Archive for the 'Plumbing' Category

Serviced Watermaker

It’s a Village Marine Tec “little wonder” watermaker.  Supposed to output 6-8 gph (gallons per hour).  The installation by the previous owner’s is quite beautiful–very compact, well labelled, with plenty of attention to detail.  We hadn’t used or even tried the watermaker whatsoever; it wasn’t a priority in light of more critical projects.

Before we departed San Diego I wanted to get this taken care of, because I knew it would be nearly impossible to get parts anywhere along our route.  Even though I was pretty positive that it would need a new membrane, I turned it on and ran it and messed around with it a bit to get the hang of it before replacing it, so that I wouldn’t ruin our new membrane.

First I had to redo much of the plumbing: the original configuration of the boat had pressurized freshwater which we removed, and the watermaker was plumbed into that system.  So I carefully considered all the rules and requirements listed in the watermaker manual, designed a new plumbing arrangement, and made that happen.

One of the biggest changes with the plumbing is that the carbon filter became unnecessary within the watermaker circuit, so I replumbed the system so the water from the tank passes through the carbon filter on its way to the galley sink.  Convenient that I could use the existing installation to filter our drinking water.  Next owners of Syzygy, hopefully you read this and take note and are less confused as a result.

I replaced the membrane–that was close to $300 I believe.  Then I dismantled, cleaned, reassembled, and changed the oil in the high-pressure pump.  Things still weren’t proceeding smoothly, so I redid all the wiring–new terminals, cleaned the terminal block, put dielectric grease on everything.  Still not happy.  After much investigation I discovered that the low-pressure pump had a cracked a manifold, so I had to spend another $250 for the pump–expensive pump, a little sealed, magnetically operated jobby.

After all that was said and done, the thing worked–at about 4 gallons per hour.  Which makes me really mad, because 4 gallons per hour is next to nothing.  It turned out to be very impractical to ever run the pump, because it drew so much power for so little return.  Moreover, with two 75 gallon water tanks we never got close to running out of water.  We didn’t even have to refill it that often–with three people on board it still lasted about 3 weeks without a refill.  Not having pressurized water, and only using a small amount of freshwater for rinsing off after salt water showers made an enormous difference in water usage.  Plus we carried spare four 6-gallon jerry jugs of emergency water up on the rail, besides.

Consequently, the watermaker was operated only rarely, which is bad for the membrane and causes it to fail–you’re supposed to run it at least once a week to keep it operational.  So I spent all that money and did all that work and the watermaker is too low volume to be worthwhile, and wasn’t even necessary.  Bummer.

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).

Switched out faucets with custom ones; added soap dispenser

There is only one type of faucet that is available for use with manual water pumps, so far as I can tell.  And that faucet was too short to extend into our sink in a convenient way–it barely hung over the edge, making it frustrating to wash pots, fill pots, etc.  So we made our own out of pieces of copper tubing which was easy to bend, and painstakingly figured out a way to seal and mount it in the countertop in a way that would allow them to swivel. The result is not pretty, I’m not going to lie.  But it is a big improvement in function, and seems to work perfectly well so far.  We made one for both our fresh and salt water pumps.

Notice the extremely convenient soap dispenser that we also added.

Added second foot pump for seawater

We already had a foot pump for freshwater, we wanted a second one for pumping seawater while on passage (i.e. when the seawater is clean enough to use for something–we won’t be using marina water for anything!) in order to conserve freshwater.  There wasn’t enough room in the base of the cabinet, so we had to move the freshwater pump (which we had already replaced previously) over a few inches. The pumps come in left and right handed versions (hoses come off either the right or the left side)–we chose the very common Gusher Mk3 model.  I purchased one of each, so that the hoses can come off of each pump towards the center of the cabinet–otherwise there’s no way in hell we would have been able to get the hoses on or off. The faucet for the seawater pump replaced the pressure water faucet (a common household type).  We don’t plan on using the pressure water at all, so instead of drilling another hole through the countertop and creating a forest of faucets, we used the existing hole and cleared some space while we were at it.

