3. Maintenance lapses often lead to both fuel and electrical fires. Check your fuel system regularly, especially the fuel lines. Replace any lines that show wear-small cracks, discoloration, softness, and so on-at a cost of about $3 per foot. Stainless-steel hose clamps ($3 per clamp) should keep the hoses secure and leak-free, but they shouldn't be so tight that they cut into the hose. If you have an metal fuel tank, look it over each season for signs of corrosion and make sure it's secured in place. With plastic tanks, look for swelling, bulging, or any area of discoloration.
4. Other preventative tips: Double the number and size of the fire extinguishers that the Coast Guard requires for your size vessel and learn how to use them (inspect them once a month). Install an extinguishing system in your engine box. Kidde, Fireboy-Xintex, and Metalcraft make systems that are heat activated and flood the engine compartment with FM200 or FE241-gases that replaced Halon-to the point where combustion can no longer be supported. For liability reasons, have the installation done by a pro. You can also buy some time in the event of a fire by applying fire retardant to all upholstery. Try Fire and Flame Guard by Kelly ($17 for a 16-ounce bottle, www.thekellyco.com). Finally, stow all flammable materials in an area with good circulation and away from the engine compartment and any electrical connections.