Safety Tips for DIY Boat Repair

When you finally get around to tackling those boat repairs you’ve been putting off, don’t overlook the dangers many products pose to your health and the environment. You can minimize these risks by following a few safety tips for DIY boat repair.

Always wear a mask any time you drill, cut or sand fiberglass. The resulting silica dust can lead to silicosis, a type of obstructive lung disease, when inhaled. Although fiberglass is thought to be less carcinogenic than asbestos, it can still be harmful. Be aware that some older fiberglass boats also contain asbestos.

When repainting your boat’s interior, consider using latex paint instead of smelly, slow-drying, hard-to-clean oil-based paints. When painting over oil-based finishes, look for a primer that allows recoating with water-based latex. If you must use an alkyd paint, work in a well-ventilated area and keep away from open flames. When painting in enclosed spaces, wear appropriate clothes, gloves and a good-quality respirator designed for organic vapors.

Heavy metals
When getting rid of batteries or anything else containing toxic metals like lead, antimony, cadmium and arsenic, dispose of them properly. Many retailers offer battery recycling, so you can return your battery to the place where you bought it. Some retailers may even give you a discount. Otherwise, find a local battery recycling center, such as a hardware or big box store.

Many solder joints contain lead and sometimes antimony. Wear protective gear when working with solder, and work in a well-ventilated area if possible. Wash your hands afterward. 

–Frank P. Scalfano

Reprinted with permission from America’s Boating Compass, United States Power Squadrons

Want to learn more about how to analyze problems and possibly repair those problems on your vessel? Consider a course with America’s Boating Club Houston.

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