If you've spent much time at all around boats, you have undoubtedly been faced with the following problem at least once. After much anticipation, the day of your fishing trip has arrived. All of the gear has been loaded aboard the boat; food, drink and ice stashed in the cooler; bait and lures rigged and ready.
Maybe you've towed your boat to a local boat ramp or one many miles away. Or you could be at the marina, or even boarding a boat docked in the canal behind your house - it doesn't matter. You and your buddies climb aboard, raring to go, and hit the key. Nothing happens. Or you hear that grinding noise emitted by a starter motor pitifully straining to turn the engine over. Dead battery! Didn't somebody check it last night? I thought you were going to!
A dead or weak battery has to be the single most common cause of ruined (or at least delayed) fishing trips. Salt water fishing boats are notorious for having some sort of electrical drain that can gradually weaken or kill even the strongest 12-volt battery. Once your battery is too low to crank the engine, your options narrow considerably. Jumper cables are often impractical on boats because they usually aren't long enough to reach to another boat's healthy battery.
If you have an on-board generator, you could fire it up to charge the dead battery and then start the engine. It may also be possible to use jumper cables to connect the engine to the generator battery, assuming the genset itself is healthy.
With most outboard boats, though, you may be out of luck. In the old days, you pulled off the cowling and removed the coiled-up starter rope the manufacturer provided, then attempted to pull-start the engine. That was always fun, especially with a V-6. (Did you ever notice that the pull rope was always a little too short to do the job?) Nowadays, the new generation of computer-controlled outboards can't be pull-started, and the computers themselves demand a fairly high level of voltage to start the engine. You need more juice than ever.
The dead-battery scenario doesn't just occur at the outset of a trip, either. How many times have you drifted all day with the bait-well pump running, only to have the engine barely turn over when it's time to go home? If you're lucky, the engine starts and you breathe a sigh of relief. But with the amount of electrical demand we tend to put on our boats these days, you may be stuck. Instead of a jump you'll be looking for a tow.
It goes without saying that you should maintain your batteries properly and keep them fully charged, but in the event that they should let you down, a new product will put you back in business. The SecureStart Marine Jump Starter from Bolder Technologies of Golden, Colorado, provides enough amperage to jump-start an engine in situations when the boat's battery just won't do the job.
"The SecureStart Marine Jump Starter is the first emergency jump starter that is truly user-friendly," says Jim Wagner, National Account Manager for Bolder Tech. "Because of its advanced Thin Metal Film (TMF) battery technology, SecureStart is small and light enough for anyone to handle. And to be sure SecureStart is always ready to work, the unit gives an audible beep when it needs to be recharged, similar to a household smoke detector."
SecureStart provides 900 peak amps of power, which should be enough crank most marine engines. It comes in a corrosion-proof blue case and even includes a halogen flashlight for low visibility situations. The unit is totally self-contained and weighs only 4.8 pounds. All of this is made possible because of the breakthrough development of TMF battery technology.
Unlike conventional batteries, which have groups of battery plates hanging inside the case like file folders, TMF batteries have an extremely thin lead foil, wound tightly to achieve the maximum amount of surface area in the smallest volume. More surface area means more power, and unique cast-on end connectors transfer the power more efficiently in and out of the battery, eliminating the "power bottleneck" common with conventional batteries.
TMF batteries are built like a capacitor, which produces a very low internal resistance that greatly reduces voltage drop during cranking. The more voltage you have available during cranking, the faster the engine will spin, and the more likely it is to start. And that higher voltage will also supply the power necessary for the engine's computer to function properly. The TMF batteries need no voltage regulation because of their inherent voltage stability.
SecureStart comes with 36-inch jumper cables, and the TMF batteries will hold their charge for up to one year. In addition, the TMF batteries do not suffer from the memory effect that can lead nickel-cadmium batteries to an early grave, and can be repeatedly discharged and recharged without losing power. TMF batteries supply the same amount of power as much larger conventional rechargeable batteries, so they offer substantial size and weight savings. They are also easy to recycle, which makes them environmentally friendly.
The batteries recharge rapidly, often in minutes, and SecureStart's charge-level indicator tells you how charged they are at a glance. And, as Jim Wagner pointed out, an audible alarm goes off when voltage drops too low. The best part of the story may be that the TMF cells are manufactured using inexpensive, readily available raw materials, so they are also quite cost effective. This allows the company to sell the marine SecureStart (they also make an automotive version) for only $119.
Bear in mind that SecureStart won't help if you have a problem with the engine itself, such as a fuel problem or a faulty starter motor. It supplies starting power only momentarily, so if you've worn your battery down by trying to start your engine, SecureStart won't help. But it's the just the ticket for starting a healthy engine whose only problem is a weak battery.
SecureStart is available in many marine outlets around the country, or you can order one online at www. SecureStartnow.com, or by calling (877) 215-7278, toll-free. To learn more about TMF battery technology, check out www.boldertech.com. To make matters even more interesting, Bolder is about to introduce a new boat-starting battery that combines TMF batteries with advanced electronics. We'll keep you informed on the developments.
The bottom line is that for only 119 bucks you can virtually eliminate worrying about being stranded by a dead battery. There's peace of mind, knowing that you may never again have to tug on that stupid pull-cord under the cowling!
Other Emergency Starting Sources
Roadmaster (Jump 'n Start Portable Power Station), (732) 542-8400
Statpower (PowerPAC Portable AC Power Station), www.statpower.com
Wagan (9818 Power Zone), www.wagan.com