What Should I Know for Freshwater vs. Saltwater Boating?

What Should I Know for Freshwater vs. Saltwater Boating?

Water is water, right? Well, in the boating world, that’s not entirely true. There are a few major differences when it comes to boating in saltwater versus boating in freshwater, and some boats are designed for only certain applications.

Before you take your custom powerboat out to the lake or ocean, here’s what you need to know about boating in fresh water versus salt water to keep your boat and yourself safe on the water.

Different Water Conditions

The difference between freshwater and saltwater boating that you’ll actually feel is the difference in the water conditions.

Freshwater boating typically takes place on lakes and rivers. Since the water is mostly contained, the conditions are usually pretty calm—at least until another boat drives too close to you! The lack of waves and currents is gentler on your boat (and its passengers) and makes it much easier to navigate.

Saltwater boating usually takes place on a much larger body of water, like the ocean. The ocean, as you’ve likely seen on countless documentaries, is a rough place. Unless you find a calm cove or harbor, the waves are bigger, and the currents are stronger than any freshwater location you can find. The harsher conditions make it more difficult to control your custom powerboat.

In addition to the harsher conditions, saltwater bodies are typically much larger than lakes. Since you’re more likely to get lost, make sure you have navigational and emergency equipment just in case.

Saltwater Means More Maintenance

Not only is saltwater harder on you, but it’s also harder on your custom powerboat. Saltwater is around five times more corrosive than freshwater, and the salty ocean air corrodes metal ten times faster than inland air. That means when you finish boating for the day, you need to rinse off the metal parts of your boat with fresh water:

  • Railings
  • Brackets
  • Exposed bolts
  • Engines
  • Props

Don’t forget to wash off your hull too. Saltwater is more abrasive than freshwater and can wear away your hull’s protective coating quicker. If you leave your boat in saltwater for long periods of time, make sure you remove any algae or barnacles that might appear. Barnacles won’t only make your boat look ugly, but they’ll also hurt your fuel efficiency and slow you down in the water from drag.

If you’re using a freshwater boat in saltwater (which we’ll get to later), make sure to flush out your engines after each use. Boat motors are designed to pull in water. If you leave that corrosive saltwater in your engines for a prolonged period of time, it could do serious damage.

Protect Your Dash and Electronic Systems from Saltwater Corrosion

If you plan on boating in saltwater, make sure you have saltwater-resistant electronics. Saltwater that splashes up into the console or just mist in the air is enough to get into your dashboard electronics and corrode the wires inside.

Before hitting the saltwater, upgrade to marine-grade electronics that can handle the corrosivity of the water or be prepared to clean your electronic devices thoroughly after each use. Most high-end custom powerboats come standard with marine-grade devices, so you won’t have to worry about pesky saltwater destroying your gadgets.

Freshwater vs. Saltwater Boats

Because boating in freshwater is so different from saltwater, most boats are designed with a specific type of water in mind. You can get a freshwater boat or a saltwater boat. There are a few key differences with each that help them withstand their respective water conditions.

Corrosion Resistance

Since saltwater is so rough on metal, saltwater boats are designed to be corrosive resistant. That doesn’t mean they’re corrosion-proof. They’ll still require regular cleaning and maintenance, but they can stand up to saltwater’s corrosive nature much better than freshwater boats.

Most saltwater custom powerboats come with closed cooling systems. That means they don’t need to pull in surrounding water to cool the engines like freshwater boats do. Instead, they stay cool using freshwater or coolant that’s stored in the boat to limit exposure to nasty saltwater.

Hull Design

Your custom powerboat’s hull is what takes the brunt of the abuse from rough water conditions. With that in mind, saltwater boat hulls are designed to take a bit more abuse and chop through rougher waters than their freshwater counterparts.

Saltwater hulls have a deep V shape that’s designed to cut through waves and maneuver better in rough waters. They also offer more stability.

Because freshwater lakes and rivers aren’t as deep—and because they don’t need the added stability in rough conditions—freshwater boats typically have a shallower V-shaped hull to make sure they don’t run aground if they get too close to the shore. Some freshwater boats even have flat hulls to glide over smooth water.

Can You Use a Freshwater Boat in Saltwater (and Vice Versa)?

The short answer is yes; you can use a freshwater boat in saltwater and vice versa. Of course, there are a few things to consider before jumping into a different pond, so to speak.

Because freshwater boats aren’t designed to resist corrosion, you’ll have to really clean your boat after each use. Rinse the saltwater off the deck and hull and flush out your engines every time you get back to the dock. With the shallower V-shaped hull, freshwater boats also aren’t ideal for the rough saltwater conditions. It’s a good idea to stay close to the shore until you get a feel for how your freshwater boat maneuvers in the different conditions.

Using a saltwater boat in freshwater is a much simpler process. There’s no corrosion to worry about, and the deep V hull will easily cut through the minor wake you’ll find in most rivers and lakes. The only thing you’ll need to be aware of is water depth. The deeper hull sits lower in the water. Be careful when you get close to shorelines or when launching your custom powerboat.

Choosing the Right Custom Powerboat

When shopping for a new custom powerboat, you’ll need to consider where you plan on boating most often. If you’re going to stick around lakes and rivers, a saltwater boat will likely be overkill for what you need. Obviously, if you’re planning on boating in the ocean or other body of saltwater, a saltwater boat is almost a necessity.

If you want a versatile boat that can handle any type of water, a saltwater boat will typically be the better choice. They can handle the rough conditions and corrosion of saltwater and easily make the transition to freshwater without any preparation.

If you’re looking for a versatile, powerful, and stylish boat that will work in both saltwater and freshwater, you need a Mystic. Mystic custom powerboats are built to order with your preferences in mind. Contact us today to schedule a one-on-one meeting to discuss your needs. Start enjoying life on the water.