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Nov 06, 2018

SOME Boating Myths Dispelled

Ethanol gas (E10) works fine in my car so it should be fine for my boat, too.

Cars go through gas much faster than most boats. You probably fill up your car once a week or so. But ethanol's Achilles heel is that it's hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water. Car fuel systems are closed and under slight pressure, meaning they absorb very little water, and any small amount that gets in will just burn through the engine until it's replaced by fresh fuel next week. But most boat fuel tanks are open to the atmosphere. That little vent you see in your hull allows air to replace fuel as it's used, but it's also an inlet for moisture. A deck fill that even slightly leaks can put a lot of water in your boat's fuel. As enough water gets into your boat's gas tank, the ethanol combines with it, and when there is enough, the ethanol/water mixture separates to the bottom of the tank, right where the fuel pickup is. The result is a stalling — or even a damaged — engine.

Boats stored ashore can't sink.

This one is sort of true. Technically a boat on land can't sink underwater, but it can get filled with water during a major storm, which can cause nearly as much damage as if it sank. After a hurricane hits, there are always claims for boats that have submerged engines and electronics even though they're stored ashore. Given enough rain and wind, water will find a way in.

Larger boats need to have all openings made watertight before a major storm hits. Leaking hatches and portlights can also allow lots of water in over time, with a moldy mess the result. Smaller boats often fill with water due to a leaking seat hatch or sole cover. Over long periods of time, a bad enough leak can eventually destroy a boat. Close-fitting covers can avoid "sinking on land," and for small boats, leaving the drain plug out, with the drain clear of debris, is the safest bet. Only in extreme surge events should you leave the plug in so rising water can't come in through the drain. One more thing: Visit your boat often to make sure leaks don't turn into a catastrophe.

You don't need a life jacket if you're a good swimmer.

Maybe this statistic will change your mind: 90 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. Not some, but the vast majority of drowning victims had no life jacket on.

If you fall off of a boat, you may strike your head on something, leaving you dazed and unable to swim. If the water is cold, you may experience caloric labyrinthitis and/or hyperventilation, as well as hypothermia. Caloric labyrinthitis is an inner ear disturbance associated with sudden temperature drop and causes a person to become disoriented, which explains why someone thrown into the water may sometimes swim down instead of up. Hyperventilation can cause a person to gasp and breathe in water. In very cold water, a swimmer without a life jacket can only survive for a few minutes. Even if you're a champion swimmer, consider wearing your life jacket whenever you're aboard. You can't predict when you'll fall overboard.

Older boats are money pits.

This one may have a ring of truth to it for anyone who's ever tried to restore a "classic." But a well-cared-for older boat doesn't have to cost an arm and leg to maintain and may actually be cheaper to keep than a newer boat.

Systems (e.g., plumbing, wiring) are less sophisticated, which means someone who's handy can often do more maintenance and repairs than he or she could on a newer boat with computer controls, electric doodads, and complex engines.

The best older boats to hang onto are often those that were made in large numbers; parts are often easily available and there is usually a large group of enthusiastic supporters online who are willing to share money-saving parts-sourcing and repair tips.