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Don’t Get Hosed

Inspect the softer parts of your boat to avoid trouble later on.

Look for future failure points, inspect your hoses.

Look for future failure points, inspect your hoses. 

Tearing up the river toward the inlet, I was anxious to get even with the striped bass making things miserable for the schools of bunker worrying the water near the beach. Suddenly my engine began coughing and threatened to stall as I approached the jetties. I throttled back in a hurry and the outboard calmed down, but the fishing would have to wait until I diagnosed the cause of the problem and fixed it properly.

Turning around in the inlet, I continued nursing the throttle, hoping the condition was manageable enough to get home. My first impression was an issue with the fuel, but I also knew the fuel and filters were clean, the tank cap was vented and the spark plugs were fresh. I was hoping for a simple solution, but I wasn’t prepared for what I discovered when I tied up at the dock. Two kinks had developed in the fuel hose: one near the tank connection, the second at the engine fitting. How did that happen? I wasn’t sure, but every day you leave the dock is a chance to learn something new and that day, I did.

Further inspection revealed that the inner liner had come detached from the hose substrate and was collapsing internally when the engine pulled a full load of fuel. This is what caused the kinking. The fuel supply line was USCG-type B1-15 alcohol-resistant hose, with every letter of the alphabet (ABYC, SAE, ISO, CE, EPA, and NMMA) indicating its compliance and suitability for gasoline, alcohol blends, diesel, and biodiesel fuel. The hose was going into its third season of use.

The old hose went in the trash and I replaced it with fire-retardant A1 (365) hose. Hopefully the barrier liner in this premium-grade hose will deal with the ethanol from my fuel supplier safely and efficiently. In the hour it took me to measure, cut, and fit the hose to my engine and tanks, I heard the bilge pump in my neighbor’s boat in the next slip kick on twice. Oddly enough, the following morning when I went to do my daily boat check, my neighbor’s boat was fine, but a 50-foot boat across the way had sunk to its coaming in the slip. The only thing that saved it from disappearing beneath the water was the keel resting on the bottom. A leaky stuffing box hose, an overworked bilge pump and an exhausted bank of batteries were the culprits.

Hoses are the unsung heroes aboard boats and are on duty 24/7. Like well-behaved snakes, the hoses on a boat allow water, fuel, lubricants, and hydraulic fluids to course throughout a nest and its systems—from the bilges to the tops of tuna towers. The fluids you never see that supply steering, bow-thruster response, engine combustion, and so many other necessary chores, are safely contained in these nondescript critical hoses, generally placed out of sight.

Hoses have a short life span in a harsh environment of heat, moisture, and chemicals, so it is always best to change and replace them before they fail. The next time you go aboard your boat, look over these critical serpentine components from bow to stern. Be alert for weeps and leaks, water or rust stains, chafing, softness, discoloration, and decayed hose clamps. To be sure, the fish will always be waiting for you somewhere, but when a vital hose decides to let go, your schedule can change instantly and not always for the better. Swapping a hose at the dock or on a trailer is easy; under way is often a different story.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.