Boat Projects: Lights, Heads, Action!

This month we got back to the boat after spending 3 weeks in Houston selling off the rest of our belongings!  Truly an unexpected change of plans (I feel very bad about leaving my work on such short notice, sorry guys).

Here are the boat projects we’ve finished so far:

Cleaning the water tanks and installing water filtration at the sink

When we first arrived to the boat in September we were pretty put off by the quality of the water in the tanks, what came out of the faucet was cloudy and odd smelling.  We could actually see bits of algae floating in the tank, which was continually clogging the filter just before the water pump.  Granted, the previous owners lived with this (I think they used a Brita) and no one got hurt, but I need to keep the Mrs. happy!  The remedy was a somewhat long process, which I’ve only completed for the port side tank so far.  For the mean time that is good enough since we have 165 gallon capacity per tank.

First I removed the two inspection covers and drained the tank completely using the on board water pump, toward the end I had to use a hand pump since the pick up is not in the very bottom of the tank.  The tank has 4 baffles to prevent sloshing when under way, but with only 2 of them accessible the best solution I could come up with was to blast the debris out with a water wand (similar to this one).  After that I filled the tank to the brim and shocked it with chlorine, I also ran each faucet in the boat so the chlorinated water would have a chance to sterilize the lines as well.  After 12 hours of that, I drained and filled it twice to flush the system.

The aluminum inspection covers had some kind of epoxy paint on them which was flaking off and would have resulted in a poor bond to seal them back down.  I ground this off with a wire wheel brush, and was intending to repaint it, however I have not been able to find a good “potable water” epoxy to apply that is sold in small quantities (most of what is available is industrial and sold in 5 gallon buckets).  I re-installed them bare and will tackle that later!  I’m thinking about just replacing the whole cover with a sheet of Plexiglas.

Port side water tank inspection cover, re-installed.
Port side water tank inspection cover, re-installed.

Now, the only problem here is that eventually the tank will get nasty again, its the nature of water tanks.  However there are some measures we’re taking to keep it clean:

  • Filter the water going into the tank – install a whole house filter on the water spigot when you fill your tanks.  You might think municipal water is clean, but maybe not!
  • Keep chlorine in tank – Chlorine, even if it comes from a city tap, will evaporate out of the water in a short time, add chlorine (google the correct ratio).  I have also heard of Chlorine Dioxide which is sold in tablets and is supposedly healthier / greener for the environment, but we haven’t tried it yet.
  • Keep only as much water as you need – stale water breeds bacteria and algae.  While we’re near plenty of places that have water we’re only going to use one of our water tanks.  The other one is filled as ballast, but isolated from the system.
  • Install filters at the sink – despite all of the above, I still installed a filter at the sink.  A 5 micron filter will remove chlorine and much of the taste from the water.  Smaller micron filters can remove bacteria, but that is what the chlorine is for.  We were able to re-purpose a couple of house filters that were in the engine room.  They had been set up to filter water for the entire boat, but that was just too much for the water pump to keep up with.
Filtered water dispenser next to the hand pump, yes we cleaned the sink just for this picture.
Filtered water dispenser next to the hand pump, yes we cleaned the sink just for this picture.


Engine room plumbing panel, the two house filters are circled in red.
Engine room plumbing panel, the two house filters are circled in red.

The Forward Head

In a previous post I explained that when we first arrived the forward head worked, but the aft head did not.  As luck would have it, almost as soon as we fixed the aft head, the forward head stopped working.  For those of you don’t know, a head is a toilet.  Google tells me this term comes from when the “bathroom” used to be at the head of the ship, over the front, directly into the water!

Now, the aft head was easy, because it had never been used, but the forward head….

Our shining Raritan PHII manual pump toilet (actual toilet not pictured)
Our shining Raritan PHII manual pump head (actual toilet not pictured)

Well, it had been used, quite a lot.  The fix was simple, but smelly.  The “joker valve” needed replacing, for one thing.  This is kind of like a one way valve, as you pump the handle waste goes out but does not come back in.  Over time this wears out, the result is that the suction stroke doesn’t suck as much “waste” out of the bowl as it should.

The other issue, and this was quite silly really, was that the thru-hull handle was in the wrong position.  A thru-hull is a fitting on the hull of the boat that opens and closes to control water entering or leaving the boat.  What I thought was open, was actually only partway open.  The result was toilet paper and “waste” clogged up in the opening.  I had to pull the hose off the thru-hull and clean the “waste” out by hand.  (I trust you know what “waste” is).

Somehow I always find myself in these hard to reach places...
Somehow I always find myself in these hard to reach places…

The Galley Light

We have these very nice LED lights all over the galley, nav station and saloon.  They are energy efficient, which is good for our batteries.  The galley light actually worked but the button in the switch was stuck.  This was slightly more complicated than just replacing the switch because it had circuitry in it to down-convert the voltage from 12V to whatever the light needs.  I wound up using a solder gun to soften the solder and remove the old push button switch, then installed a jumper cable across the contacts.

I'm learning that jury-rigging is an important skill, since we don't have money to buy new.
I’m learning that jury-rigging is an important skill, since we don’t have money to buy new.

I re-routed the 12V supply for the light through a new push-button switch, this one conveniently installed on the galley bulkhead.

New LED pushbutton switch installed.
New LED pushbutton switch installed.


Yes that is an actual pot of food, we didn't just stage it for the picture.
Yes that is an actual pot of food, we didn’t just stage it for the picture.

Upcoming projects:

  • Reprogram MMSI numbers in all the radios and the AIS
  • Install a gimbal lock on the stove
  • Mount the dinghy on the davits (our Portabote didn’t come with any attachment points)

2 thoughts on “Boat Projects: Lights, Heads, Action!”

  1. Thanks to both of you for sharing about life on the boat. It helps this landlubber live a little! Love in Christ, Brad

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