Engine Room Upgrades

The most popular are often the easiest

March 5, 2020
Interior engine of a sport fishing boat.
Upgrading the lighting in the engine room can make a huge difference. Chris Rabil

The abuse our engine rooms take is perpetual: Pumps and equipment that literally never stop working always has us thinking outside the box for ways to improve the issues that we ultimately will be faced with at some point. In this business, the condition of your boat’s engine room is a direct reflection on the captain and the owner.

Most systems have a specific life span, and we do what we can to address issues before they become problems based on our prior experiences. But we also rely heavily on builders and yard crews to steer us toward solutions that will not only protect the investment, but which also will hopefully make our lives easier.


For many boats, Pacific-style ­overhead lighting is standard, and we thought they were bright only until LED lighting came along. In many situations, changing out your flickering fluorescents with pure, cool LEDs is practically plug-and-play.


Two years ago, we were sold on the idea of updating our engine room lights. These LEDs easily adapted to our existing lights, and when we tested the first one, we were amazed. It was a total game-changer once the rest of them were installed; we felt like we’d been working in the dark all those years, they were just that good. And what a difference the brighter, whiter light made. Not only for safety reasons—being able to really see the individual engine room components more clearly—but it almost made it enjoyable to work in such a well-lit space.

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There are several options when ­choosing LED lights, but whichever one you do choose, you can put the days of burned-out or melted ballasts behind you. We replaced ours on Shark Byte in one day. It was a do-it-yourself project that we are completely happy with.

Engine room hoses and marine silicone.
When it’s time to replace your engine room hoses, consider going with marine silicone where the application makes sense. Chris Rabil


When Capt. Jon Meade—of the 58-foot Ritchie Howell Roll Groove—moved from a top-notch deckhand position to the bridge, it was a natural fit. Meade’s ­attention to detail has made a statement of how well he can run an operation—not just in the fishing aspect, but in the ­maintenance department as well.

Meade immediately put his mind to discovering any issues well before they could keep him tied to the dock. He was especially concerned with the boat being a 2005 model. “I saw the manufactured date on the hoses in the engine room and decided they didn’t owe us anything, so it was time to change them,” he says. As the project ensued, he took his time ­replacing each hose, rerouting and securing them to make everything more serviceable and with a cleaner look.

It’s obvious when hoses are about to go: Cracks and dry rot on the outside are telltale signs that it’s time to replace them. You will always get what you pay for as far as longevity is concerned, so swapping your old black hoses for blue silicone is a good option. They are more expensive, but they will last longer and are much easier to keep clean.


Raw-Water Systems: Pumps and Impellers

Capt. Jason Parker recently ­completed a major repower of the 66 Hines Farley Reel Steel, and the entire engine room was gutted to the bulkheads. They removed and replaced just about every piece of equipment, making sure to do some improvements along the way. When Parker showed me the completed job, one thing that caught my eye was the update he made to quickly run a descale solution through the raw-water lines from the raw-water pump to the overboard dump. Being able to descale your system in this manner eliminates the need for additional equipment in what can be an already cramped engine room.

By putting fittings on both ends of the system, Parker can easily handle the descale process with a simple 5-gallon bucket. With a little ingenuity, time, and investment, he keeps marine growth at a minimum and maximizes water flow. And his systems will thank him for it in the long run.

For a more preventative approach, the crew of the 66-foot Spencer Conspiracy recently installed the ElectroSea system. This system produces, then introduces, a low level of chlorine in the system, keeping the lines free and clear of marine growth. Mate Tyler Prinsinski and Capt. Rob Lawson report they have not had any problems with their raw-water systems since the install, and that the ClearLine system has worked flawlessly for them.


One thing that absolutely lives by Murphy’s Law in the boating world are your raw-water impellers. They always seem to wear down to nothing in the middle of a trip or when you need them most. Much like having growth in your raw-water system, a worn or torn impeller can cause a similar issue. By periodically pulling apart your ever-running raw-water pumps to thoroughly inspect and replace any worn or suspect impellers or seals will save you from shutting down your entire operation to swap one out, especially if the impeller decides to go to pieces in the middle of a tournament.

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Boats break—it’s what they do. And no matter how hard we try to stop the inevitable, we can only do our best to head off potential problems at the pass. Preventative maintenance is something that any decent captain will tell you is the key to not only keeping your job, but also to keeping the investment in good condition—which, by the way, is your job.

Stay ahead of the trends and listen to your builder, yard crew and colleagues to see if what worked for them will work for you. Making informed ­decisions about possible updates will require research. It’s not always easy, but with a little effort, you can reward yourself with more fishing and less maintenance and ­repair-related downtime.


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