As Mary heads off to the States for a couple of weeks Scott has a bit of a water catastrophe to resolve.

Day 539: Husband home alone

Position: Oxxean Marina Puerto Montt, Chile (yup, still marina queens)

Scott (YT) and Mary Flanders (MS) left Gibraltar on 16 September 2006, and we’ll be following their journey every step of the way, thanks to this unique online “blog”.

As Mary heads off to the States for a couple of weeks Scott has a bit of a water catastrophe to resolve.

Sunday 2 March

Mary is currently on her way to the States for a fortnight so I will be up to very little, other than a few boat chores. We have been taking advantage of the dock recently and buffing our little white fibreglass home so she looks like new. She hasn’t been buffed since we were in Turkey and it certainly shows. When we get to New Zealand we’ll repaint the blue stripes on her flybridge and the boot stripe to make her perfect. A few times when we have been busy cleaning her we’ll see other dockies pick up the compound can or wax and start their own clean up. I don’t know if it is the admiral dropping hints or just old fashion peer pressure. In one instance we even had a backlash of sorts. The owners of the Swedish boat that did a lot of computer work for us took us to task. When I asked what I could do for them to thank them for their hard work the lady said “buff our boat too”. Geesh. But we did, starting with the cockpit, fibreglass on the raised deck and lastly the hull above the rub rail. In the end Linda’s Farm (our nickname for the boat and very close to the correct pronunciation) shined and they were thrilled. So was I. The only downside was that in a few places the gel coat had been left too long and had become porous so no amount of buffing, or wet sanding would bring it back. A lesson to learn. Below are a couple of other cautionary tales.

Learn from our experience

An hour before Mary left for the States we were sitting in the saloon reading when we heard the water pump cycling. This is not a good sign unless someone is taking a shower, which we were not. We quickly raced around to find the source of the problem and we found the master toilet about to overflow. Mary ran to turn off the water pump circuit breaker and I lifted the toilet handle to evacuate the bowl.

We have Raritan Atlantis freshwater flush toilets. To flush the toilet you simply tap the little handle and she flushes. To evacuate the bowl for any reason you lift the handle and the macerator pump empties the bowl. With the water pump and head circuit breaker switched off we took Mary’s luggage up to the dock to wait for the taxi. I then tried to figure out what the problem was. At first I thought it was something electrical so I started with the mysterious box up inside the back of the toilet. Fortunately by removing two panels I could tilt the head forward without removing any hoses, a big plus. I read the manual, checked everything I could check and still could think of no cure so I did what every guy would do with the admiral away, I let the whole mess sit and had a beer (once I had removed the fresh water hose from the electric solenoid valve and put a cap on the hose end). After all we have two heads, one nearly new.

The next day we gave it another go. I thought the whole thing through. There is a single source of water and an electric solenoid valve, which is timed to open and close by the electrics in the back of the head. Either the electrics were shot or there were problems with the valve. The mechanical part is easier for me to comprehend so off came the solenoid valve. Jackpot! Inside was a wayward O-ring from one of the snap-together fittings used in the water system. The O-ring had been pushed by water pressure through the lines and was now seated on the edge of the solenoid diaphragm and allowing water to flow unrestricted. Who would’ve guessed? I put everything back together and it played like it should. A good clean up and a congratulatory brew with a neighbour later and all was well.

The next toilet tale comes from a friend’s boat, N47 Strictly for Fun, during a Med winter. We were talking between ourselves about backing up Strictly for Fun’s fresh water toilet feed (the same as Egret’s) with a sea water flush as well. The N47 has the saltwater wash down hose pass through the master cabin head on its way to the bow. Both Egret and have the latest Whale fittings and tubing for carrying both hot and cold water. Whale tubing is 15mm, hard shell, semi-flexible tubing, with blue for cold water and red for hot. The fittings work on the Chinese handcuff principal, with tightening fingers and an O-ring. They work well and are super easy to work on or modify.

The singular tool you need is a PVC cutter to cut a perfectly clean 90 degree cut. The hose and fittings simply snap together. We began by cutting into the saltwater hose and installing a T. From the T we installed a valve leading to another new T, which would allow either salt or fresh water to feed the toilet. In the original fresh water feed line we installed a second valve to allow fresh water to flow as usual when open or closed when using sea water as on an ocean crossing or whenever fresh water is a premium.

Aboard Egret the salt water wash down hose runs down the port side, opposite the head, and I admit I am a bit lazy. We could run a sea water line to the head and a set up like Strictly for Fun’s but instead we have a pail of sea water in the shower to flush when we want to save water. On the Atlantic crossing from the Canaries to Brazil our watermaker was down for a few days. With limited fresh water we used sea water to flush the heads. Priceless.

Lastly, there is another lesson to learn here. Both Strictly for Fun and Egret carry extensive spares. Egret has a two-gallon zip lock bag full of spare Whale fittings plus 10ft of blue tubing. If we hadn’t had the Whale end cap in stock (not used anywhere in normal usage), bought on speculation of someday having to block off a line we would have been in trouble.

If we were to do another new build we would have the Nord guys plumb the Atlantis heads as we did on Strictly for Fun. (Yes we would buy the Raritan Atlantis again. They are the best heads we have ever had).