Your Boat Didnít Come With This, But is it Time for an Upgrade?
5 DIY safety improvements for older boats you can do this winter
Published: Saturday, January 9, 2021
Just as modern automobiles are required to have seat belts and safety glass, boat manufacturing safety standards that also reduce injuries and save lives have improved over the years. However, thanks to modern fiberglass many boats today are more than a decade old – providing owners with some opportunities for making safety improvements. With the help of the boat manufacturer standard-bearer American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC), Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) takes a look at some important boat construction safety improvements that have occurred in boat manufacturing since 2009 that owners of older boats may want to upgrade this winter.
2009: ELCI. Installing ground fault protection aboard your boat with an Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupter (ELCI) can prevent a dangerous electrical leak. First adopted in 2009 after tragic Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) incidents, ABYC standard E-11 requires an ELCI to be installed less than 10-feet from a boat’s shore power inlet connection on all new boats with AC electrical systems. ELCI breakers start at about $200 and can be installed in your boat’s power distribution panel, added as a separate panel or added in a separate enclosure next to your boat’s shore power inlet. Unlike a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), which only protects one 110-volt electrical outlet, installing an ELCI protects the entire vessel – a better return on your investment.
2010: Hose clamps. While double hose clamp standards were first put in place as part of the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 that established minimum safety standards for boats, the EPA added evaporative emission requirements in 2010, increasing the number of connections in modern fuel systems. ABYC standard H-24 requires boat manufacturers to double hose clamp all fuel fill hoses, and ABYC standard P-1 requires them on exhaust system hoses. It’s also a good practice to double clamp other hoses where fittings allow, however, some may not have sufficient barb length to accommodate a second clamp. ABYC also requires clamps made with 300 series grade stainless steel or better. Winter may be a good time to inspect all your boat’s clamps for corrosion and to ensure their connection.
2015: CO detector. Expanded to address diesel- powered vessels, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are now required on all new gas and diesel powered vessels (or equipped with such a generator) that have 1. a head and 2. a galley with a sink and 3. sleeping accommodations. If you have a big boat, each sleeping space separated by a bulkhead is also required to have a detector. ABYC cautions against use of non-marine rated CO detectors and reminds boaters that all detectors should be replaced after 5–7 years, depending on the model.
2018: Engine cutoff switch. ABYC manufacturing standard A-33 requires all new boats less than 26 feet overall in length and capable of developing 115 pounds or more of static thrust (roughly the size of 2-hp motor) to have an engine cutoff switch. The provision includes, but is not limited to, inboard engines, outboard motors and sterndrive engines. When retrofitting a cutoff switch to an older boat, look to your engine manufacturer for the switch to ensure compatibility. While most boaters are familiar with lanyard-type cutoffs that connect a person to a switch on the helm, newer wireless options may allow greater movement aboard the boat.
Navigation lights. While the standards for navigation lights have not changed, once they get to a certain age, boaters often replace them – an easy DIY project. However, some manufacturers sell navigation lights that don’t meet regulations. These lights are typically cheaper and do not provide the proper color quality, brightness or cutoff angles that boaters rely on to avoid collision. So how do you know you are buying a good nav light? The U.S. Coast Guard says things to look for include 1. Coast Guard approval, 2. the rated visibility of the light in nautical miles, 3. meets ABYC A-16, 4. “Tested by: laboratory name,” along with 5. manufacturer and model #.
For boaters who don’t have the confidence or knowledge to make these upgrades themselves, BoatUS encourages them to seek out a qualified ABYC technician at www.findaboattech.com.