Scott Marine Surveyor of Florida Blog


Posted On: April 08, 2020

High-water alarms are installed on all boats built to its standards, for good reason: These simple devices typically use a switch to activate an alarm when water reaches a predetermined level and can save your boat.

Statistics have shown that 69 % of boats sink while at their dock — a good reason to connect the sensor to the boat's horn so others will know if your boat is taking on water.

If your boat has multiple bilge areas, it's best to have a separate bilge alarm for each area, with an indicator light as well as an audible alarm and a label to indicate the area involved. If you're aboard, the warning can give you enough time to find a leak before it's too late.

Locate the detector switch high enough above the normal level of bilge water to prevent the alarm from sounding when the bilge has a small amount of water easily handled by the bilge pump. But it also should be located low enough to alert you if there's a real problem. The same issues that plague bilge pumps can affect high-water alarms: corroded wire connections and jammed switches. While the alarm itself may last indefinitely, float switches need to be checked at least annually.

Boats that sink at the dock usually do so because of three things: Water gets in at the stern-drive bellows (inspect every couple of months and replace every three to six years); leaking cockpit and livewell plumbing (inspect hoses and pipes at least twice a year, replace any suspect fittings); and leaking stuffing boxes (there should be no leaks with the engine off, two to three drops per minute when running).

Underway, boats usually sink due to boarding waves, leaking fittings, and overheated engines, which causes exhaust systems to fail and leak. Many thru-hulls are in the same place as the outdrive bellows and raw-water cooling system: the engine room.

Look there first.

A high-water alarm might just buy you enough time to find a leak before it's too late.



Posted On: April 01, 2020

Regardless of your boat's size and systems, routine inspections and maintenance can alert you to potential problems.

Changing engine oil, and checking fluid levels are the best way to keep your boat running smoothly. Even well maintained engines will show signs of age. Leaks from steering cables, drips from the last oil change, or fuel from leaky fittings can all find their way into the bilge.

While we have some down time, why not put it some good use.

Changing Engine Oil and Other Fluids

  • Use a self-contained spill-proof oil extractor to remove fluids. Manual and electric pumps can be found at most marine retail supply stores.
  • Temporarily disable your bilge pump so that it does not cycle on in the case of a spill. Use an oil-only absorbent pad under the engine and in the bilge to absorb spills. Place a plastic bag around the filter before removing to catch drips.
  • Top off your fluids, wipe up any spills, and reconnect your bilge pump. Recycle your filter and used oil at a recycling location and dispose of used absorbent pads and rags properly.

Changing Fuel Filters

Fuel can become contaminated or can separate and clog filters if it sits in a fuel tank for too long. Changing your fuel filter is especially important if you boat in an area that has recently switched to ethanol formulated gasoline. Ethanol has a tendency to clean out fuel systems, resulting in the need to change your fuel filter more frequently with the first few tanks of ethanol formulated fuel.

Changing spin-on or in-line primary fuel filters is relatively easy. However, changing some secondary filters (the one that tends to be mounted out of the way or internally in the engine) can be more difficult than your average fuel filter change and tends to be overlooked by many do-it-yourselfers. When in doubt, refer to your engine manual or let a professional handle it. Proper fuel flow and filtration is essential to smooth operation. Regardless of engine size, routine inspections can alert you to potential problems.



Posted On: March 25, 2020

With all the inaccurate information out there, here's some facts as are available now:

Are Florida Keys beaches, parks and attractions open?

The island destination is closed to visitors since 6 p.m. Sunday, March 22.

Florida Keys lodging businesses are directed to close at that time. Many Florida Keys attractions are closed or are planning to close. 

The City of Marathon has closed Sombrero Beach and all city beaches. Key West’s Smathers Beach is closed as well, but Monroe County officials have not closed nearby Higgs Beach or other beaches in unincorporated areas of the island chain.

