Fresh water tank repair (former email exchange)

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August 14, 2010 at 00:43 #4291
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Rainshadow asked:
Our Nic 38 still has its original fiberglass water tank under the cabin sole. It’s covered in blisters, has a few spider and stress cracks, and generally looks pretty dodgy. I don’t trust the water stored in it, and using a Brita filter is not working to remove the smells. What have others done to repair their water tanks? We consider the options as: 1. Install a flexible liner. This company will make a custom fit liner for around $400. http://www.water-storage-tank.com/ Problem with flexible liners are they are hard to clean, and potentially hard to secure in place. Having a custom fit liner should help over the standard pillow-type Plastimo or Nauta flexible tanks. 2. Try to find a rigid PE tank that will fit through the companion way. This will make cleaning easier, but we’ll likely lose a lot of volume. Securing in place may also be a problem. 3. Repair the fiberglass by grinding it down to remove the blisters and recoating with an epoxy that is approved for potable water tanks. This seems like a horrible job, and may not even work. Any ideas or word of wisdom are very welcome.

Jeff Hague responded:
Hi folks,Hope it’s not TOO serious but I’m sure every one of our old Nic-38s is suffering from the same problem, to a greater or lesser degree. My water tank on Sea Eagle had blisters all over it when I bought her in ’06, & they’d likely been there for years. The tank doesn’t leak though & the blisters don’t seem to be getting any worse, not that I can discern anyway. Some large blisters & some small. At the start of my long refurbishment, just about the very 1st job I had done by the yard here, was cleaning out the water tank, which looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in 20 years.I discovered later that they’d done a lousy job of it, if at all, & hadn’t even removed the sand from the bottom of the tank, (but still charged me almost £80-!) so decided to have a go at it myself. Later, when I protested to the yard here, saying that I’d just done the job properly, myself, they swore blind that they had done the job. Of course they would, wouldn’t they.! By lying down next to the tank, on the cabin-sole, I was pleased to find that I was able to reach all parts of the tank, albeit with some contortions, so started to gently rub down the sides of the tank with a nylon pan cleaner & what came off was a thin layer of almost transparent gunge which pretty much dissolved between your fingers. I don’t remember any odour from it at all but when I’d finished, the tank looked a lot “brighter” on the sides & bottom.There were a very few broken pieces of the bubbles in the bottom of the tank when I finished, but not much at all & after several flushes & wipe-downs it all seemed OK. I have a Jabsco filter under the galley sink & I’ve never had second thoughts about the quality of the water.When I finished the job, which took a few (leisurely) hours that day, & filled the tank right up, I couldn’t get over the difference for quite a while, & kept going back with a torch to have another look inside it.! A very satisfying job, that was.! I know this tank will probably let me down in the years to come & I’m sure it’ll be expensive to fix, as I’m not sure how it would come out. Probably have to lift some of the saloon furniture & more of the cabin sole boards to get in & cut it up into smaller pieces. OUCH.!Big job.! For now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Dave and Shelby responded:
The 3rd. option was the one we did. We cut the top of the tank off and ground the top of the blisters off. A horrible sticky styrene smelling liquid oozed out of them. We put a small fan heater in the tank, leaving it there for 2 months, hoping to dry it thoroughly out. Then we painted the whole tank with 3 coats of epoxy paint. After this we fibreglassed the top back on. We had sweet water from the tank for 5 years, then the blisters and the styrene taste came back again.

Adrian Weston responded:
Chihili Q’s previous owner installed stainless steel tanks in place of the originals, so that also would be an option; the specifications when I bought her were “GRP water tanks (2) replaced in 1989 with stainless steel tanks (about 85 gallons – 386 litres – together). GRP fuel tank was replaced in 1989 with a stainless steel tank (about 38 gallons – 171 litres).”

Pat Jenson responded:
My Nic 38 has the original tank in good condition but the previous owner had cut the top off. I took the easy option when I was rebuilding Sea Thrift and fitted a 150 Litre Plastimo pillow tank. After about 8 months use it split where the filler pipe enters the tank. I am now going back to the original arrangement. I was wondering if in your case you could get 5 sheets of waterproof material carefully cut to size and epoxy them in place to form a tank liner. Hope this thought may be useful.

