Maintenance Q&A with Warren

Hardtops, Outdrives, and Lake Water

Published in the November 2019 Issue November 2019 Feature Warren Childers

Question #1: I’m the third owner of a 1989 Stardust 18- by 70-foot houseboat with 200 hours. The last owner owned the boat for the past 10 years and has hardly ever taken it out of the slip. He has maintained the boat very well and changed the oil every year in engines and generator even though he only ran them monthly and never really used them much at all. The survey was rated “Average Plus” and all issues the surveyor found were repaired by the owner before I bought it. There are no signs of water anywhere in the bilge and everything in the engine bay looks near new. 
Now I worry that the boots will bust and the boat will suddenly sink. I am told I'm worrying too much that I should have the boat hauled this fall or winter to service outdrives. The marina shop is telling me to rebuild the outdrives completely and I don't think that sounds right considering there are no operational issues with them. Am I worrying too much? What do you suggest I do? -Submitted by Christopher Jones, Nashville, Tenn.

Warren: As long as nothing is leaking, I wouldn’t stress too much about waiting to have the boat hauled. I would keep a close eye on the engine compartment for any water. That said, I would get on the schedule to have the work done as soon as the marina can get to it. We advise customers to regularly change the boots, cables, gimble bearings, U-joints and anodes. Keep in mind, the cost of haul-out is usually the most expensive part. So remove anything that might break while the boat is out of the water.

Question #2: The marina I am at wants us to pump water from the lake to rinse our boats. Do you have an idea of how to clean the water enough that it would work for this purpose? Kentucky Lake is usually brown with dirt, so I thought of using a swimming pool filter and pump. Do you think this would clean the water enough in one pass and if it would supply enough to the high pressure pump? Do you know of someone that’s already done this? Do you know if there are any laws against this? -Submitted by Bethany Thorn from Earlington, Ky.

Warren: Actually, depending on how clear the water is at your marina, the lake water is probably better than tap water for cleaning your boat. They make marine water softeners for washing your boat. Spot Free for example makes one that hooks up to your water hose. You can also use household water filters. I have used a 20-micron filter on our lake water wash-down system on our own personal boats. These seem to do a good job.

Question #3: My wife and I looked at three houseboats this weekend. Each boat had something we liked and some things that we would change. The one boat we really liked (especially my wife) had a Bimini top over the sundeck. Another boat we looked at had a hard top, which I really like. The Bimini top canvas was about 10 years old and fairly dirty. I'm sure each has their advantages and disadvantages, and the boats are all in covered slips. What do you prefer and why? -Submitted by Dan Cooper from Las Vegas, Nev.

Warren: The top deck is our favorite place on the boat. Personally, I love a hard top. It is much cooler under a hard top compared to a canopy top. Also, a hard top does a much better job of keeping the rain out. If I had the funds, I wouldn’t think twice about changing out a canopy to a hard top. This is something that will also make your boat much more desirable when you are ready to sell. If you spend a lot of time away from the dock where you will really need the use of a top deck covering, you will not regret switching to a hard top.

If you have a question about houseboating, shoot Warren an email at

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