stay safe on board and at the dock
Education sheds light
on shocking experience
We keep our catamaran on a metal lift. One hot summer day, I raised the boat so I could work on the lower units from underneath while standing on an old skiing tube.
I couldn’t reach some of the bolts, so I grabbed the boat lift’s iron frame to pull myself up. But each time I tried, my arms and shoulders started trembling as if I had done push-ups to exhaustion. After working all day in the heat, I thought I was just tired and dehydrated.
I asked my wife to unplug the lift motors from the shore power. With the electricity disconnected, I could easily grab the metal lift and pull myself up. Obviously, current was leaking, and the trembling I felt was a mild electric shock.
The following spring, my wife and I took Marine Electronics. One section covered the necessity of making sure your boat has a secure shore power connection with the correct polarity and ground.
The instructor, Kip Hine, talked about a tragic accident in which three boys were electrocuted after diving from a dock into a Virginia lake. A metal pontoon boat tied to the dock had a faulty electrical system and was sending shore power into the water.
The story reminded me of my “shocking experience” at the boat lift. When I asked Kip how to eliminate stray current, he suggested checking the dock’s ground. I asked an electrician to show me the ground pole. He walked to the meter, pointed out the ground wire and said it would lead to the ground pole. When he sorted through the weeds to find the ground wire, he found that it had mostly disintegrated before reaching the ground pole. I’m not even sure there was any wire left. We fixed the problem with new wiring and a new ground.
So before taking your boat out this spring, check the electrical system on both your boat and your dock. To learn more about shore power, electronics and your boat’s electrical system, take the Marine Electronics course. It could save your life!