Several of our dock customers received an e-mail within the last few days outlining instructions on what to do to file an insurance claim for their boat should it encounter the oil spill while docked in a marina. The e-mail led them to believe that they would have to damages to their boats space due to the oil in the water. The e-mail (which now is appearing on several sites on the Internet) further went on to explain about filing a claim with British Petroleum should their boat be uninsured at the time of exposure to the approaching oil slick. This email made us take pause to think about what the effects of oil were to a boat exactly.
Pardon the elementary mechanics lesson here, but oil is inside of your engine, sealed away from the water environment that your boat travels in. Furthermore, your engine, whether inboard or outboard, takes in water from the ocean, gulf, lake, river, or bayou in which your boat travels to cool the engine. It is critical that the oil and water in your engine be kept separate. So traveling through water with an oil slick might logically be cause for alarm, or at least the lawyers may want you to believe so.
A quick call to our favorite local marine mechanic answered our questions on this manner. Oil floats on top of the water. Engines are designed to run below the water. The water intake for your engine is below the water line when you are traveling in your boat. Therefore, the oil intake into your water cooling system is minimal. Our mechanic recommends a flush of your water cooling system once you finish traveling through the oil with the same product that they use to clean up animals after an oil spill– Dawn dishwashing detergent.
While boating in the waters affected by this disaster and the resulting oil slick bearing down on us is definitely is not boating in ideal conditions, there is not a high danger of damaging your boat’s engine from the oil. If you are one of the volunteers helping with the cleanup effort, or considering doing so, don’t let concern for your boat’s engine stop you from your community and environmental service. Just make sure to flush your boat completely with a mixture of water and dishwashing detergent immediately after getting your boat out of the water.