If it ain’t broke…

Sailboats require maintenance. Maintenance is something sailboats are not designed for. Perhaps because their designers never intended them to live as long as they do. Perhaps because aesthetics sell boats. Perhaps because the boat maintenance cartel prevents meaningful innovation in designing boats for supportability. Just kidding about that last one. As if those who maintain boats ever got organized enough to establish a cartel! Hah!

Honey Doo Doo

cleaning bottles

Much of maintenance involves cleaning things. Even when you are doing projects, you wind up cleaning things. Here’s Aleta’s honey-do list from the past 10 days:

  1. Upgrade the tap over the head sink. The old tap was clapped out, unattractive and annoying. We went to a plumbing supply depot and bought a new one. Then I unpacked every wrenching tool on Aleta and remove the door to Hades. That area underneath the sink that houses two through-hulls, one for bringing water into the head, the other for dumping, ahem, waste overboard. There is also a three-way valve that controls the flow of them solids either directly overboard, or into the holding tank, or out of the holding tank and then overboard. Oh Joy! This project had nothing to do with that hardware and turned out much less stinky. Releasing the retaining bolt from the old tap proved easy, despite some obvious corrosion. Taking the existing brass connectors off and soaking them in vinegar for 30 minutes restored their luster. From there it was a basic plumber’s combination of PTFE tape, O-rings, and wrenches and screwing the whole shebang together.
  2. Replace the strip light over the stove. The cheap, temporary LED light that replaced the original halogen fixture finally turned off for the last time. Its replacement is a slim thing of beauty with dozens of five-star ratings from Amazon. Accessing the electrical connections required removing the ceiling panel, itself secured by lots of solid cherry trim. The previous light used a seriously black adhesive to keep it in place. Cleaning the panel took several applications of distilled vinegar and lots of elbow grease (along with a plastic single-edged razor). It eventually came clean. Then a bit more screwing around and the new light shines brightly.
  3. Replace the galley water pumps. First to go was the manual saltwater pump. After servicing it, the 10-year-old diaphragm finally gave out for good and water leaked. I switched it off. Based on the logic that if the saltwater pump went, could the similarly aged freshwater pump be far behind?, I ordered a replacement and a full service kit. Then water made its way out from under the sink again. On hands and knees armed with a flashlight I could see water leaking out the seal of the Shurflo electric water pump. A venerable 12 years old, it was clearly time to replace that puppy, too. Fortunately, our marina’s chandlery had one for us within four working days. Those jobs gave me a chance to clean up the area under the kitchen sink and inspect the hoses that run around down there.

In two of these three jobs, vinegar played a key role. Having tried dozens of cleaners, good old household vinegar is now our go-to cleaning agent on board. We use it to remove rust from Aleta’s stainless steel railing, clean screws and fittings on the job, dissolve calcified urine in the head (it’s an icky boat thing, trust me), take the sweat out of our clothes, wipe away mildew and mold, and make salad dressing. It doesn’t ruin plastic and it’s made from sustainable resources. So, clear out your cupboards and get some distilled vinegar. It’s a miraculous thing.



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