Select Page

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.

Essential Knots: Figure of eight

Essential Knots: Figure of eight Use: Stopper knot, prevents a rope from being pulled through a hole e.g. through a block or...

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 1

Boats that are kept afloat can very quickly become a home for small marine organisms such as barnacles, weed and slime. Applying an antifouling paint to your hull is necessary to protect it from these micro-organisms, as a fouled hull can cause problems and will slow down a boat’s maximum speed considerably if left unchecked.

Top 5 Reasons Why an Inflatable SUP Should Be Your Next Yacht Accessory

In this article, inflatable paddle board expert Jason Paul gives the top 5 reasons why an inflatable SUP should be your next...

Boatyard Health and Safety

Boat storage facilities are potentially hazardous environments and it is the responsibility of both boat owners and boatyards to ensure that the...

How to use tides and currents to your advantage

If you are contemplating a cruise through tidal waters and strong currents, then planning your trip carefully in advance is essential to enable you to take advantage of favourable tides rather than constantly fighting against them.

Sail care and maintenance – Part 2

At the end of the sailing season sails should be washed and inspected carefully for damage, including small tears, stitching failure, ultraviolet damage, stains and mildew.

Understanding your mast and rigging

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...

Safety at sea principles

Safety at sea is not as simple as just spending money adding shiny new emergency equipment such as liferafts, danbuoys, distress flares, EPIRBs and so on.

Boat Engine Failure – what to check

Engine failure If your engine fails or is overheating there are a number of things to check immediately: • Air filter...

Cleaning & polishing gelcoat topsides

The gelcoat topsides of a GRP boat can be pampered and restored to their former glory relatively easily when it is ashore. Gelcoat is only a very thin outer layer of the hull, often less than 1mm thick, so you should avoid cleaning it with highly abrasive cleaners, or an-ything that could potentially damage its surface.

Boating emergency – how to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call

How to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call   How to broadcast a MAYDAY emergency call if a vessel or person is in grave...

ColRegs Nav Lights & Shapes, Rules Of The Road and IALA Buoys Apps

ColRegs Nav Lights & Shapes, Rules Of The Road and IALA Buoys Apps Make Learning Rules on iPhone, iPad, iPod and Android...

Antifouling for leisure boats – Part 3

Antifouling is one of the least pleasant boat maintenance jobs to do, but it has to be done. The very worst job of all is removing the old antifouling as this can get seriously messy and is very hard work.

Essential Boat Safety Briefing

Skippers Responsibilities Skippers are obliged to give a safety briefing to the crew even if they are a regular crew. At...

Wooden Hull Repairs

While wooden boat hull maintenance is mostly straightforward, it is always a good idea to take expert advice on any repair job needed doing to a wooden boat, unless you have done the job before and know what you are doing.

Seasickness – how can you prevent it?

Seasickness is a common problem at sea and affects both seasoned sailors and novices. What are the causes and symptoms of seasickness?...

Safe Skipper – crew management tips

Effective crew briefings are a vital part of the good on-board communication that helps everything to run smoothly on a sailing vessel at sea, whether it is cruising or racing.

Sail boat rig checks – Part 1

Sailing boat rigs need to be checked regularly to reduce the risk of rig failure at sea. In part one of Sail boat rig checks we run through a series of useful checks that owners and skippers can carry out.

First Aid at Sea – strains and sprains

Strains and sprains respond well to rest and cooling. Wrap ice in a tea towel before applying. First Aid at Sea Strains and...

Points of Sailing

The course on which a boat is sailing can be described by its angle to the wind, not to be confused with its compass...

How to tackle osmosis

Many owners of old GRP boats live in fear of osmosis, but what exactly is osmosis and what can be done about it? Osmosis comes about...

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.

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.

Capsize – understanding the risks

A skipper should know how their boat will cope with rough seas. By working within known limits and understanding the risks,...

Wooden Hulls – Part 1

Traditional wooden boats have a plank on frame construction, a centuries old boat building method that is still in use today. Variations of the traditional method include carvel, clinker and strip planking, which all relate to the way the planking is attached to the frame.