedicated to this phenomenon.  I will add them to my links page as well.

http://www.electricshockdrowning.org/    This site is operated by Kevin Ritz who has a very deep connection to this issue.

http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/magazine/2013/july/electric-shock-drowning-explained.asp       A very good article by Boat US which offers a very good description on how to inspect for electrical leakage aboard boats.

http://www.boatingmag.com/how-to/electric-shock-drowning-prevention      More good information.

FRP Deck Repair, Rosborough 28 Part 2

Just a quick update on our Rosborough FRP deck repair. We decided that some additional cross bracing was necessary and we added that in addition to cutting and fitting of the plywood panels. All components will be liberally epoxy coated proir to the final installation and since its early spring here we may have to wait for the temperatures to warm a bit.

Rosborough 28 deck repair

Cross Bracing Installed. The side supports are a “starboard” like mateial and the braces are hardwood.

Rosborough 28 deck repair

The plywood panels cut and fit.

 

 

 

Hull Re-Core on a Fiberglass Sailboat

A while back I was asked to perform a pre-purchase, condition and valuation survey on a fiberglass thirty-five foot sailboat. In all fairness even though the manufacturer is no longer in business I won’t mention their name. Lets just say that it was a Canadian built boat, manufactured in the early eighties and not many were built.

As I usually do I began with an inspection of the hull exterior surfaces starting with the below waterline areas. A visual inspection showed many layers of flaking bottom paint, blisters half the size of my fist and almost every type of bottom issue that you can name. My moisture meter registers its maximum reading at 99 and at that point a red light flashes. The red light was flashing for a good portion of the time and there were very few areas on that I would consider normal moisture levels for a boat of this age. Sounding the hull was more like tapping a hammer on a leather arm chair that a fiberglass boat hull.

To make a long story short the buyer was able to negotiate a very attractive purchase price and the boat was moved to a local fiberglass repair firm for a complete bottom laminate re-core.

The original hull construction was a balsa cored fiberglass sandwich structure which had over time taken on a considerable amount of water. The pictures and text below show the repair process.

This is the hull with part of the exterior laminate layers and the balsa core removed. The edge of the balsa can be seen in near the middle of the photo. The white material is dry fiberglass which is something you should never find inside a fiberglass laminate. It’s obviously been this way since new.

FRP Hull Re-Core1

This is some of what was swept up on the floor after the balsa was removed. Lots of black rotten wood and even more dry fiberglass.

FRP Hull Re-Core3

This is the bow area with the new balsa core installed. The blue material is a core bonding compound specially formulated to bond the core to the inside fiberglass laminate layers. The gap at the bow will be filled with solid fiberglass and resin. No balsa will be used here.

FRP Hull Re-Core 4

The new core with the exterior fiberglass laminate layers completed. At this point the hull will be given a preliminary sanding and then the fairing material will be applied.

FRP Hull Re-Core 5

Now the fairing compound has been applied and next the hull will be sanded smooth in preparation for the final epoxy barrier coat. Next the new fiberglass will be allowed to out gas (cure) before the final epoxy barrier coats and the antifouling are applied. The boat will then be ready for launch

While complete bottom re-core jobs like this are rare, this proves that they can be done. All it takes is money. By the way the price for this job was in excess of 25 K.

 

Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS® 

 

Moisture Meter Facts and Myths

Moisture Meter Facts and Myths

Moisture meterOur continuing discussions on various aspects of the marine survey and some of the logistics involved in getting it done provides us with a perfect lead in for this a discussion on moisture meters. It’s been a while since we discussed these little guys and since moisture readings can be one of the more confusing of the items noted on a survey report let’s see if we can dispel some of the myths bandied about surrounding these infernal little devises. I say infernal with a bit of humor thrown in because in all reality as a surveyor I have to admit that I have come to rely on the data that they present, but only when in the hands of an experienced operator.

