Most fishermen lug blocks or bags of ice onboard until every insulated box is filled before they leave the dock and hope it will keep their catch cold until they get back. But this is the 21st century, and ice no longer has to be a chore: Serious anglers are turning to onboard ice makers to keep their fish sushi-fresh without effort. Producing hundreds of pounds of ice per day, these are bigger brothers of the ice makers used to supply the wet bar (although they'll do that, too).
Among the handful of companies building onboard systems, Eskimo is widely considered the leader of the pack. Its Ice 600 makes 25 pounds of slushy ice per hour from three gallons of fresh water using the boat's potable water. The heart of the machine is a steel tube wrapped in refrigerant coils. Fresh water sprayed on the inside of the cold steel freezes almost instantly; an auger strips the ice and propels it down a one-inch delivery hose to a fishbox, icebox, or wet bar. A sensor shuts off the unit when the box is full. On the down side, the Eskimo Ice 600 will cost you about $10,000 plus installation, which will buy a lot of ice ashore. But if you're a tournament fisherman competing for cash prizes, plentiful ice can make the difference between cashing a check or going home an also-ran.
Adding an ice maker is straightforward, but unless you're comfortable with wiring and plumbing, it's best delegated to the boatyard. To install an Eskimo 600, for example, you'll need about a two-foot cube of dry, unoccupied volume, ideally as close as possible to the fishboxes to minimize the hose length. The icemaker bolts onto a flat platform; building one and securing it to the hull is the most complex part of the installation. Once in place the ice maker needs an A.C. power source and a supply of cooling water for the condenser, which means mounting and wiring a separate pump. The ice-delivery tube attaches to the fishbox using a simple through-hull fitting. Most ice makers also have optional control panels that can be located in a convenient place outside the engine room; these make using the ice maker easier but add complexity to the installation.
If you don't have a single block of space, choose a component system instead, one comprised of two or more subassemblies that will fit into smaller, nonadjacent spaces. Installation of a component system will be more complex, and therefore more expensive, but the result will be the same: a steady supply of ice at the flip of a switch.
Once installed, an ice maker requires minimal maintenance. The Eskimo user's manual recommends checking filters, strainers, and oil levels once a month. The condenser coils need periodic attention; clean them when you have your air conditioning coils cleaned. If you're laying up your boat for more than three months or so, drain the auger tube before you leave.
Other than these simple procedures, all you have to do with an onboard ice maker is turn it on and enjoy the cold. You'll never lug a block of ice onboard again.
Ask the Experts: Steve Tull
The problem: You've spent big bucks on a custom tower, hardtop, half-tower, or arch. Now how do you keep it looking new? For advice, we asked Steve Tull, president of Atlantic Towers (www. atlantictowers.com) in Bayville, New Jersey.
The solution: The secret to keeping your aluminum looking new is never to let it start looking old, according to Tull. This is easy to do by following the three basic rules of aluminum maintenance: "Keep the salt off, keep the salt off, and keep the salt off." These rules apply equally to any anodized aluminum, he adds.
Clean the metal not by standing in the cockpit and playing a stream of water over the tower, but by washing the aluminum with soap and water, then rinsing it thoroughly. One of those foam mitts will make the job go faster. If you have an open-frame hardtop or half-tower, don't forget to wash the carlines—the aluminum beams—supporting it. "They trap salt," Tull explains. Outrigger poles need the same care, he adds; clean the salt off the butt of the pole and out of the base itself, too.
Every month or two or three, depending on how you use your boat, protect the metal after you clean it. Use a high-quality paste wax or, much easier, a wipe-on product like Woody Wax or Rupp Marine's Aluma Guard. Wear a cotton glove, dump some in your palm, and rub it onto the metal, Tull instructs. If you have neither the time nor the inclination to do this yourself, hire somebody: "There's no easy way to bring the anodized finish back if you let it go bad," he explains. "Restoring its brilliance will take many more hours than maintaining it."
But if corrosion has started already, don't despair. Tull says the damage is likely to be limited to the anodized coating; the underlying aluminum should be okay. "You can do a pretty good job of restoring the finish if the tower was properly anodized originally," he explains. Start with strips of fine sandpaper, no coarser than 600 grit, using them "shoeshine" fashion around the pipes. Work up to 1,200-grit paper, then a strip of cloth with rubbing compound, a final polishing with Flitz, and then a good coat of Woody Wax. Reapply the wax frequently. This is an enormous amount of work, concludes Tull: A small tower on a center-console boat could take two workers a week to restore.
On second thought, maybe it's better to remember the three rules in the first place.
This article originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.