A Sticky Situation
Oddly enough, not all onboard drinking-water issues—like poor taste, bad smell, or weird color—arise from the existence of algae and other contaminants in your onboard water tanks. There’s yet another, often overlooked, culprit.
Let’s say, for example, that your boat is, oh, about 10 years old, which means, of course, that the hoses that convey drinking water from her deck fittings to her water tanks, and from her water tanks elsewhere, are probably 10 years old or thereabouts as well. A big deal?
Well, maybe not. But then again, given the time span we’re talkin’ here, there’s a very good chance that those 10-year-old hoses of yours, which are probably made of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) reinforced with either a spiraled-steel inlay or some polyester braid, are either deteriorated or at least starting to deteriorate due to age. Indeed, most reputable manufacturers of marine hoses for potable-water transfer will tell you to replace their products at just about the 10-year mark.
Which is sound advice, by the way. Deteriorated PVC hoses can easily affect the taste of your drinking water as well as its smell and appearance. And what’s more, if said hoses are in really, really bad shape, they may also adversely affect the state of your health.
How do you spot a bad potable-water hose? The most obvious tell is some degree of stickiness on the exterior—faint stickiness being an indicator of modest deterioration, intense stickiness an indicator of serious deterioration. In either case, what’s going on is grim—the flexibility-inducing plasticizers that the manufacturer blended into the PVC way back when are breaking down or have broken down and are coming to the surface where they can be washed into your drinking water every time you fill your water tanks or turn on a faucet.
The fix? Next time you’re touring your engine room or any other onboard space where you can access your potable-water hoses, reach out and touch as many as possible—really grab ahold. Even a faint stickiness means you should oust the old and bring in the new. And don’t despair—potable-water-type hose is relatively inexpensive, at least when stacked up against fuel and other types of high-pressure hose. So, considering the benefits that will accrue from a necessary replacement, springing for the new stuff is not a bad deal at all.
Capt. Bill Pike is deputy editor of our sister publication Power & Motoryacht magazine.