In Focus: Boat maintenance important for new owner safety

When boaters think of marine safety, their first thoughts often run to lifejackets, liferafts and flares, says Sarah Wallbank, CEO at August Race, but as well as the obvious equipment, boat owners – especially those new to the water – also need to think about maintenance.

“Every year thousands of boats sink (or are scrapped), often due to poor maintenance,” Wallbank says. “Regular maintenance of a boat is important to avoid threat to passenger safety on the water.”

Cleaning and gelcoats

August Race manufactures boat cleaning and protection products, used by RIBs to yachts via SUPs and powerboats, and says that cleaning is essential to check a boat’s seaworthiness.

“Whether polishing a boat, cleaning RIB tubes or indeed neutralising rust on fittings, it is far easier for an owner to inspect a boat’s seaworthiness when it is in a clean condition,” says Wallbank.

“A good example of this is properly stripping off antifoul and inspecting before a reapplication. Just a small amount of damage to a fibreglass hull could ultimately result in the gradual ingress of water and a weakening of the hull’s overall structure. As an industry, we need to remind owners of this, especially those new to boating who, as I hear anecdotally, can often start out with a small second-hand RIB.

“And if it sinks due to poor maintenance? As well as passenger safety, the unfortunate by-product of a submerged vessel is the creation of multiple pollutants such as fuel discharging in the marine environment compromising marine life and plantation rich sea-beds and this is just the start. Properly looking after a boat can help to aid its longevity and prolong it’s useful life which ultimately means less damaged RIB tubes in landfill and less abandoned end-of-life vessels in our oceans.”

Wallbank’s not aiming to teach her granny to suck eggs, but she states it’s important that new owners especially are made aware of the safety concerns.

“UV damage to gelcoat is inevitable in a marine environment, however, a good UV protective polish will significantly slow down the process and make it much more manageable,” she says. “The process of removing heavy oxidisation often involves an abrasive cutting compound or even (in extreme cases) sanding which when carried out multiple times will thin the gel rendering it more vulnerable to damage.

Looking after RIB tubes

“The same applies for an inflatable RIB tube,” she says. “UV rays will dry out the fabric and cause a milky looking surface which can be removed using a good quality RIB tube cleaner, however, the result of not applying a hi-absorption UV protector will mean that this process will need to be repeated often. This will result in the eventual thinning of the fabric and potentially compromise the integrity of the air-tight seal.

“Thus, having fully cleaned and inspected a boat the next, and probably the most important step, is to protect. Prevention is always much more preferable to cure.”

Wallbank’s built her company on boat protection and the products are now stocked in over 250 outlets in the UK (represented by Barrus), with her expansion sites firmly set internationally, including Japan, Australia and Europe.

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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