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They say ignorance is bliss. If you believe that expression is true, I have a recommendation for you, especially if you own an older boat: Unless you intend to invest the time to clean it, do not look inside your boat’s water tank!

Rebecca scrubbing inside one of the water tank compartments.
Don’t worry, we were taking turns!

You may recall me writing the other day that while working to repair our fresh water leak, I broke one of the access plates to our water tank. Because I had to fish the fittings and cover plate out of the tank, I had no choice but to look inside. After doing so, and noting the amount of crud that had, over the years, accumulated inside of it, my decision was made for me. I had to clean it!

Salon table moved out of the way to access the access plates.

Our Amel’s water tank is located in the boat’s keel. It has 5 baffled compartments that, together, hold 1000L of water. Three of the access plates are located under the salon table so to get at them, we first had to unbolt the table and move it out of the way. The cover plates have a rubber gasket around the edges, and are pulled up onto the top of the tank from the inside by bolts running through plywood top plates. It was one of these wooden top plates that had broken, having rotted away from getting wet. After removing the remaining plates and inspecting them, I noted some cracks on a couple of the others too. When it comes time to put it all back together, I intend to replace them all with new ones made out of marine-grade plywood that I’ll first seal with epoxy.

When we removed the table to found this misplaced Venezuelan beer!
Unfortunately, the can had long ago sprung a leak and was empty.

As for the tank, yes, it was grungy! We were happy to find though that with some scrub brushes, a spray bottle of bleach solution, and some elbow grease, it’s cleaning up well. Our plan is to flush the tank out today, and shock it and the plumbing pipes with more bleach solution. Traumatized as I am from seeing all that crud in the tank, I think I’ll be looking into installing an under-sink water filter too.


  1. I’ve never seen potable water tanks with wood access hatches. As well, they are only held down at two points, instead of screwed down all around. Wood access hatches seem to invite inherent sealing issues, even if epoxied; the photos seem to indicate the wood hatches have already been replaced at least once already…might want to consider a gasket as well, though you’ve probably already thought of that.

  2. Oh yeah! Fun in the sun below decks. I’ve looked in all three of ours and was happy to see that they were crud free on all surfaces but do have some small amount of floating debris. We do have the sink filter which we use for all drinking water but anything that boils we just use tap water. Have yet to really “see” any debris using the tap, but we “know” it’s there. I’ve been putting off cleaning them out completely because I’ll have to add another access plate to each in order to get on the other side of the baffles.
    You guys close to splash and are you headed back to Grenada? Ballpark date?


  3. I recommend the plastic marine board stuff, instead. It’s water proof, and will keep the water potable. Just as easy to deal with as I understand.

  4. Mike – you can’t go wrong with a SEA GULL under the sink water filter. We installed a single SEA GULL water filter in our galley, with a separate facet right from square one. All water that goes inside our body passes through this filter and we use aluminum tanks. One cartridge lasts a year, or possibly two, if you can put up with the slow throughput. This is the model I installed.

      • Yes, its expensive – but you get what you pay for. Diane uses a French press to make her coffee. She is very fussy about the taste of the water. Years ago, she made the mistake of using the non-filtered water for her coffee and she has never made that mistake since.

        If you want clean, healthy water to drink – in my opinion, there is is no substitute for quality. We have aluminum tanks so we cannot use any chlorine or bleach in our water. We rely on the filter for our health and it has never let us down.

        It certainly won’t filter out salt from sea water, but the company claims to be able to filter out bacteria and viruses, if you can believe it. They have a very good, earned reputation.

        Have you found a similar, but cheaper alternative?

  5. Drinking water is a pretty controversial topic with boaters. Some go to the extreme of filtering 2 times through their water makers to get the salt PPM down to 50 – 100. Don’t get to crazy. Check the water (by tasting) and you will be fine. Taste like crap – throw it out. Tastes good – drink lots :).

    • Really? Controversial? I’ve never noted that!

      The guideline for water is to have the TDS lower than 500. Our watermaker makes product water far below that so I’m cool with it. Although I could be wrong, I don’t think “filtering” reduces the salinity of RO water. I’ve never heard of anyone running water through a watermaker twice if that’s what you meant.

      While we definitely do taste test any water before putting it into our tank, I wouldn’t use good taste as my only criteria to judge whether or not water is safe to drink.

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