PS Advisor 01/15/98


From Freshwater to Salt
I plan to move from the Chicago area to North Carolina. My Catalina 30 has spent its entire life on Lake Michigan in freshwater with minimal critters and low bottom growth (albeit plenty of zebra mussels). I have an Atomic 4 and am wondering if I have to consider the effects of saltwater on my engine. Does the saltwater actually get into the engine and will it hurt the engine?

In the Great Lakes, it is illegal to even have a Y-valve on the head. There are pump-out stations at every harbor. Will I find them in the North Carolina area?

Will my Catalina 30 be an acceptable boat for that area? Do I have to sell my boat?

I look forward to your answers.

Jim DErrico
Wauconda, Illinois

Because several of us here have also made the move from the Great Lakes to the ocean, we are well familiar with your concerns.

Most original Atomic 4 installations are raw-water cooled, which means that saltwater will circulate through the cooling passages inside your engine. And, yes, it will over time cause some corrosion. If you plan to keep the engine a long time, consider investing in a freshwater cooling upgrade. We suggest you contact Don Moyer at Moyer Marine, 3000 Derry St., Harrisburg, PA 17111; 717/564-5748 or Indigo Electronics, 10 Wayfin Circle, Newport News, VA 23606-1138 for information and prices on purchasing such a kit. Indigo sells one for $495.

More areas on the US coasts are being declared no-discharge zones, which means that holding tanks for the toilet must be used. We do not know if the various sounds such as Albemarle or Pamlico are so designated, but if not, probably will be within the next few years. Outside the three-mile limit, however, you can discharge overboard. Because the no-discharge areas do not necessarily encompass great areas, it seems to be understood that boats will pass through and into other areas; so, Y-valves are not illegal anywhere we know of on the East Coast. But, in a no-discharge area you may have to demonstrate a method of locking it in the tank position. Installation of pump-out stations has been slow in many areas, delaying clean water action such as no-discharge zones. But, some progress is being made. In fact, the EPA will not approve a no-discharge zone until it is satisfied that there is a sufficient number of pump-out stations.

Your Catalina 30 should be a fine boat for the North Carolina sounds. There is shallow water in the sounds, however, so draft does become a consideration. Your boat probably draws either 4′ 4″ (shoal keel) or 5′ 3″ (standard keel), both of which are acceptable, but the less the better, except for offshore.

The changes don’t end here, however.

You’ll notice quite quickly that all of your stainless steel hardware, such as stanchions, rigging and cleats, will quickly tarnish. It’s an annual chore keeping them polished.

Fasteners you thought were stainless may prove themselves to have more mild carbon steel in them than you thought. The rust from them is tell-tale.

Things inside the cabin are not as vulnerable to surface corrosion, but salt air will have some effect on metals just about anywhere on the boat. And not just stainless steel, but aluminum and brass, too. It requires a bit more monitoring and maintenance than you’re used to, but you’re not alone and there are always solutions (read: more work!).

On the plus side, your cruising range is unlimited and there certainly are critters to keep you interested, from starfish to gamefish to whales.

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here