PS Advisor June 2002 Issue

PS Advisor: 06/02

Fender Boards
You guys seem to have the best advice on every aspect of boating; so thought I'd try my luck with my favorite newsletter editors. (Did I patronize you too much?)

I'm looking to make up a set of fender boards for use on our 55' sailboat for cruising in Newfoundland where we expect to tie up to old fishing piers and will need protection from dirty pilings and who knows what else. Can you offer any suggestions on sizing and type of wood?

Many thanks, and I really do find your newsletter to be super!  

-Doug Bruce
Via e-mail

Well, Douglas, of course we're going to give you whatever you ask for from here on out, even unto half our paltry kingdom.

Fender boards are definitely a good idea up in Newfoundland, where you will indeed find dirty pilings and plenty of 'em.

There's no big mystery to the boards, and you can make them as plain or fancy as you like. Plain is better. The idea is for the board to span the gap between two vertically hung fenders, and take the load of the piling along its length. Go with a soft wood like pine (no knots) for more cushioning, or a harder wood for more durability. We'd choose construction-grade pine planks. Length should be 4-6' (or whatever is convenient to stow) Radius the corners so they won’t have any points to dig in or catch, and drill to accept lines.

You could paint or varnish them if you want them to last (and to make them easier to clean), but don't spend a lot of time painting—they’ll get trashed pretty quickly.

You could also attach rubber strips or lengths of old firehose to the boards for extra cushioning and protection outboard.

You may end up fastening all the fender and fender board pendants to your lifelines and stanchion bases as we all do, despite knowing better— but you'll find life easier if you set up a system ahead of time where you can suspend everything from real cleats, or at least from preset shackles or clips on the toerail.

Have fun in Newfoundland — it's an impressive place, the real McCoy.


Head Hose Sclerosis
I read with interest each article you provide as a means of not only learning the whats, but also the whys. Have you in the past covered the process by which the exit hoses of a saltwater- flushed head undergo their own form of atherosclerosis?  Is there a means to head this off before one ends up dragging the offending hose out of the boat, and beating it senseless on the dock to the horror of fellow dock-mates?

Thanks for doing what you do.

-Maj. Vincent P. Wawrzynski, USMC

Practical Sailor last reported on head hoses in the September 2000 issue, in which the SeaLand OdorSafe sanitation hose was rated best at resisting the permeation and release of odor. That article didn't address the kind of sclerosis we all know about—that nasty, crusty agglomeration of calcified blecch in the discharge hose, made up of all things imaginable and some not.

We called Raritan Engineering and spoke with John Rudderow in their tech support department. He said that, in marine toilet hose, you generally get what you pay for, but that a decent-quality hose should last at least five years, given good care. Good care means an installation that lets water flow freely, decent intake water, and complete flushing after every use.

For periodic maintenance, John Rudderow stands by the wisdom of the ages: Pour about two gallons of 100% white vinegar into the head and pump it into but not all the way through the system. Let the vinegar stand in the system for a day or so, then pump it on through.

Rudderow says some people use a 25-32% solution of muriatic acid, but he prefers the vinegar as a more natural solution. "The muriatic acid is quicker, but riskier—people have to be very careful with it. It shouldn't go overboard, and it shouldn't stay in a holding tank— you'd have to pump the holding tank right away."

Major, if you reach the point of removing the hose and beating it senseless on the dock, we know where you are, because we've been there. But as you eyeball the inside of that hose, preparatory to whomping it, consider that you've already done the hard part by removing it from the head. Best to treat the boat and its occupants to some nice fresh hose.

Many people new to marine toilets don’t know what "complete flushing" means. It means pumping everything out of view, then pumping the bowl completely clean, then switching arms and pumping some more. It means pumping so long that the people in the rest of the boat get the idea that either there's something very wrong with you, or that you are an experienced marine toilet user.

For more information, try e-mailing

And thanks for doing what you do.


Oil Change and a Scrub?
Possibly you can answer a question about what to add to the oil in diesel engines to flush out old oil. Somewhere I read that if you want to clean your engine you add something to the oil, run the engine for a very short period, change the oil, repeat, and then change it once again, including all the filters.  Any help you can provide would be great. By the way, your articles are great. I really enjoy receiving your paper.

-Bradford Munro
Duxbury, MA

Don't bother to add anything to your oil to help clean the engine or flush the dirty oil out better. Just do regular oil and filter changes. As you know, you should only do an oil change after the engine has been brought up to operating temperature. This will thin the oil and help it drain easily into the pan.

In a diesel, plain old black oil is no cause for alarm; the blackness comes from carbon extracted from the oil by the heat of the working engine. It just needs changing on schedule. But if you're finding sludge or grit in your oil, it may be that the engine has been run too long with broken-down oil, and acids are eating into the bearing surfaces inside.

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