Parks in the Village of Islamorada are closed to the public with the exception of open spaces at Founders Park. The Founders Park Aquatic Center and dog park are closed. Founders Park Facilities such as basketball court, tennis courts, pickleball courts, fields and walking trails and may be used by individuals and small groups. All beaches and other Village parks including Anne’s Beach and Library Park Beach are completely closed. All restroom facilities at parks and beaches are closed.

The area known as the Fills from MM 77.5 to 79.8 and the boat ramp at Indian Key Fill are closed.

What about restaurants, bars and nightclubs?

Based on an executive order issued by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, all bars and nightclubs throughout Florida, including the Keys, ceased operations March 17.

Per the Governor’s March 20 executive order, all restaurants and food establishments within the State of Florida, including the Florida Keys, are to suspend on-premises food and alcohol consumption for customers. On-site dining is not allowed. Establishments may operate for the purpose of take-out or delivery.

Are area state and national parks open?

Effective March 21, Florida state parks with adjacent beaches are closed.

In the Florida Keys, this includes: Bahia Honda State Park, Curry Hammock State Park, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Long Key State Park. 

Ferry and seaplane service to Dry Tortugas National Park is temporarily suspended. The Long Pine Key and Flamingo campgrounds in Everglades National Park are closed.



Posted On: March 17, 2020

Anyone who spends a good chunk of their lives on the water will proudly recount the various craft they've enjoyed across the sweep of their boating life. The chronology generally follows an upward trend, starting with a modest skiff or sailing dinghy and navigates through increasingly bigger and better boats.

But just as our wants, needs, and priorities change at various life stages, so do the boats that fit our lifestyle. There's "moving up" and "downsizing," but what about switching boats simply for a lifestyle adjustment. Sailors jumping over to power as they age is a common theme, but what about the angler who trades in the center-console for a pontoon boat to spoil the grand-kids? Or from a hard-core sport fishing machine to a plush family cruiser? People make adjustments in their lives for all kinds of reasons.

Bottom line: You need a boat that matches your lifestyle, or you're bound to use it a whole lot less — and nothing eats at a boater more than the thought that she or she is just not using the boat enough. The goal is to stay in boating, and sometimes that requires making a change.



Posted On: March 11, 2020

Find The Stink Before You Sink

Your nose knows when something is amiss. Any changes in the way your boat smells — either when you open it up for the weekend or while running — could mean a problem is developing. Fuel fumes (either gasoline or diesel) must be dealt with right away. Often a leak is caused by vibration of a fuel line against another part of the engine. If this isn't corrected, it will worsen the breach. If a high-pressure fuel line is leaking, it may be spraying a fine mist of diesel into the air and this could cause a fire.

  • Burning rubber may indicate a slipping belt that can overheat an alternator, or it could indicate freezing bearings in an alternator or water pump that will soon destroy the belt and the component.
  • Steamy water, antifreeze, or overheating paint smells in the engine space indicate an overheating engine. Antifreeze smell may also indicate a breach in the engine's cooling system, ranging from a burst hose to a cracked head or block.
  • Hot lube oil smell indicates an oil leak, probably requiring immediate shutdown.
  • A burnt oil smell when you pull the dipstick signals a serious internal problem. Have the engine checked immediately.
  • Burning electric insulation smells should never be ignored. It could mean that a terminal is overheating and about to arc and/or short out, or that there is too much of a load somewhere in your electrical system, or that an electrical component is suffering an internal meltdown. Its source must be located immediately. Try to turn off whatever wire or component is involved, preferably at the breaker. It may be a good idea to depower the entire boat, DC and AC, and then turn circuits back on, pausing with each one to see if that's the cause of the smell.
  • A change in bilge smell, such as a new musty smell, could indicate leaking condensate from the air conditioning or refrigeration units. A leaking shower sump causes its own bad smell.


Posted On: March 04, 2020

Finally, it's time to ready your boat for the upcoming season! But all may not be well, as the photos and firsthand experiences below will show.

Sunken boat

Overlooking small things during spring commissioning can translate to big problems.

