Overheating and corrosion are the primary causes of AC shore power cord problems. Secondary issues stem from improper use or some owner-fabricated MacGyverism gone bad (jury-rigged adaptors, botched plug installations, etc) – but that's another story all together.
Industry standards call for shore cords to have molded-on plugs with sealing flanges or appropriate weatherproof boots. The plugs themselves should be checked each time you disconnect shore power (prior to getting underway for example) or monthly at a minimum, particularly for discoloration or corrosion on or around pins and plug inlets.
By the time discoloration is visible at the front of a plug or inlet, you'll typically find that the damage is greater upon opening up the back for inspection. If left uncorrected, the damage will snowball (due to increasing resistance and heat build-up) until it burns a hole through the face of the plug, possibly leading to a fire.
Charred plugs and receptacles are the most common and are a result of resistance build-up due to loose or corroded connections, which in turn generate heat and the potential for fire. The problem is especially prevalent among vessels that continually run high energy loads such as water heaters and air conditioning units - you liveaboards know who you are.
Basic inspections of your AC shore power system are easily accomplished and well within the ability of any boater. The first step is securing all AC power to avoid accidental shock. Turn off your boat's main AC breaker, then the shore pedestal breaker. Next unplug the shore power cord and verify that all other sources of power (such as power on demand generators and DC to AC inverters) are turned off and their respective breakers secured in the off position.
Start your inspection with the shore power cord itself, ensuring it's constructed of proper marine grade components, uses appropriately sized wiring, and is the shortest cord that will get the job done. Always replace cords that show signs of chafe, cracks, split insulation, or those having electrical tape repairs.
Marina fires can grow so rapidly that firefighters have a difficult time confining and extinguishing this type of fire. Rapid extinguishing of this type of fire is not likely. Many times firefighters find themselves just trying to limit the fire growth and protecting exposures. The key to saving lives and property lies in fire prevention.
Educating boat owners who may not have the skills or knowledge to recognize fire hazards that may exist aboard their vessels is the first step in prevention.
Below is a list from Seaworthy Magazine that list causes of fires started aboard a vessel.
A marina occupied by tenants who are knowledgeable in fire prevention helps create a safer marina that all can enjoy.
Don't abandon your boat now that the weather is less than perfect. You need to run your engine(s) at least once every two weeks.
We have temperatures ranging from 30's to 70's, which will cause your cylinders and engine room to'sweat'. Keep your fuel tanks full to minimize condensation and corrosion problems later.
Please remember all children under the age of 12 must have life jackets on when on the docks.
Speed limit in the marina is 15mph.