Although head maintenance is low on everyones fun task list, working on functioning head that has been flushed clean (flush with lots of clean water, soak in vinegar for 15 minutes, and then flush that through with more water) head is much more pleasant than working on a broken, clogged head.
Considering the excitement a failed seacock can generate, the lack of attention they typically receive is almost criminal. Tucked away in the dim recesses of your bilge, seacocks typically don't get a second thought with regards to preventative maintenance or inspections - until they fail to operate or even break off in your hand during operation (it happens, Ive seen it, and it isnt pretty).
Due the lack of maintenance they receive from the average sailor, I often refer to bilge pumps as the Rodney Dangerfield of boat equipment, meaning they just don't get no respect. Its a funny, but also troubling statement, particularly as bilge pumps are often the first and only line of defense against sinking.
Insulation is a greater energy-saving expedient; if our heater or air conditioner is undersized, fixing drafts, shading or insulating windows, and insulating non-cored laminate are all ways to reduce the thermal load. For boaters, however, that is only half of the equation.
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.
When testers dismantled Practical Sailors test holding tanks-the site of years of experiments with holding-tank chemicals, sanitation hoses, and vent filters-we hoped that it was the last hands-on contact wed have with marine sanitation systems for a long time. And then a friend came to us seeking advice on curing his regularly clogged head. He had checked the obvious culprits-scale buildup in the hoses, blocked vent, etc.-and found everything in proper order.
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.
If youve followed the first two installments in this three-part series on ensuring safe, fresh-tasting drinking water onboard, youve cleaned your freshwater tank, pre-filtered all water going into the tank, screened the vent, and disinfected the contents. Now that the water has sat in the tank, its time for one more filtration process; this time, focusing on improving taste and eliminating micro-organisms.
In the first part of our three-part series covering onboard water quality, we discussed protecting the tank with basic filtration and securing the tank vent. Further action is required, however, as the tank and its contents will always be far from sterile. Municipal water is filtered to remove turbidity, disinfected (typically with chlorine, ozone, or ultraviolet light), filtered once more (often very fine filtration to remove cryptosporidium cysts, which resist disinfection), and disinfected once more (with chlorine or chloramine) to protect the water while its in the distribution system. However, since we are storing the water on our boats, this process of secondary disinfection becomes our responsibility. So what are the options for treating water that is already in an onboard tank?