Roger Haggard responded:
Race Passage had the same problem with the FW tank as Rainshadow with a definite taint to the water and in 1995 I ordered a rubber bladder custom fitted to suit the tank from a company in the UK. I have attempted to Google the suppliers name but cannot find it. I’m fairly sure that it is still a going concern as they did a lot of government work including hovercraft skirts etc and were based in Marchwood near Southampton. Perhaps one of the readers can follow up and find their address/web site for you.
Anyway we have had it installed in the boat for 15 yrs even though the installation was such that it can be removed for cleaning we haven’t done so. The water tastes fine and, notwithstanding my wife’s views, I haven’t grown horns or suffer from any other peculiarities as a result of drinking from the tank.

Jeremy Lines responded:
I guess that company is Hovercraft Consultants Ltd.in Southampton,Www.duratank.com and email sales@duratank.com

August 31, 2010 at 22:52 #7041
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I’ve posted what we finally decided to do on our blog. You can read the details here:
http://svrainshadow.com/?p=604

The short answer is we used Sanitred products to apply a flexible coating. It was a tough job, let’s hope it works!

September 7, 2010 at 03:56 #7161
svgosling
svgosling
Participant

We have water tank issues too but we have decided to live with them. The imperfections in the finish and cracked and chipped paint aren’t serious and are superficial but they are places where growth can collect. Without chlorination I get little hairy bits growing. I asked Jeremy some time ago about adding chlorine and he said that wasn’t a good thing for GRP tanks but I haven’t been able to find anything else and haven’t notice any worsening of the tanks over the past few years.
We don’t use the water in the main tanks for drinking anyway. We have a Power Survivor watermaker that only produces about a US gal/hr so we make our drinking water with that and store it in a large water container. We lightly chlorinate the tank water to keep the grown down and have had no problems. We fill the tanks from domestic water sources in marinas using a 5 microm pre-filter so some chlorination is desireable.
I have considered doing a number on the tanks but that would entail major surgury to open the tanks to access the interior for treatment and but we are ok with the status quo.
J-G
SV Gosling

June 5, 2011 at 06:18 #9271
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I reported last year that we tried repairing our water tank with Sanitred products (Permaflex and LRB). This turned out to be a terrible disaster. The product continues to exude oil after 10 months. We followed their instructions very carefully when applying the product to the fiberglass tank walls. The manufacturer assures us that once the product is cured, it stops forming this oil. And yet, we have had this total failure.

The people at Ideal Products in the US, who sell the Permaflex and LRB Sanitred products, say they have never heard of anything like this. I tried to get some troubleshooting help from them. First person was working with me, but he passed me to his boss because he was baffled. The boss lady is not so nice.

I told her we followed their instructions closely during the application, but she accused me of added something to their product to make this happen. I told her in desperation after cleaning the tank with soap and water so many times over the last 10 months, that last week we cleaned the tank using paper towels wetted with rubbing alcohol to get rid of the oil we found accumlated in the tank. Their website says the product is resistant to most solvents, so I figured this was a safe bet. (The tank was slimy with oil again less than a week after this treatment.) She said using alcohol to clean the tank voided the warranty. She took offense to my suggestion that something might be wrong with their product, or perhaps their quality control. She actually hung up on me.

So – lousy product in our experience, and one of the worst customer service experiences I have ever had. Never deal with Ideal Products in the US or use the Sanitred Permaflex or LRB products in your water tank.

Here’s a photo of the oil floating on the tank surface, after we had left some water in the tank over the winter. That big oil blob is about 4″ across. There are more blobs like this outside the photo. When we wiped the oil off using paper towels, there was so much on the walls it puddled downwards. When we eventually drained the tank completely, we had about 1/2 cup of this oil. And it reeked of the Sanitred product smell. They tell me its inert and potable water safe. Would you drink this?

June 9, 2011 at 09:14 #9291
michael bennett
michael bennett
Participant

Dreadfull story, must say most unlike American companies I have dealt with.
Would suggest contacting them again, go to the top of the tree this time, and make sure they are aware, that unless support to resolve is forthcoming, you will publish your experience with them in every boaty magazine and publication you can, purely based on the facts of your experience with the company and its products.
One thing they do not like is bad publicity, stick to the facts in the articles, stating what you did and their response to you, if you have names use them.
Worth giving them some hastle, you certainly have suffered enough.

