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The Power of Water

Sometimes, all your self-contained air-conditioner needs is a couple of shots from a common dock hose.

First, I wondered if the stream of cooling water sluicing overboard from my self-contained air-con unit was a little sparse. But you know how it goes, right? I filed my wonderment away under: “Dang, Bill, don’t be so negative.” Then a weekend later, it was obvious. The stream was smaller. So, I told myself, “Well, this is gonna be expensive so I’ll just let it slide.”

Of course, finally, the stream flat-out quit: burp! And I, beset with gloominess, decided that getting the ol’ air conditioner going again would mean buying oodles of stuff and laying on my back in the bilge.

Fortunately, this was not true. As I was preparing to drop a submersible pump into a 5-gallon bucket which I was then going to fill with Barnacle Buster, a biodegradable potion that you circulate through marine machinery in order to eradicate barnacles and other fouling material, my friend Jerry came by and asked what I was doing.

“Cleaning out my air conditioner,” I replied. “The darn thing quit at two this morning. It got hot enough on board last night to pop popcorn.”

Don’t let the simplicity fool you—this baby is a very effective, albeit cheap, little tool.

Don’t let the simplicity fool you—this baby is a very effective, albeit cheap, little tool.

Stop, gestured Jerry. Then off he went to his own boat. When he returned, he was holding the device (or rather, something like the device) shown here.

What obstructs marine air-conditioning systems, he said, is not necessarily limited to barnacles, zebra mussels, lime and calcium. Often, the only thing holding the water back is a mass of leaves, pine needles and other odds and sods that get sucked into the seacock that feeds the system.

“We’ve had lots of rain this year,” concluded Jerry, handing the device over, “so there’s more debris in the water than usual. During the past few months, I’ve had to clear my system three times.”

The procedure was simple. I began by first making sure my air conditioner’s breaker was off. Then I closed the related seacock. Next, I disconnected the ¾-inch hose that runs between the air-con pump and the sea strainer that’s downstream of the seacock. I did this by loosening the appropriate clamp and pulling the hose off the strainer. Then, after securing one end of Jerry’s device to a dock hose, I shoved the other end (with its hose-clamped, ¾-inch barbed nylon fitting) into the hose that remained on the pump.

The result was satisfying. After tightening all relevant clamps, I turned on the dockwater. Whoosh! As it powered through the pump and the air-con unit before going overboard, the flow was super strong, indicating everything was clear.

The second half of the process was also satisfying. After taking Jerry’s device off the pump and removing its barbed nylon fitting, I simply shoved the empty hose end onto the downstream side of the stainer, tightened the related hose-clamp and once more hit the dockwater. Wow! When I opened the seacock, water powered through and kachunk! went a plug of pine needles and leaves. After backflushing for a few minutes, I made my reconnections and put the air-con unit back on line.

One last thing. The tool shown above is a copy of Jerry’s. I made it by simply clamping a garden hose fitting to one end of some ¾-inch water hose and a ¾-inch barbed nylon nipple to the other end. Larger or smaller hose sizes will require different fittings. The cost? Less than $10!