I've Got to Fix What?
Back Together Again
The trick to working with multipurpose vinyl hose, the thick-walled kind normally used for sanitary purposes, is to heat it up before trying to connect it to a valve or a through-hull. Putting the end of the hose into a pot of boiling water will do the trick, but it's not practical if you're using existing hoses or if the new ones have to be run through a bulkhead or other tight area.
Instead, I use a heat gun I bought for stripping paint. With the gun turned on high, 30 or 40 seconds will soften up a hose so it's workable for about the same length of time. Using the heat also means the tubing will shrink slightly as it cools, ensuring a tight fit once you've applied a hose clamp or two. Due to the open flame, you wouldn't want to try this with a torch.
When measuring new hose, be sure to add enough so that it will cover fittings on either end. Also make sure your hose is long enough so that it bends without kinking.
If you're working in a tight space, such as the inside of the vanity on my boat, look for the hardest-to-reach connection and make that one first, then work your way out. It may also help to disconnect and remove nearby hoses that may be in the way. This will add a bit of time up front, but in the long run, it'll save lots of cursing and dropped tools. Because I could only get one hand inside much of the space, and often, it seems, you need two to push a hose and a fitting together, I found a few other tricks that helped on this little project. For instance, by locating fittings close to bulkheads or other structural pieces, you can use the latter as something against which to push. When you're replacing a hose clamp (or putting one on after the connection has been made), you can use a piece of duct tape to hold it in place until the clamp's tight enough for friction to keep it from spinning on the hose. And remember: The heat gun is hot! Make sure you put it down someplace where it can't fall over and where you won't rub your hand or arm against the nozzle. As with most chores on a boat, the best bet is to have a helper who can take the gun from you and hand you the tools you need while the hose is still hot enough to work with. Finally, forget the cheap latex gloves you might use for painting or light cleaning. If you want to avoid a truly hands-on experience with your sanitation system, pick up a pair of heavy kitchen gloves that won't tear the first time they meet a hose clamp.
Mark Pillsbury is Cruising World's senior editor.