Mike

June 9, 2011 at 19:30 #9301
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Keymaster

Thanks for the advice, Mike. I agree that this is highly usual for US companies, I was astounded by this customer service.

I *was* talking to “the boss” – there maybe someone higher, but I think this a small company that handles the US market for a product made in Europe. I’ve spoke with “the boss” before, and she’s always a bit gruff. Some of the other people there are quite nice and helpful – I feel sorry for them.

In regards to “the boaters will take our business elsewhere” threat, this is how the conversation ended:
Me> So, you are saying that this is completely my fault, and it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with your product?
Boss> Yes, that’s right. You put something in our product to make this happen.
Me> Well, I’m going to make sure everyone in the boating community knows not to use your product.
Boss> That will really hurt as a lot. CLICK.

So, the boss lady cares NOTHING about boaters. I strongly encourage others to spend your money with a company that is more friendly. Some people use the Sanitred product to seal their wooden boat decks – it would be horrible if this slimy stuff was all over a deck!

June 18, 2011 at 19:49 #9361

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Harlequin has a large stainless steel tank with two removable covers immediately in front of the fuel tank. Its easier to open one of these and point the hose there than mess around with the filler cap. Don’t know the capacity but it it at least 300l. Looks like the tank has been installed since the boat was built as the flooring doesn’t appear to have been removed to fit it.

Andy

July 17, 2011 at 22:39 #9681
Happy Dolphin
Happy Dolphin
Participant

dolphins tanks are still sweet, a bit blistered but i do bung a gallon of bleach in fill to top and leave whenever i can

July 21, 2011 at 07:06 #9741
michael bennett
michael bennett
Participant

Does the bleach not ‘taste’ even after purging it on return?

July 31, 2011 at 20:35 #9751
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I think we may have finally found a viable water tank repair solution. We bought a flexible bladder that was custom made to the size of the fiberglass water tank so it fits nicely without need for more support. Surprisingly, the cost of this custom made tank was less than an off-the-shelf pillow bladder tank of a similar size(our cost was about US$250 including shipping + tax). We cut off the top of the fiberglass tank, measured the fiberglass tank cavity carefully, sent the supplier a drawing, and after some email and phone negotiations, we had the custom-made tank in our hands about 10 days later.

The tank is made of a very tough NSF-61 approved potable water tank fabric, which is pretty stiff but still flexible. We requested two 7″ clean-out ports positioned in the correct place for the floorboard cutouts, and the fittings required for the inlet and outlets. The supplied hose connection fittings were not quite what we expected, so it was a bit of a hassle to get all the right NPT fittings from the local DIY store, but in the end it works.

If you live in the US and want to work with the same supplier, check out Seattle Tarp (http://www.seattletarp.com/products/bladders-and-tank/). This is a small family run company, I worked with Deano. If you want to order a tank from him, I could supply a scanned copy of our drawing, and offer some lessons learned about what we would change in our order to make the connections easier.

We’ve only had to the tank installed for about 2 weeks, using it for one cruise, but so far so good. The tank was a bit plasticy smelling on first arrival, but we let it air out in the sun for day, and gave it a good soap and water wash before installing. Though the fiberglass and flexible tanks are the same size, it’s pretty hard to get the stiff “flexible” tank into position without any wrinkles. It will likely get condensation accumulating between the fiberglass tank and outer wall of the flexible tank since the two surfaces are not in close contact everywhere due to the wrinkles. I think we’ll remove it each winter to make sure it can dry out underneath. Removal will not be easily because of all the hose connections, but doing so seems prudent.

July 31, 2011 at 20:39 #9761
Happy Dolphin
Happy Dolphin
Participant

no tast of bleach after purging at all

May 31, 2013 at 15:05 #13621
michael bennett
michael bennett
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I am going to make and fit a ‘black water tank’ to fit under the stb. forecabin bunk, (similar to what you can see in the photos on https://sites.google.com/site/alexinaofshoreham/home his 360 deg. tour.
I have been recommended to use core material to fibreglass around called klegacell or klegecell, has anyone heard of it and a possible supplier.
Thanks Mike

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