Sunday, January 15, 2012

Are Marine Grade Products Worth the Price?

Introduction by William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill

How true it the old adage, "you get what you pay for?  Not absolutely true, but a big consideration in your pursuit of a quality product that will serve your needs at the best price. In the case of marine products, an argument could be made in favor of using only "marine grade" in a saltwater environment, but what about fresh water?  Does the same assumption apply there?  Can you get a better product at a reasonable price?  After all, cost comparisons with similar non-marine items like refrigerators, deck hardware, folding chairs and plumbing supplies cost a good deal less, so why not go with the lower cost item and save some money?

I my opinion and experience, marine products should be preferred to non-marine anytime the product you are buying will be exposed to the elements or serving various uses in a moving vessel on a body of water, any body of water.  Marine products aren't simply made of non-corrosive materials, they're built with safety, utility and functionality in mind.

Doug and his wife Brenda of Boating With Dawsons, write seasonal articles informing boaters of new products,  providing useful tips on such things as upholstery, teak, boat utilities, enhancements, marine maintenance and repair.  In the following article from their website Doug shares his experience and his opinions as to  why "marine products" are the better choice for boaters.

Article by Doug Dawson
Having been in the marine industry all my life, I know the difference between marine parts and non-marine parts whether they are for your engine, cabin or on decks.  For over a half a century, our marine store sold and our service department installed a whole range of genuine marine products for boats.

                                                          THE DIFFERENCE 
 The first difference most people cite between marine and non-marine products is the price.  Marine products are more expensive, but there's good reason for that.  I can assure you that it's not the marine store trying to squeeze out a bigger margin. Marine products are designed specifically for boats.  Functionality, durability, fit and utility are what make marine products a better choice for boaters. 

Non-marine products, on the other hand are not built or designed with the boater in mind.  They will work, but not nearly as well or as long as products made specifically for marine use.  This is because they may not have the required safety features necessary for safe boating; the securing brackets, electrical breakers or non-corrosive characteristics necessary for a marine environment. They are likely to cause more problems than they are worth.

When my wife Brenda was a young girl and was involved in her father's television business she learned a valuable lesson in Zenith's motto: "Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten."  This is especially true in boating.  Paying a little more up front for quality marine parts could end up costing less in the long run and serve you far better.  It's like most other things in life, "you get what you pay for."  Here are some examples of where marine products can make a difference.

                                                      MARINE REFRIGERATOR
A marine fridge is designed with a door locking catch so the door won't open and spill the contents all over the galley in rough seas and it has brackets to hold the unit in place. Another great feature is that it's built in  standard sizes for standard sized openings on most boats so you won't have to pay for a custom installation.  Parts are made of stainless steel to deter moisture and prevent corrosion.  Some have integrated evaporators and most have either stops on the front of the shelves to keep them from falling out or have drawers.  They're designed to give you more product in less space.

They run on either 12/24 Volts DC or the combination of 12 volts DC and 110-120 Volts AC giving you more flexibility when cruising.  Better insulation, size of compressor, use of non-flammable refrigerant are all taken into consideration when designing a marine fridge as well as the option to use water or air cooling to rid heat generated by the refrigeration unit. They're engineered  to operate under rough conditions while underway, built to withstand violent movement, operate noiselessly and most importantly, consume an absolute minimum of battery power.  

As an aside:  if you're considering using a 110-120 Volt refrigeration unit instead of a 12/24 Volt unit to run it off an inverter, be sure to do your homework.  You need to be sure you'll have enough battery power to operate your fridge for the length of your stay on the water where shore power is not an option.

                                                    MARINE SINK HARDWARE
Buy marine taps, faucets and drains for the head and or galley.  True, it's easy and inexpensive to pick up a set of taps from your local discount store or building supply to replace your aged or out of fashion faucets, but all too often, they're not made of a non-corrosive material making them unsuitable for a boat installation.  Also, the mechanism for lifting the drain are different on a boat and the under sink space is much more confined than the typical residential bathroom.  Check out the sink hardware carefully before purchasing.  You'll probably find it less expensive in the long run if you buy from your local marina, ships store or boating supply.

                                                           MARINE HEADS
Charging the holding tank with holding tank chemicals not only reduces the odor, but also "works" in the tank to breakdown the sewage and paper.  When repairing a toilet, buy genuine parts for your make and model or you could face some smelly consequences.  Some boaters who have repaired toilets with the wrong parts have been punished unmercifully with the condition worsening and the corrective surgery costly.  You've heard the expression, "s_ _ t happens".  Don't let it happen in your bilge.  Buy the right marine parts and be sure to have them installed properly.

Deck chairs are a necessary purchase to accommodate guests on most larger cruisers and yachts.  Deck chairs should fold and stow easily, have a lower center of gravity for stability with rubber, non-skid feet to prevent sliding.  Non-marine home patio chairs for example, generally are too high with the feet too close together to offer any stability.  Again, there are no rubber feet on home chairs which could cause an unsafe situation where passengers and crew could slide across the deck in rough water. For the safety of your crew and guests, proper marine deck chairs are the best seat on deck.

Boat hardware should be stainless steel or marine grade plastic so it won't corrode or deteriorate.  Installing aluminum or cheap fittings will look dreadful after a year or so, and may stop being functional all together, requiring a repair or total replacement.  If you find yourself having to replace hardware every year or two, doesn't it make sense to spend a little more to get the right marine grade the first time?  Buy it right, buy it once.
                                                  MARINE CLEANING PRODUCTS
Washing the boat with the wrong product can shorten the life of the paint and/or gelcoat. Be sure to use marine cleaning products to extend the life of your finish.

If areas have soot/exhaust stains from the engines or stains around through the hull fittings (A/C outlets, cooling water outlets, etc.) find a product at your local marine supplier that is made for that specific purpose or you may irreparably harm the finish.

If you ever get oil and sludge in your bilge, try the marine absorbent pads to soak up and dispose of them according to your local environmental regulations. 

Keep in mind, all marine cleaning products should be used according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Some work better than others so do your research before buying.

These are only a few examples, there are many more. Most  mariners could rattle off at least a  handful of horror stories resulting from the use of marine substitutes.  When you consider what these products have over their counterparts, doesn't  it makes sense to go marine?  Even though it may cost a bit more in the beginning, it usually costs less in the long run.  Like I said earlier in this post, "buy right, buy once" for hassle-free boating.

On their website,  Boating With Dawsons,  the couple share tips and tricks to help make your boating easier and more enjoyable.

William L. Gills aka Bos'n Bill is the author of the book, Lubber's Log published by Llumina Press; a boating primer and adventure story about a couples experiences in moving up to a bigger boat.  

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