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April 2010

More on Boat Plumbing -- Including What I Learned When I Plumbed

NOTE: At this point, I earn no money from this blog and have not accepted advertising. (Not to say I wouldn't) We paid for all parts mentioned here and neither Sea Tech, Inc. nor Rogers Hardware in Bath are aware I am writing this post.

I discovered a number of bruises and scratches this morning, mostly on my hands and arms but one bruise on my sternum shows that I was definitely using and abusing all of my body in an attempt to detach and reattach plumbing fixtures yesterday.

It was an interesting day and I wish I could have taken the time to jot down things that were said. (Except for bad words. Those were uttered, I must confess, but you don't need to read them here.)

EW had nearly completed re-plumbing the entire boat prior to his knee surgery. He will install a new wash down pump with a manifold that will allow us to have fresh water on deck if we want it, and he planned to fix a broken valve under the galley sink as soon as we had used the all the water in the tanks. That happened yesterday morning shortly after 10, so I offered to fix it. 

It should have been a simple fix.

  • Detach three Sea Tech snap lock fixtures. (Piece of cake)
  • Use wrenches to detach the valve from the tank fixture. 
  • Put in new valve.
  • Reattach the snap fixtures.
  • Fill the tanks.
  • Wash the breakfast dishes.

Nothing is simple on a boat. Three problems cropped up during the project.

  1. The broken valve was impossible to remove from the tank fitting. 
  2. The tank fitting - a "nipple" from the tank through the bulkhead to the valve - was also broken
  3. I suck at using wrenches -- particularly two at once in tight places. In part this is just a lack of hand and arm strength but I'm a bit of a klutz and am uncoordinated with wrenches. 

As a result of # 3 above, we didn't actually discover # 1 or # 2 above for over two hours. I other words we assumed my lack of skills and/or lack of strength were preventing me from doing something EW could do in 10 minutes.

    "Is it coming?"

    "Not yet."

Working under the sink 4-18-2010 10-53-51 AM

Fifteen minutes later -- 

    "How's it going?"

    "The whole thing is turning."

    "Try using this wrench."

Again, under the sink

Then --

    "Which nut are you on."

    "Which nut should I be on?"

Fifteen minutes later ---

    How's it going?"

    "Really, not as much turning down here as you would expect from the sound. I keep having trouble with the wrench."

Still under the sink 4-18-2010 10-51-57 AM

You get the idea.  Ultimately -- around 1 PM I relented and he gingerly lowered himself to a non-kneeling position and manned the wrenches. He quickly discovered #1 above, that these items could not be separated under the sink. So I opened up the water tank, baled out the gallon of water left in it, removed the nut holding the "nipple" fitting in the tank, and then pushed that fitting through the hole. Ta Da!Old part, removed!

Then we trudged up to the shop and used a vise to separate the broken valve from the tank fitting. Afterward, EW discovers (#2 above) that the tank fitting was broken. We did not have a replacement.

EW heads to Lowe's with old plumbing parts to figure out what we need for new plumbing parts (and to forage for lunch) and I cleaned the water tank and rested.

NOTE: I learned a lot more about our on-board water system. First of all, the tanks are easily accessible and easy to clean. Second,it was already clean, not disgusting at all. (That's a relief.) Third, the water pump doesn't impact the tanks, it moves the water in the hoses. The water gets from the tanks into the hoses simply by gravity feed. I will never be a plumber, but I have a much better understanding of our fresh water system.

Nearly two hours later, EW finally returned with lunch and parts. Lowe's didn't have what we needed and I'm not sure where he searched until he finally ended up at Rogers Hardware in Bath. I love that store; Rogers Hardware is a neighborhood hardware store on steroids. Working in the plumbing department on Sunday was a plumbing MacGyver -- EW described the problem and this guy devised the perfect solution. 

After lunch I went back under the sink and into the tank (figuratively speaking) and attached the new parts. Ta Da!  P4180032
 (As you can see, one should never scratch their nose when working with black boat goo.) 

EW filled the water tanks while I snapped together the Sea Tech parts  and we were done!


Well not quite. The Sea Tech parts are great. We love them. But it does take some power to snap them together and I had a hard time getting leverage. The next hour or so was spent in this manner: I struggled to snap the pipe to the connector, listening for the "snick" of a proper connection. (Never did understand what that really sounded like -- ask EW, he knows.)  I would crawl under the table and turn on a water valve and hear EW say, "It still leaks." Then I'd turn off the valve and crawl back to the galley and try again - for five valves. Yeah, that was fun. (Insert bad words here.)

