Saturday, November 27, 2010

Who designed this boat?

We'd love to meet the person who designed our Silverton and perhaps invite him or her to visit and explain just why certain things were done the way they were.

Let's begin with the plumbing.  If you've read previous posts, you'll remember that we are replacing the old Mansfield Traveler toilet with a new one. We solved the problem of mounting the new toilet that is just 13-inches high by mounting it on the base the from old toilet to boost it up to regular "sitting" height. Lucky we saved the base of the old toilet..

This weekend we began removing some of the old plumbing and found some very sub-standard waste hose even given that is is more than 30 years old. The plumbing connections were all made inside the vanity and I'd say that "sloppy" would be a compliment. Pulling out all these poorly designed connections and replacing them will take many weekends.  Here is a picture of where we'll be working well into the first of the year - under the vanity.

The elbow you can see in this picture had a hose on it that was connected to the discharge fitting on the old head. I had just removed it. The other hoses are for fresh water to the old toilet and a hose to an unused seacock that must have supplied sea water to the head sometime in the past. Why would anyone leave 2-3 feet of extra hose stuffed back there?  Maybe it wasn't Silverton.  Perhaps it was the previous owner.  Either way, it's sloppy and considering that one of those hoses went to an unused seacock, fairly stupid.

Then there is the shower sump. The old one was mounted so far up under the floor that it was impossible to reach. This wasn't the doing of the previous owner. This was Silverton. They probably installed it before putting in the floors.  How were you to open this thing to clean it?  How were you supposed to get to it to replace it, as we are doing?  Impossible!  So, we pulled up the carpeting and cut hole in the floor right over the shower sump.

Since we're on everyone's case today, let's mention the Rule Shower Sump. It's a plastic box with a removable top that contains a strainer, a small bilge pump and an enclosed float switch and it's not cheap.  To begin with, the mounting flange on the bottom of the sump is so narrow, that it is impossible to use a power screwdriver to drive screws straight down to mount it to the fiberglass hull. The Rule sump has a variety of inlet sizes; and you need only open the one.  We opened the 1-1/2-inch port but when we went to connect it to the 1-1/2-inch outlet hose that runs to the through-hull, we found that the Rule was just a hair over the 1-1/2-inch inside diameter of the discharge hose. Cute. It won't fit and hanging upside down trying to make that connection isn't fun. Imagine paying some marina mechanic $65 an hour to install this thing?

On Sunday, we brought down our trusty heat gun and gave that old hose a shot of high heat for about 60 seconds. It relaxed enough so that after a couple of tries, we could slip it onto the 1-1/2-inch fitting on the shower sump.

Here's a picture of the shower sump properly connected and, although you can't see it here, leveled and screwed down. We poured pink antifreeze down the shower drain to test it and it worked.  We also bolted some wood supports in place to hold the access hatch in place. We'll have to add one more on the right side but we ran out of time today.

Looks OK, and will be invisible once the carpet is rolled back in place.

As it turned out, we spend two valuable days replacing a shower sump that Silverton should have located where it was more accessible. Luckily, we have more energy than Silverton had intelligence when they designed this part of the plumbing.

The wiring for the bilge pump is another story.  This rat's nest has dozens of old connections.  All of this will be replaced. We'll also replace that old bilge pump.  Let's call that work for one weekend.

While we were at it, we dropped the new holding tank in place and measured for a piece of plywood that will support it and keep it from sliding side-to-side and fore-and-aft.

We originally thought that we'd install a large holding tank under the cockpit, outboard of the starboard engine but the plumbing issues (running sanitary hose from the head to the cockpit) and the fact that we'd have to remove the outboard exhaust manifold on the starboard engine to get the holding tank in there made us re-think that. Instead, we have chosen to install a smaller (14-gallon) holding tank under the hallway outside of the head. We bought a holding tank from on Long Island.  The tank was made by Ronco Plastics in California and from what we saw, they are a major supplier of water and holding tanks. I'm glad we settled for this size tank because it just fits through the opening in the floor.

We also had to make some decisions regarding how we dispose of waste. We cruise in waters that are all protected from on-board discharge of waste so we're designing this system to be absolutely legal; there will be no way for us to pump waste overboard.  That simplifies the plumbing somewhat but we'll still have to spend many weekends drilling big holes under the floor outside of the head and snaking hoses.

This isn't going to be fun but we'll get it done

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter projects: Really getting started

It's time to roll up the carpeting and get going on the two big projects: a new head and holding tank and replacement of the old Norcold refrigerator.  This weekend, we had a retreat that we had to attend that used up most of Saturday but on Sunday we headed to Portland to see what we could accomplish before it gets really cold.