It's almost spring — when all our plans for the boating season ahead are positive and hopeful. This is an important time; many  Insurance claim files show over and over that it's the little things missed during spring commissioning that can lead to serious problems that will not only lighten your wallet but also rob your family of precious time on the water.

Here are 2 examples of some common items that can't be overlooked during your spring-commissioning activities.

Check Those Thru-Hulls

Springtime is the right time to check each of your composite (plastic) thru-hulls for cracks and deterioration. Degradation due to ultraviolet light is the main culprit; however, stress caused by an unsupported hose bouncing around inside also can be a factor. Failure typically begins as a crack where the body of the thru-hull fitting joins the outer flange, often progressing until the flange simply falls off. Once that occurs, there's nothing left to keep the thru-hull in place, meaning that it will eventually be pulled inboard, leaving a gaping hole. The thru-hull shown here was located near the waterline; the resulting hole reduced the vessel's effective freeboard from feet to inches.

Inspect Your Hose Clamps

The devil is in the details, as this photo clearly shows. The owner failed to refit the hose clamps for the engine's raw-water intake hose (which had been removed while winterizing the engine the previous fall). The loose hose slipped off soon after launch, partially sinking the vessel.

Nothing helps more to reduce such slip-ups than a detailed checklist.



Posted On: February 26, 2020

What is the significance of Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is important because it marks the start of the Lenten period leading up to Easter, when Christians believe Jesus was resurrected. During this period, Christians show repentance and mourning for their sins, because they believe that Christ died for them

What is the Meaning of Ash Wednesday and What Happens?

During Mass (for Catholics) or worship service (for Protestants), the priest or pastor will usually share a sermon that is penitential and reflective in nature. The mood is solemn - many services will have long periods of silence and worshipers will often leave the service in silence.

Usually, there is a responsive passage of Scripture, centered around confession, read aloud and the congregation. After all of this, the congregation will be invited to receive the ashes on their foreheads. Usually, as the priest or pastor will dip his finger into the ashes, spread them in a cross pattern on the forehead, and say, “From dust you came and from dust you will return.”



Posted On: February 19, 2020

Guidelines On How To Protect Yourself

Over the years, Consumer Protection statistics have shown details of hundreds of repair-shop complaints. So we kind of know what's most likely to go wrong and how to avoid it.

These tips can help you prevent problems and help you resolve them.

  • Find out if the shop uses contractors. Will your outdrive be rebuilt in-house? Do they contract out for fiberglass repairs? Who ultimately will be responsible for the repairs and warranty?
  • Take a picture of your boat, engine, and trailer and attach it to the repair estimate to document the condition of your boat, especially if repairs may take a long time or the boat will be stored at the shop.
  • Be clear on terminology the shop uses. What is re manufactured versus rebuilt? What does it mean when they say they're going to "service" something? Find out exactly what's included in an "Annual Service." Assume nothing.
  • Always get a detailed receipt. Don't be afraid to ask to have more information put on it. A list of all parts used, total hours of labor, serial numbers for engines and equipment, and a complete description of the initial complaint and repair work performed (including technician's name) can pay off if there's a problem later.
  • Keep in mind that maritime law gives providers of goods and services the right to take legal action and "seize" boats until repair and storage bills are paid. Good service or bad, you'll have to pay up to get your boat back, then work on resolving the problem. Pay by credit card if you can. If there's a problem and the shop refuses to help, dispute the amount with your credit card company and they'll withhold funds while you try to work out the problem, giving you more bargaining power. Companies often have to pay a fee if the charges end up getting reversed, which is more incentive to make you happy. Get a copy of the warranty in writing. If it's the end of the season and you're not going to use your boat for months, ask if they will extend it so you'll be covered once you start using your boat.
  • Inspect your boat immediately upon pickup, and discuss any problems with the shop. If possible, test-drive your boat pronto to ensure it's operating properly.
  • Beware of mobile mechanics. Many do quality work and can be a great choice for simple maintenance work. But unless it's an established company, you may have a hard time finding them if something goes wrong.