Finally, I relented again and EW gingerly kneeled on one knee and connected the most difficult fitting. For the rest, I got leverage by putting my legs into the cabinet under the sink and pressing my upper body into the top shelf. (This explains the bruise on my sternum.)

NOTE: For you who read very carefully and for you numbers guys: yes I did start with 3 fittings and had to re-connect 5 as we discovered a slow leak in two others. (See, even EW doesn't get it right all the time.)

At 7:30 I finished the breakfast dishes.

Ta Da!

P.S. EW is my hero. During the last few months, kneeling on a bad knee he totally re-fitted the fresh water system with no help, with no fanfare and with no complaints. 

That is why I choose to live aboard and go sailing with this man.Stew at the Helm

Best Laid Plans When Living Aboard .. Or Why it Took 7 Hours to Do the Dishes

Today had a great start. We slept in past 8, EW went to get the paper and I made pancakes. After a leisurely breakfast with NPR and the puzzles (EW with the crossword and I with Sudoku) I got ready to start my self-assigned tasks. I was going to finish cleaning and organizing the main salon, move our "home office" cupboard to one on the starboard side and expand galley storage on the port side. I was looking forward to it.

But first, the dishes. We knew we were low on water and, sure enough we ran out just as I started. "No problem," said EW. "We'll just fill the tanks".

I should have kept my mouth shut. "Didn't you want to change a valve when the tanks were empty?" I asked. 

He did. 

We both realized it and we both knew that he couldn't change the valve as he is still recovering from knee surgery on April 6. "OK," I said, "teach me to be a plumber."

I am not a good plumber. 

  1. I don't like gooky. 
  2. I struggle with wrenches.
  3. I have to repeat "lefty loosey, righty tighty". A lot.
  4. I am not as strong as EW. 

The project took all day including a nearly two hour period when EW left for parts. He had to go to three stores. There will be photos and more about this tomorrow. I'm beat. But we have water and nothing leaks and the dishes are done. 

Doing It Yourself -- Or How I Failed in "Training" EW Regarding Boat Repairs

I married a "Do-It-Yourselfer". More than that -- I sought out one as a life mate. When dating (over 27 years ago) I was not attracted to men who could not fix or repair something. Men with soft hands held no appeal. I married a man who will tackle engines, home repair, fiberglass, electricity, plumbing and more.  I got that right, but I neglected to teach EW that I am a rare and fragile flower and cannot possibly do everything he does. Consequently, I am also a "Do-It-Yourselfer" - sometimes willingly and sometimes dragged, goaded or bribed into it. 

We've been out of the water for two weeks. During the first few days, EW hustled to get projects completed prior to his knee surgery. I helped. After EW's knee surgery, I was it -- the person charged with completing painting and polishing the hull. You have a lot of time to think about where you went wrong when you clean and wax a 47-foot sailboat. 

I narrowed my failure down to the two years prior to our marriage when EW came across an old wooden skiff and thought it would be fun to fix up and use. Our "dates" one spring consisted of applying fiberglass to this old boat and painting it green. Really. He would invite me over and mix up the resin, give me gloves, scissors and cloth and show me how to apply the fiberglass. Then we fared the hull and painted the boat and attached a motor that had been manufactured prior to the year of my birth. (Call him "Mr. Romance" - not!)

Sure, there were promises of gin and tonics when we were done each day, and romantic boat rides were mentioned.  Sure, I could have perched on a nearby stool and offered to fetch lunch, but no  --- I delved right in and have been working alongside him ever since from boat to boat to home to boat.

It was a bit chilly this weekend. There were other boaters in the yard working on spring projects. I was the only woman; no makeup, wearing EW's overalls and a Buffalo Bills cap, and one 87-year-old gentleman stopped by to talk. He had sailed a Westsail 32 around the world and raced other boats in the Northeast. Now he says he's reduced to a 19-foot day-sailor. 

He said I was "beautiful". I laughed and he recited Shakespeare's sonnet: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day ..." 

He recited the whole sonnet. Eloquently. And I felt beautiful; and accomplished; and capable.

I was exactly where I should have been this weekend. Doing what I love, being a player on the Harts At Sea team. Maybe I didn't fail after all. 

La Luna's completed hull