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A boat’s fresh water system needs annual maintenance to keep it in good condition. Some boats have far more complex systems than others, with pressurised hot and cold water, associated pumps, an accumulator, calorifier and pressure valves, all to keep a boat owner busy. On the other hand, smaller boats usually have unpressurised systems which means they are much less complex, therefore easier to maintain and less to go wrong.

Water system maintenance and troubleshooting

Water pumps tend to be robust devices that are capable of operating for many years without trouble, particularly if there’s a filter in the system ahead of the pump. However, they are not immune from wiring and other electrical supply problems and ultimately have a finite lifespan.

Leaks from a tank, or another part of the system, however, are more commonly found. These can be caused in a number of ways, the most obvious being a flexible tank that wears a hole due to chafe, although even stainless steel tanks have the potential to develop pinholes that can be difficult to track down.

Water tanks

I have to confess that I’m always a bit wary of fresh water tanks on boats. The water is usually fine for boiling a kettle and making tea or coffee, but I like to keep bottled water aboard for drinking and have 5 litre re-usable water carriers for the purpose. I also have a UV Steripen for purifying water on longer trips which is a brilliant way to disinfect water and leaves no after taste.

 

Fresh water tanks can be made from stainless steel, fibreglass or plastic, some of which are flexible, therefore able to adapt to the shape of hull where they are installed.

Fresh water tanks and all pipework should be cleaned annually, which involves draining down the system and then filling with a water sterilising mixture. I normally use Milton sterilising fluid, best known for sterilising baby bottles but also used by boaters. Add 30ml of fluid per 5 litres of fresh water. Leave for a couple of days, then drain the system again. Then either re-fill with fresh water if the boat is in use or leave the system empty until the boat is returned to the water in the spring.

Other options include adding filters to the water system such as activated carbon filters and sub-micron filters. People also use additives such as Aqua Clean or even lemon juice.

Contaminated water system

If a water system has become severely contaminated then the time may have come to replace all the pipes and possibly the tank as well. Pipes can become contaminated with very unpleasant fungal or algal growth which can be harmful to health. Making a decision is up to the individual boat owner, but if things get that bad and the regular sterilising and system cleaning has been forgotten or has not worked, then I would choose to replace the contaminated pipes. Your boatyard manager should be able to advise on the best course of action.

Jester Challenge 2022 – Sailing single handed from Plymouth UK to the Azores: Part 7 – Motivation

Jester Challenge – A modern experiment in old-fashioned self-reliance, self sufficiency, and personal responsibility. This is the seventh of a 10-part post where solo sailor, Bernie Branfield, shares his first-hand account of his single-handed, 2022 Jester Challenge, from Plymouth, UK to the Azores, in his 26′ Invicta Mk2, Louisa.

Sterndrive maintenance

Sterndrives are a popular form of propulsion in the powerboat market, but require a fair amount of care and maintenance. The main factors to be aware of are salt water corrosion, lubrication and regular inspection of the bellows, the condition of which is vital to prevent water from entering into the hull.

Boat gas system maintenance

There are correct types of hose for marine plumbing, sewerage, exhaust, cooling and gas and all hoses should be checked regularly for wear and deterioration.

Hull inspection – the annual checks

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Tips and advice for staying safe on a sailboat at sea

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Gybing a sailing boat

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Common medical emergencies at sea

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Always have an emergency grab bag to hand when at sea…

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Sailing at the touch of a button

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How to improve a yacht’s upwind performance

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Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 3

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A five day sailing cruise of the Solent, UK

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Pleasure craft safety equipment recommendations

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The give-way hierarchy – sail boats and power boats

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Essential Knots: Reef knot

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Keel maintenance and repair – Part 1

Keels are designed to act as underwater foils that generate lift as the boat moves through the water, counteracting the leeward force of the wind and enabling the boat to sail closer to the wind. Keel maintenance and repair is essential for the performance of your boat.

Sailing Boat Rig Care

The rig of a sailing boat is put under huge stresses and strains so it is important for inspections of a yacht’s spars and rigging to be carried out at regular intervals.

Rewiring a boat – overcoming the challenges involved

Skippers need to have a basic knowledge of boat electrics, to avoid potential problems and to be able to solve them when they happen.

First Aid Afloat – jellyfish stings

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Rudders and steering systems – Part 2

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An explanation of the IALA maritime buoyage systems – IALA A and IALA B

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Light characteristics – how do navigators identify lights at night?

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Boat maintenance below decks

While most interior maintenance work can be done when a boat is afloat, some jobs such as servicing the seacocks have to be done ashore. It makes sense to do any major interior repairs and improvements with the boat hauled out in the boatyard.

How to operate a winch

Winches are drum shaped mechanical devices used to handle halyards, sheets and control lines. One of the important crew...

Medical Emergency at Sea

How to deal with a medical emergency afloat   If you are planning a boating trip, it is important to have at least one...