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Let there be water Page 2 - Sail Magazine

Let there be water Page 2

Of all the upgrades you can lavish on an older boat, few will give you more bang for your buck than a complete overhaul of the fresh-water plumbing system. An improvement in water quality should be immediately apparent; any of the new breed of water pumps will be quieter and less power-hungry than their predecessors, and with a little planning, you can make your boat much more user-friendly both
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Pipework
Item one on the gear list, obviously, is water hose. There are two realistic options—food-grade clear reinforced PVC hose or semirigid, solid-colored plastic tubing as made by Whale and Sea Tech. The former must be joined with nylon couplings and stainless-steel hose clamps; the latter use clever push-fit couplings, including simple straight and angled connectors to tees, valves, and adapters. I had replumbed my previous boat using Whale Quick Connect hose and couplings and did not hesitate to order it again.

With each connector coupling costing between $4 and $8, depending on type and where you buy it (as always, check around online for the best deal), semirigid tubing appears to be the more expensive option. But when you add up the cost of the nylon tees and stainless-steel hose clamps needed to make PVC tubing connections, there’s not a lot of difference. The semirigid tubing doesn’t bend as much as PVC hose, so you may need to make a few more connections. On the other hand, the semirigid tubing is actually cheaper than PVC tubing.

Where the semirigid stuff really scores is in speed and convenience. The push-fit connectors couldn’t be easier to install and remove, so you can make major changes to the pipe runs without much fuss. And if you have to make up a manifold, with multiple outlets from a single inlet, there is no better way than to use a semirigid system.

There are other advantages. Clear tubing that is exposed to light soon has a coating of algae growing inside it, but solid-colored semirigid tubing doesn’t admit the light and thus the nasties don’t flourish. Some people mix and match, using PVC tubing on long, hidden pipe runs and semirigid tubing where lots of connections need to be made. One of the semirigid tubing’s few drawbacks is that the ends that fit into the connectors must be cut perfectly square and be scratch-free or they won’t seal properly; you’d be foolish not to buy the proper cutting tool.

You may be tempted to use domestic copper tubing, with compression fittings, on your boat. You wouldn’t be the first. I had to pull some dented and degraded copper tubing out of my last boat, and the condition it was in dissuaded me from using it again. It has no advantages over PVC or semirigid plastic tubing, with the added disadvantage of being more likely to fracture from freezing. You could use domestic PVC pipe, but that’s hardly worthwhile on a typical boat.

It takes a bit of planning to route hoses so that they don’t interfere with stowage under berths and can’t be kinked or crushed by heavy gear. Try to keep the runs out of the bilge so they don’t get scuffed and dirty. The semirigid tubing worked well when it came to feeding it under moldings and along the hull sides, but there were a few places where we could have gotten away with fewer connections had we used PVC tubing.

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I was advised by the Whale engineers to install a non-return valve directly downstream of the water tank. Sometimes water can leak back from a pump via a poorly sealed connection or failed seal, and, by maintaining pressure in the hose, the check valve prevents the pump from continually cycling on and off. They also suggested I run a separate cold-water line to the manual pumps in the head and galley, teed off upstream of the electric pump. This prevents the electric pump from forcing water through manual pumps.

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