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Warning – Fresh water + Marina or Boats with on Board Electrics could = EDS

Posted by on August 6, 2013

Like so many blue water cruising sailors, I think nothing of diving overboard for a swim whenever we are in clear warm water even near marinas and  docks. When we were meandering through the canals of France a few years ago, I joined friends in fine splashes in the Soame River, the Burgundy Canal and other places.  So a few months ago when Beth Leonard* and I were having dinner together and talking about her work with Boating US, I was shocked as she described the research she was doing into several apparent drownings that happened in fresh water and rivers. Turns out stray electrical currents from boats and marina wiring had caused the deaths. I.e. they were electrocutions, not drownings. She went on to say that amazing small amounts of electrical leakage could cause death, as little as one third of the power needed to run a 40 watt bulb. This is not a problem in salt water, only in fresh or brackish water. You can read about her research by clicking here –

The simplest way to avoid the risk is to swim at least 200 yards from any fresh water marina and away from boats with on-board power.

*Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger are taking time off from their extensive meanderings on board 47 foot Hawk to top up their cruising kitty. You can read some interesting articles on their website –

2 Responses to Warning – Fresh water + Marina or Boats with on Board Electrics could = EDS

  1. Matt Marsh

    Very true, and very scary. It doesn’t take much of a fault to produce a 6 V/m field (enough to paralyze or kill a swimmer); a marginal shorepower connection on a boat twenty metres away is more than sufficient.

    While the electrocution risk may not be as bad in a saltwater marina, it’s not completely gone; if you swim between a boat with an AC fault and the pier to which that fault is grounding through the water, or if you touch a metal component that’s associated with a fault, the electric field could still be enough to paralyze (and therefore drown) you. Swimming in any marina is, I think, a bad idea.

  2. Christiansailing

    Thanks for the article, Lin/Larry. Unfortunately we lost two young boys in our area (East TN) due to this very issue.

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