Archive for the 'Head' Category

Holding Tank Issues

I (Jon) finished this job on Apr. 25th.

An awful smell began emanating from the front of the boat. At first I thought it was the head sink, and broke things while ascertaining it wasn’t that. The smell remained, not constant, but it was definitely there. And soon it became clear that it was shit. Somewhere, something was wrong with the holding tank.

It ended up being the old vent from the holding tank. An elbow bend is welded onto the tank where a hose can be attached that leads to a through hull. The elbow had completely corroded through where the hose attached to it. When I pulled the hatch off in the V-berth, there the vent hose was sitting, hose clamp around the hose, and the corrosion all around the vent. It smelled something awful. Additionally, the vent and the hose were badly clogged, with what I can only presume was dried shit. I was nauseous and had a headache after dealing with it for a couple of hours.

In the end, I dug out as much of the blockage as I could with a stiff wire (a coat hanger I think). But I couldn’t be sure I was getting to all of it because of the 90 degree bend. The hose also had blockage in it which I simply cut off and through away, as there was enough slack in the line to allow for it.

I then put the hose back on, having to nearly melt it with a heat gun to get it pliable enough to fit back on. I took it off from the through hull. I poured toilet blockage cleaner down the hose and through the vent to unclog anything else that might still be clogging it. Then I poured some water through and it seemed to drain perfectly quickly, so I think I removed most of the blockage.

The smell has completely gone away.



Sink issues

I (Jon) finished this job on April 2nd.

The starboard side kitchen sink drain has to make two 90 degree bends in order to clear the cabinets it sits above and get to the through hull. Not a particularly good set-up, but not much can be done about it. Scum and grossness has built up inside the horizontal part of these bends. I pulled the plumbing apart, and fully cleaned and scrubbed all the parts. There was a complete blockage at both 90 degree bends and all along the horizontal tube. It smelled disgusting.

You can see this post on the main Syzygy site for a more humorous take on it.

Also, at some point a smell began emanating from the forward part of the boat and which seemed to be coming from the sink in the head so I thought the same thing might be happening in the head. In trying to take apart the plumbing, I sheered the metal fixture off the bottom of the sink. Fuck me. Now the only way to appropriately attach a hose to the sink so that it can drain is to buy a new sink.

Currently I have a through hull attached to the sink.  The through hull sits at the bottom of the sink and goes down beneath it to the hose that connects to the through-hull. This is supremely sub-optimal as now a small layer of water can’t drain out the sink. It sits in the sink and nastiness develops since we use it to brush our teeth and what not. But it was the best I could do while out at sea.

And oh, the sink was not the cause of the smell. It was the holding tank. More on that later.

Installed new head and replaced all plumbing

I actually did this half a year ago, but I didn’t want to post without pictures of the head, and the whole room has been so dirty and full of crap that it took me a long time to finally get around to cleaning it up to take some pictures. 

I’m particularly proud of this job–I designed the whole system myself and I think it worked out really well.  Way back in mexico we tossed out the old head and all the associated plumbing, keeping only the holding tank installed in the v-berth.

I chose the Lavac for our new head.  The Lavac works differently from the standard marine heads.  Typically, heads use a somewhat complicated double action pump that is the weak point of the system.  The Lavac uses a regular Henderson Mark IV diaghragm pump.  To operate it, you close the lid and start pumping.  The lid seals to the toilet bowl, and as you pump out the shit, clean seawater is sucked in.  Then you can lift the lid and pump a few more strokes to completely empty the bowl.

I wanted damn good hose for this shitty task, so that hopefully it will take a really long time before it starts smelling bad.  I chose the Trident Sanitation hose #101.  It’s expensive but we got a great deal on it, and I really really don’t want shit smell to permeate our boat.

Designing a plumbing setup from scratch is not easy–you need to include hose and y-valves and pumps and fittings to fulfill the following actions: 1) Pump head to holding tank 2) Pump head to ocean 3) Pump holding tank to ocean 4) Let holding tank be sucked out from deck fitting. 

Check out the diagrams in the gallery below.  First I made the abstract schematic of how I wanted everything connected.  But the hardest part is getting all the components to fit in the available space, so then I made the schematic of how the system would fit into which spaces of our boat.  As it turned out, I deviated from the plan, and moved the location of two anti-siphon loops to a neighboring cabinet (to the left), and the pump went into the wall behind then head instead of the cabinet adjacent to it, but everything else fit where I thought it might.

The biggest hurdle was the last 10" section of hose going from y-valve to seacock.  The y-valve’s fitting, like everything else that touches poop, is 1-1/2".  But the through-hull was not.  I think the previous owners installed a "full-flow" 1-1/2" fitting, which has a 1-1/2" internal diameter, and 1-5/8" external hose barbs.   I spent hours over a period of a week trying to fit an 1-1/2" hose onto that seacock; I used soap to lube it, I used a hair dryer to soften it, then I used a heat gun to soften it, I even soaked the hose in boiling water.  Nothing was going to work, it was a futile attempt.  In the end, I used a larger hose and built up the 1-1/2" fitting on the y-valve to accomodate the larger hose (beware! if you try to just clamp a larger hose down onto a too-small fitting, it will leak!).  The svendsen’s people saved the day by pointing me to a product designed for plumbing repairs: a resin-impregnated fiberglass tape that is activated by air or water.  Just pull it out of the sealed package, wrap it tightly around the fitting to build it up as much as you want, wait an hour, then sand it down.  1-5/8" hose fit over it perfectly.

Another special feature of our head installation: I decided to add a second vent to the through-hull, opposite the existing one (old vent is to port, new vent is to starboard).  The thing with stinky odors is this: the stink is caused by the anaerobic bacteria.  If you keep the system aerated, you eliminate the bacteria that causes the smell.  Our old hose was 3/4" diameter and 12′ long from tank to through hull.  It doesn’t take a genius to realize that very little air is going to flow through that thing, without any cross-ventilation going on.  So I added some cross-ventilation in the for of a second vent.  I used 1-1/4" hose, which is particularly large as far as vents go, but it’s about a 12′ run from the holding tank to the vent through-hull so the air needs every assistance to flow.  Hopefully it will help keep our boat stink-free. 

The last thing I did (just did it this morning, actually) was make up a diagram of how the y-valves need to be oriented for different shit-paths.  That’s the last image in the gallery below.  When I mount it on the wall next to the toilet, it will correspond with the y-valves and handle positions on the backside of the cabinet, so it will be easy to know by feel where to put each handle (at least that’s the idea–time will tell whether it works).