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Treasure Hunting

Okay, this may sound a bit crazy but bear with me—I’m about to hand you a very useful chunk of info. How about we start by clarifying what a so-called “plumber’s snake” is. You know, the gizmo with the crank on one end, an auger-like fitting on the other, and a long length of flexible cable in between. The major-league point of this device, of course, is to remove clogs from pipes via pressure upon and rotation of the auger, usually at a considerable distance off.

Certainly, a plumber’s snake is a handy item to have around the house when a plumbing issue arises—no question. But, believe it or not, such a humble, fairly inexpensive (you can buy a reasonably good plumber’s snake at your local hardware store for under $30) little device can also facilitate a number of chores on board your boat.

For example, let’s say you’ve got to run an electrical wire or cable through a wholly inaccessible space under a long deck, above an overhead panel, or behind a bulkhead. Sure, you’ll most likely have to modify the business end of your snake by removing the auger, and you’ll have to tape one end of the wire or cable to the spot the augur once occupied. But, after these minor adjustments have been made, you should be able to “git ’er done” quite easily, provided you toss in a little patience and some directional-type talent. Moreover, although I’m not claiming here that fishing wires or cables through exceptionally complex built-in furniture voids, through inaccessible bilge areas, or through any number of other tough-to-get-at areas on board your vessel will be a big ol’ piece of cake, I am contending that an otherwise impossible task may prove to be, with a little luck, at least possible.

And here’s one last bit of related niftiness. As we all know, ferrous metals regularly find their separate ways into the bilges of boats, primarily in the form of small hand tools and fasteners. So whether you blame either gravity or ham-handedness, there’s a good chance that, lurking down there in the darkness of your very own bilge, there’s an old drill bit or a forgotten Crescent wrench, along with a charming assortment of nuts, bolts and screws.

Here’s how to deal with the issue. Visit your local marine store and buy yourself a powerful, plastic-coated magnet. It’ll be considerably larger than the useful little magnets that grace the ends of bilge-probing telescoping wands, by the way. Then attach your new magnet to the business end of the plumber’s snake you’ve just purchased and designated “For Boat Use Only.” Use duct tape, or wire, or whatever. And then finally, either push or pull the magnet through the entirety of your bilge—or as much of the bilge as you can get at—using your marinized, magnetized plumber’s snake. You may be surprised at what treasures come up.

For more tips like this, visit the Vetus-Maxwell DIY Workbench at

Capt. Bill Pike is deputy editor at our sister publication, Power & Motoryacht.