Cost: $200 and up
What’s a few decibels between friends? Well, it can be quite a lot. If you remember your high-school physics, you’ll recall that the decibel scale increases exponentially, so a five-unit increase above the 65 dB-A level of normal conversation is actually five times as loud to your ears.
If your boat is more than five years old, there’s a good chance that she is either under-equipped with acoustical insulation or the insulation itself is of an older, less-effective variety. So what can you do to reduce ambient noise? There are a lot of methods and some of them are quite affordable. Options range from improved engine mounts (left) to sheets of acoustic-insulating foam-coreand- lead composite (above right). But not all soundproofing strategies are equal. The best work by nixing vibration and dampening certain frequencies of sound that can resonate throughout your vessel.
Adding soundproofing elements on your own can be a cost-effective solution, and some methods are quite easy. A few companies, most notably SounDown, offer acoustical foam paneling that lets you simply peel off the backing and stick it where you need it (remember to keep it away from hot objects, which may be tricky in a confined engine compartment). But to really attenuate as much sound as possible, you need to suss out which frequencies are causing the particular problem. There are plenty of professional contractors who are adept at doing this, and if you’ve got a few bucks to spend, you should be able to get your boat down to chatting level in no time.
—Capt. Grant Rafter
A Better Charge
Cost: $89 to $500 and up
A boat battery—like a car battery—is one of those vital things that you probably overlook until it stops working. Part of the problem may be that the chargers that keep batteries maintained and fully juiced can prove baffling to even the most experienced boaters. Fortunately, according to West Marine, “Modern ‘smart’ charging options are available to make proper care of batteries almost idiot-proof.”
There are two particularly common ways of destroying a battery: under- and overcharging. The former results in lead sulfate hardening on battery plates while the latter boils the electrolytes out of the battery cells. Which is to say, both do serious damage. That’s why it’s a great idea to upgrade to a new charger, especially if your boat is equipped with a newer battery.
The good news is that the new generation of chargers does indeed take the guess-work out of powering up, with automatic phase buttons and a myriad of mechanisms built in to prevent under and overcharging. Models like Xantrex’s 12- and 24-volt XC chargers and Charles’ 2000 SP Series (below) can simultaneously charge up to three different battery chemistries (including flooded, gel, or AGM), and ProSport’s newer chargers (left) have fully automatic multistage charging controls, all features missing in older models.
To figure out what size charger you need, you’ll have to consider both the batteries you have onboard and how long you plan on being away from the dock. West Marine’s rule of thumb is as follows: If you’re spending a lot of time hooked up to shorepower, you need “enough amperage to equal the sum of the D.C. loads, plus ten percent of the amp-hour capacity of the batteries.” If you’re cruising or anchored out, you’ll need a charger that can replace the power consumed by all your D.C. loads, “plus an average charge rate equaling the amphours required divided by the hours available.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.