First of all let’s take a look at where the moisture meter originated and how it happened to wind up in the hands of marine surveyors and fiberglass repair professionals.          The moisture meter was originally developed by the lumber industry to assist in the scaling and grading of wood. Early versions were all of the analogue type and each had 2 sharp pins extending from the end of the meter’s housing which the operator pressed into the wood and the reading was displayed by the needle on the meter. About 20 or so years ago the meters lost the sensor pins which were replaced by a sensor pad on the body of the meter which was simply  held against the subject matter and the display produced a reading. This improvement allowed the meter to be used on various materials such as drywall, stucco and yes fiberglass. It wasn’t long before any marine surveyor serious about their craft had one of these guys in their tool kit. By the way the pin type meters are still in use by the lumber industry. Since no formal training or instruction was provided on how to interpret the information produced by the meter (remember they were mainly for use on lumber) many different approaches to the meters usage and data interpretation surfaced and became commonplace. Luckily since then most experienced surveyors have become proficient in their use but there remain many myths and confusions that still surround the use of these devises.

The first comment that I would like to make is that incorrect usage of the moisture meter has probably been responsible for more unnecessary repair and bottom jobs to fiberglass boats that all other diagnostic methods combined.

Secondly the moisture meter does not actually measure the moisture content of the substance. In actuality it measures the electrical conductivity of the material in question.

The theory is that since water is a conductor of electricity, the more moisture contained in a substance the higher the reading will be. This reading is then displayed on the meter, usually as a percentage.

This brings me to my next comment. Moisture readings should NEVER, NEVER be interpreted as, or reported as a percentage. My answer is always “as a percentage of what?” Here’s why. All fiberglass resins all have some level of moisture in their core makeup, some more and some less. Unless the surveyor was present on the day that the boat’s hull was popped out of the mold and if he was able to take moisture readings at that time, put the information on file for 15 years or so or until the next time the hull’s moisture levels were measured there is no way that percentages have any bearing on the resulting information. I still come across survey reports that report moisture levels as a percentage.  Add to that the fact that a boat hull’s make up is actually a combination of resins, gel coat (which is actually a thickened, pigmented resin) spun glass re-enforcement (of various configurations) and possibly a core material (balsawood, closed cell foam or plywood). Then add a few coats of anti-fouling paint and we have enough to seriously confuse any self-respecting moisture meter. This where the experience factor of the operator comes into play. The moisture meter is in reality a very simple devise to use. You place the sensor pad on the substance in question and read the display. That’s the easy part. Trying to understand and interpret what the meter is telling us is where the difficulty sets in.

The next question that arises is how deep into the substance can the meter actually read? Moisture meter manufacturers make claims and I don’t want to say that they are false but it appears that any meters depth of accuracy, again will depend largely on the substance being measured.

Does anybody notice a pattern developing here? The point that I’m trying to make is that there are usually more variables in the use of a moisture meter than there are absolutes and interpretation of the readings is the real key. I have taken moisture readings on hundreds of boats over the years have to admit that I still do not have it all figured out but I have learned enough over the years to know when to question the readings and investigate further by other methods. I see moisture meters being offered for sale to boat owners at retail outlets and when I’m questioned as to whether they are a good investment for any boat owner my answer is usually no. In most cases what happens is that inexperienced meter operators are easily confused by any or all of the issues listed here and they wind up calling someone such as myself to re-examine and make recommendations.

Taking moisture readings in ambient air temperatures below freezing is also a bad idea and since I have mentioned this previously many times in this column I won’t go into it here.

One thing that the moisture meter does do very well is to prove the positive, this is if a substance is dry the meter will show it easily. Its when the readings are elevated that the confusion sets in.

So I think that you can see that while the moisture meter is in reality, is a simple devise to use there’s a lot more to it and accurate interpretation of the data is the real key.
Reprinted From “The Seaworthy Surveyor” Ontario Sailor Magazine

Original Article By David Sandford AMS®