Brass Skin fittings, a real life experience
The issues of European Brass CW617N and other non DZR corrosion resistant skin fittings, valves and hose tails have been well documented over recent years and YDSA Fellow surveyor Paul Stevens is credited with bringing the issues to the attention of the yachting media and the public at large.
I have attended training sessions with Paul Stevens and took on-board all the good advice. I have surveyed over 900 vessels, but never have I had such dramatic failure which highlights the need for thorough checks on these items.
I was commissioned to survey a 1995 Beneteau Oceanis 351 sailing yacht, which was ashore and had been ashore for 2 years. When I got to the boat I could see it had been previously recently surveyed, antifouling had been removed in neat 2” squares across the hull. I asked the broker the issues found and was given a copy of the previous findings, which did not mention any issues with skin fittings or valves.
Carrying on the survey, I scraped back the outside surface of all the through hull fittings and there was some pink areas, indicating dezincification on the surfaces and the inside of the fittings had some surface corrosion viewed externally.
When I came to inspect on-board the vessel, there was some minor surface corrosion visible and the valves were identified as being CW617N nickel plated brass, fitted as standard but not the originals from what I could ascertain.
The toilet valve was closed, so I tried to open it and it would not so I tried a bit harder by hand, no tools, and the skin fitting snapped clean off below the valve! So pleased I was not afloat at this time!
Picture shows broken skin fitting and valve.
This next picture shows clearly the broken skin fitting with pink colouring which is classic dezincification, where the zinc in the brass has been leached away through galvanic action.
all these broke on testing ashore on the same boat.
This highlights the need to actually test skin fittings when the boat is surveyed out of the water. Harder to do so when it has been put back in, and also highlights issues with European Brass CW617N which is still being fitted as standard on many boats and I understand CE and RCD only require 5 years life.
Is this one ready to be changed?
Based on my experience now, I say yes.
Surveyors are placed in a difficult position when reporting these Brass valves. If they don’t break during testing and they operate, how do we report this?
I now say the below :-
Recommendations:- The skin fittings and ball valves passed the tests carried out but they do have surface corrosion on them and are made of non corrosion resistant brass which is not suitable for long term immersion in salt water. CE regulations state they have to last 5 years and these are older than this. Therefor it would be prudent to plan a full replacement with corrosion resistant skin fitting and ball valves and hose tails using CW602N DZR corrosion resistant Brass, Marelon or similar suitable material. ** Should be completed without undue delay because they affect the long term maintenance of the vessel but do not pose an immediate threat to the vessel.
It doesn’t make us popular with some sellers but having experienced first hand, we feel justified.