Fresh Air

Maintenance Q & A — October 2004
By Capt. Ken Kreisler

Fresh Air
Improving ventilation, solving a battery problem, and more.
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• Fresh Air, and more
• A lingering smell, and more
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• Maintenance Q&A Index

I’m a weekend boater and experience a fair amount of “stuffiness” when opening up the boat. Do you have any suggestions for improving the circulation while I’m away? E.B., via e-mail
Bad odors and stuffiness typically occur when the temperature differential between the interior and exterior causes the humidity level inside the boat to rise. The result is musty air and possibly the growth of mold and mildew.

To prevent this condition, you need to provide for a constant flow of fresh air into the cabin. Leaving hatches open is one way, although rain can exacerbate the situation. Leaving the air conditioning on is another approach that works, but it can lead to an elevated electric bill.

A third possibility is a solar-powered ventilator, such as those made by Nicro. They come in several sizes, and assuming you choose the right-size units and place them correctly, they should go a long way in helping eliminate your problem.

For help in laying out a placement plan for your boat, visit According to the company, installation to either a deck or a hatch (as shown here) is easy and can be done by most do-it-yourselfers.

My batteries keep going dead even though I’m plugged into shore power. How do I determine if the problem is my battery charger, the batteries, or a bad connection? S.P. via e-mail
As with all matters concerning electricity aboard, unless you are knowledgeable about electricity, I strongly advise you to turn the job over to a marine electrician—especially since in this case you’ll be dealing with 120 volts.

That said, there are some things that you can safely do on your own. After disconnecting your batteries and shore power, start by troubleshooting the basic elements first: Are there blown fuses in the shore-power circuit, on the battery charger, or in your boat’s wiring? Are all connections (especially at the battery) clean and tight? Are all cables and wires in good physical shape, with all insulation intact? Is available shore power reliable and consistent?

If all this checks out, you may want to have each battery subjected to a load test to make sure it is capable of holding a charge. Note that if a battery has a short—this will be revealed by a load test—it can drain all the other batteries connected to it, even if they are being charged by shore power.

This is about as far as a layman should go. If the previous tests reveal nothing, an electrician will begin troubleshooting the battery charger by determining that 120-volt A.C. is reaching it. Using a multimeter, he’ll first check the dockside A.C. supply. The voltage should be between 110 and 125. If it’s less than that, the battery charger may not be able to compensate for the variation of incoming voltage, and its D.C. (12-volt) output will also be low. Next he will apply the multimeter—this time set on the 12-volt scale—to the charger’s output side, confirming it has both the proper amperage and voltage.

How can I keep the snaps and zippers of my bimini top and enclosures working smoothly? J.W., via e-mail
There’s a product on the market called Snap-Stik that comes in a small tube and is available at most marine supply stores. I’ve used it in the past and have had excellent results. You simply rub a small amount of this lubricant on the snaps and zippers. If you can’t find this product, you can use petroleum jelly or white grease applied with a toothbrush or Q-Tip to the areas. You can also use a silicone spray or a shot or two of WD-40. If you choose either of these last two solutions, make sure you use the delivery straw that comes attached to the can. This will enable you to dispense a controlled spray right where you want it and avoid staining the surrounding fabric. Whatever product you use, keeping the snaps and zippers clean of salt buildup is key to smooth operation.

Next page > A linger smell..., and more > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the September 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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