Are you a fishing enthusiast? Or is sailing with your buddies your favorite pastime? Regardless of what you use your boat for, you might be jeopardizing your health pursuing your boating goals.
But isn’t boating healthy? I presume you are already familiar with the annoying sounds your boat makes while moving in the water. Well, these sounds and the associated vibrations are the sole culprits for harming your body, and most importantly, your mind.
So how do noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat? What can you do to prevent it? Let’s find out.
Side Effects of Driving a Rattling Boat
A noisy boat that is super shaky can affect you in a number of ways. The following are some of the harmful effects of driving a rattling boat.
Reduced Attention Span
According to the U.S Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics report, in 2019, 4,168 accidents caused 613 deaths, 2,559 injuries, and $55 property damage. Most of the time, boating accidents are due to inattentive boat operators.
You need to be on the lookout for weather changes, nearby obstacles, and unsafe conditions when maneuvering your boat. Constant noise can reduce your attention span and lower your chances of hearing any alarms and hazard sensors.
So, if you are not vigilant enough when captaining your boat, you might fall victim to a boating accident.
To ensure safety, the U.S Coast Guard limits its workers to four-hour shifts in the water. Why? Because any time spent longer than four hours while driving a boat causes fatigue and reduces your decision-making abilities. This, in turn, can hamper your ability to control your ship.
Your hearing suffers due to exposure to high and low-frequency sounds while riding a boat. Any sound greater than 90 dB can damage the hearing power in your ear. It is not uncommon for engine noises to reach dangerous levels of 110 dB, making you prone to deafness.
For this reason, the U.S Coast Guard has made noise laws and set a limit of 86 dB (decibels) for powerboats, although the limit varies slightly by state ( 90 dB for some states). You might end up getting a ticket for violating this law.
Don’t you always end up conversing on top of your lungs in the middle of a crowd? Here is why. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), sound decibel levels affect communication
- When noise levels are above 80 dB, you may have to speak very loudly.
- In the case of sounds between 85 to 90 dB, you may feel like shouting to get heard.
- When noises increase above 95 dB, it’s necessary to move closer to the person you’re talking to.
A boat’s idle speed makes a noise of only 60 dB, but its noise level reaches 95 dB to 100 dB when it hits high speeds. This makes it difficult for everyone to communicate when on board, especially the captain, decreasing his awareness of the surroundings.
Damage to Muscles and Bones
If you ride a jittery boat too often, it can harm your joints, damage bones, and give you severe back problems.
Furthermore, muscles, connective tissues, and tendons are also affected. These soft tissues strain to keep your spine aligned.
Exposure to long hours of constant vibration in boats can overwork these tissues, resulting in pain, discomfort, and inflammation.
If the exposure to loud noises is long term, you may face difficulty in falling asleep. Insomnia further leads to lowered concentration levels and headaches, which affects your ability to safely drive your boat.
Additionally, insomnia causes irritability, depression, and anxiety. Since boating is done for pleasure and relaxation, too much noise and vibration can nullify the beneficial effects and damage your mental health.
Loss of Balance
The answer to the question, ‘How do noise and vibration affect you when operating a boat?’ can be described in one sentence – you can drown because of it. The idea seems far-fetched but loud noises above 90 dB damage the inner ear that controls your body’s balance.
As you can see, the loss of balance in a boat is dangerous. It makes you prone to fall injuries inside the vessel and increases your chance of drowning if you fall overboard.
Sources and Solutions of Noise and Vibrations in Vessels
When you take your boat in the water, a little amount of noise is acceptable, as it is a norm. But an excessively noisy boat is a sign of some underlying faulty mechanisms.
Here are some primary sources of noise and vibrations in your ship, along with their quick fixes:
Ever noticed a squealing sound coming from your boat? That will be your cutlass bearing, a worn-out one actually. A cutlass bearing rests in the metal strut of your ship, and the shaft( also metallic) passes through it.
The bearing is lined with rubber to help the shaft glide smoothly against it. This also prevents the bearing from abrasion. But the soft rubber wears out with time, leaving the two metal surfaces exposed and allowing them to come in contact.
Therefore, as the boat moves, you hear a loud metallic sound when the shaft rotates. It also produces a considerable amount of vibration.
Replace your cutlass bearing with a new one. Their prices vary, with the cheapest bearings for $55. Expensive cutlass bearings can be costly, with prices as high as $1700.
A misaligned or bent/worn out shaft is responsible for vibrating your boat. A shaft needs to run in a linear fashion from the engine to the propeller.
Let’s suppose you hit a submerged rock when driving your boat. What will happen next? It can damage the shaft below and throw it out of alignment, making your boat very jittery.
Make a habit of getting the shaft’s alignment checked as a part of your boat’s regular maintenance. In case of a bent shaft that’s too old now, I would suggest investing in a new one to save your boat the trouble of ‘shivers.’
If you hear a horrible thumping noise coming from your boat, you probably have a distorted propeller problem. Propeller blades lay exposed in the water, so they are likely to get damaged more often.
Get your boat propellers balanced and tuned often. It’s cheaper to get a nicked propeller repaired, but getting a new prop is not a bad idea either if the propellers are too old.
No engine is ever silent, and all of them produce vibrations. However, an engine that is too loud is bad news, probably because of worn-out bearings or a sour air-fuel mixture.
Replacing a two-stroke engine with a four-stroke engine will reduce noise by 50%. Moreover, you can add a soundproofing foam barrier in the engine compartment ( applies to inboard engines only) and lose up to 35 dB of noise.
You can also add a sound dampening material in the cowling of your outboard motor engine. I suggest using a self-adhesive butyl rubber anti-vibration membrane for this purpose.
A quiet boat is a good boat. So tame it and ensure your safety by making the necessary repairs and replacements that I mentioned above.
This way, you will enjoy more and make the most of your boat without putting your health at risk.