Replacing Watertanks, Pt 2

An earlier post describes the laborious task of removing the old tanks from the boat. We decided to make our own tanks out of plywood and epoxy–we figured this was the only way we could preserve the volume available to us under the settee, since the tank is such a funky shape.  I had come up with this idea from some book, and found more information about it in a special bulletin from West System (they cannot, however, recommend it for drinking water storage, for obvious liability reasons). Jon and Jonny did all of the construction on the tanks, and unfortunately it required one full week of labor, all day every day, just to make the tanks.  It took much more time to fit them into their spaces, construct brackets to mount them, mount the lids and seal them properly, etc. We used 3/8″ marine grade plywood.  We epoxied a layer of fiberglass to all sides of all pieces of the plywood (including a baffle). We coated the outside surfaces with 3 layers of epoxy (“neat”; i.e. unthickened) and the inside with 5 layers of epoxy (all West System).  We followed the instructions in the bulletin mentioned above for a slightly resin rich ratio, specifically 6 pumps of resin to 5 pumps of hardener.  According to West System, it is the hardener that is the nastier stuff and that can affect the taste. After coating all the plywood pieces in this manner, the tanks were assembled with screws, leaving the lid off.  Generous fillets of epoxy were applied to all seams to thoroughly seal the tank.  Two holes were left in each lid for beckson ports. The tanks were brought below without the lids installed.  The tricky part was making brackets that would actually fit when we went to bolt it all down–there’s not much room for error there, and there is almost zero access to the outboard brackets that are on stringers against the hull.  Brackets consisting of two short aluminum angles (leftover mast steps–tumbled and anodized already) were glassed onto a small rectangle of plywood.  This mounting bracket was loosely bolted to the stringer.  We peanut buttered this rectangle with thickened epoxy and pushed the tank into place onto this mounting board.  We did the same with the two inboard brackets at the floor.  After it cured, we gently unbolted the brackets and removed the whole tank.  We then glassed the shit out of the brackets before reinstalling the tank permanently in place.  Finally, we epoxied the lid into place, reaching through the access holes to put the sealing fillet around the top seam (tedious and annoying step).  Finally, we glued the beckson ports in place with 5200 (epoxy doesn’t stick to plastic). We used plastic plumbing fittings and mounted them in place with 5200.

Replaced bilge hoses & scupper lines

Every last one of them. We spent a fortune on hose (150 ft of Trident #148, 1.5"). Jon and Jonny did this work. The old hoses were cracked, leaking, sucking air, holding decade old bilge water in low spots–you name a form of shittiness and our hoses had it. Now it’s all fresh white high-quality hose that should last forever. The trident #148 is a smooth interior, heavy-duty white vinyl hose with a hard pvc helix for strengthening. It is marketed as a sanitation hose, but is recommended by Trident for bilge applications as well. We had a great deal on it through a friend so it made sense to go with it. The new hose was 10 times as stiff as the old corrugated stuff, so it was a bear running it. It required expansion of several holes, and all three of us to work it through the tough spots simultaneously. It just barely worked, in fact. Slightly stiffer and we may have had to trade it in for some other type of hose. But now that it’s done I don’t regret it. 


Serviced manual bilge pumps

Jonny and I completely dismantled the two manual bilge pumps, cleaned and inspected every part, and put them back together. They were in pretty good shape and probably didn’t need to be given the full treatment, but now we have more confidence in them.

Upon removing the pump that was in the bilge, I discovered that it had been mounted to an untreated piece of lumber, and that the board had been screwed into the fiberglass with low-grade steel, which at some point just rusted in half,  so when I grabbed the pump the whole board came right up with it.

So I remounted it on a piece of marine grade plywood, painted with a few coats of penetrating epoxy, mounted mounting strips in the bilge, and put it back down there with through-bolts on everything.

Replacing Watertanks, Pt I (removal)

Over the christmas work trip to mexico we removed the existing, leaking, stainless steel watertanks from the boat. It was an extraordinarily tedious job. Read more »