Cracked nylon thru-hulls are a common problem, as a walk in almost any boatyard will bear out. Unlike fittings constructed of industry approved materials (bronze, Marelon, etc.) nylon thru-hulls are not recommended for use at or below the waterline. Age often plays a factor in the failure of nylon thru-hulls, but ultraviolet light is the main culprit. While different brands vary widely in their susceptibility to UV damage, some are so poorly made they can fail within the first year of use. The stress placed on the thru-hull by an unsupported hose can also cause failure, with the weight of the hose acting like a lever as the boat bounces around while underway.
It is surprising to see equipment with no moving parts carry such an array of safety warnings. But any time water and higher-voltage AC electricity are mixed, there are details worth thinking about. The risk of shock can be lessened through a firm commitment to three-conductor wiring that follows the American Boat and Yacht Councils guidelines. This includes maintaining the continuity of the green grounding that links the boiler and metal housing to the boats ground. Strict adherence to high-quality crimp connectors, appropriate wire gauge, and care in keeping the neutral and hot wires consistent with the vessels and docks power supply are paramount.
If we used our boats like the family car, back and forth to work each day, fuel would never sit for more than a few weeks and it would never age. Instead, boats sit for weeks at a time in-season, and for months during the off-season. Water, oxygen, bacteria, metal ions, and even instabilities in the molecules themselves combine to turn fresh fuel into a soup that will clog filters, corrode fuel systems, and leave us stranded. Fuel refineries have long known this, and all products are dosed with inhibitors at the refinery; however, these dosages are calculated for the normal distribution and storage times, not half-full tanks that will sit for months or even years.
Diesel engines have evolved into incredibly reliable power sources. Change the oil, mind the charging system and batteries, and most importantly, always give them clean fuel. First there is diesel bug. Bacteria and fungus (not algae-that is incorrect nomenclature) can infect the tank, feeding on the diesel and producing volumes of tank-, line-, and filter-clogging biomass with the consistency of snot. It can be prevented by the regular use of biocides (see PS August 2013), but…
Each AGM battery we tested underwent a minimum of five discharge and recharge cycles to a loaded 11.7 volts before being ampere-hour-capacity tested. This cycling ensured that each battery had cycled up to its rated amp-hour (Ah) capacity. If the battery did not cycle up to rated Ah capacity, we ran a few more cycles and tested again.
Jerry cans are a fact of life when cruising on small to mid-size cruisers. When fitting out our 37-foot cruiser for an extended trip from Lake Ontario to the Bahamas we supplemented our diesel tankage with four jerry cans for diesel and three gas cans to power the dinghy and run the water maker/generator.
Autopilots are one piece of electronics gear that truly has something to offer every sailor-from gunkholer to bluewater cruiser. Having this extra crewmember onboard not only eases the burden of shorthanded sailing, but also helps prevent helm fatigue. An autopilot allows solo sailors to use the head, more easily raise sails, or grab a bite to eat. Crewmembers can enjoy a passage, passing the time reading a book or watching the scenery without being a slave to the helm.
Pulling hoses is generally low on the fun list. They are in bad places, jammed onto crusty hose-fitting barbs, and have stiffened over the years. As part of our 2016 update on long-term tests, we needed to wiggle loose a few of the sanitation hoses were testing to see how they were looking on the inside-a job much less pleasant than new installation.