The plumbing under the floor outside of the head was really a mess, with lots of wiring tacked together for the bilge pump and plumbing pipes running from the old toilet to a macerator and seacock.  There is also a completely unused seacock and thru-hull fitting that at one time must have supplied sea water to the head for flushing purposes. All of that had to go to make room for the new holding tank.

Removing that old seacock in a confined space was a challenge since there wasn't room to really get in there and push on it. We eventually were able to break it loose with a large set of parallel-jaw pliers held tight with a hose clamp. Then a tap or two with a hammer and off it came.

We then used our Shop-Vac to suck out the remaining bilge water and the debris that had collected down there over the last 30 years.  The macerator also fought us every inch of the way but it eventually came out, too.  We left the old waste hoses in place since we'll probably need them to snake the new sanitary hose in for the holding tank.

Frances was busy removing the last of our stuff for the winter so we put the hatch outside of the head back in place and began to figure out how the old Norcold refrigerator could be removed.  We found that it was held in place by four 2-inch stainless screws concealed by four small black plastic plugs. Two screws came out OK but the other two were blocked by the fridge door, so we removed that and then backed out the remaining two screws. Then, we pulled up on the front of the fridge and it came loose from the floor were it was stuck by mainly old gunk and dirt.

There was very little room to move the fridge once it was clear of the counter but we managed to lift it out and up the stairs and out the door onto the deck.

It's interesting that the Norcold has the refrigerant coils and part of the compressor mounted outside of the cabinet.  The new fridge has everything mounted inside, which will give us some extra room for air circulation once it is mounted in the space under the counter top.

With he Norcold out, we now have access to the rear of the AC circuit breaker panel, which will be handy as we add some outlets over the winter. Note the usual ultra-neat Silverton wiring.

The cavity were the fridge goes is also where we can access the air conditioning unit.  We always wondered how they got that thing in there.

The new fridge arrived in just two days and Frances plugged it in immediately to test it. The dimensions are prefect and it will slip right into the space available under the counter. Note that in the bottom photo, there is something on the shelf of the fridge.  It's chicken. That's Frances' ultimate test meat. "If the chicken doesn't rot, it's a good refrigerator."  I think it came out OK but so far we haven't had chicken for dinner.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More on the toilet project

Today, we devoted ourselves to removing the old toilet. The old unit was a Mansfield Traveler, a head that was widely used in Silvertons, Luhrs among other boats and in lots of RVs the late 70s and early 80s.  This was before no-discharge zones so manufacturers could get away with the simple design the "Traveler" offered. The toilet was mounted on a 9-gallon holding tank.  To flush, you pressed a pedal on the side of the toilet.  That opened a clam shell-like valve in the toilet and released fresh water from the on-board supply to flush the waste down  into he holding tank. The clam shell valve was supposed to be air tight, so gas from the waste stored directly below wouldn't find its way out. At discharge time, you either used a pump out facility or you actuated a macerator mounted below the floor and that pumped the shredded waste overboard.

Obviously, that left a lot to be desired and that's why we undertook this project now.

Here's the old toilet in place (which was fairly easy to remove in one piece) and then a shot of the area where the head had been mounted.

Before heading to the dumpster, we disassembled the old head because we need the old holding tank to use as a base for the new toilet. The old holding tank-base won't be used to store waste. It will simply be a fiberglass box used to raise the new head to the proper height.

The bowl portion of the old head came off easily but the assembly below that wasn't so accommodating. So, we took it home for a closer inspection.

These bolts held the mounting flange under the bowl to the tank.  They refused to come out. The nut and bolt would simply turn together.

We decided that the only way to remove them was to cut them off with our Dremel.  That required a trip to Lowes to buy some Dremel Reinforced cut-off blades.  Those blades went  through these old plated brass bolts and nuts like butter, although we ended up cutting down through the top of the bolt and then the nut, splitting them in half. In an hour, we had them out.

Then we pried the gasket loose, leaving us with the old holding tank that really needed to be cleaned. Ugh! Thirty years of crap!

Once the old tank base was clean, we test fitted the new Jabsco Silent Flush head to the old holding tank, which would now be its mounting base.  What a surprise, it fit!  In fact, it appears that all these heads have the same 7-1/4" mounting base. Learned something again.

We'll have to find a way to mount the new head on the base, perhaps using toggle bolts of some kind.  Have to give that some thought.

Removing the old head and putting in a new one is to us, a complicated project and one that we can only really work on over the weekends. During the week, we'll make drawings and we have included one here. Sure, it's crude but sketches like this help us figure out what parts we need and in what sequence things have to be done.  They also helps Frances understand what's going on and that's necessary because she is fully involved in anything that we undertake on this old boat.

Sometimes Frances will say to me, "Why are you doing it that way?" and you know, more often than not, that's a very good question..

Friday, November 12, 2010

The toilet has arrived

We must be getting old to get excited about the arrival of our new head.  We shopped all over and finally found the best price at an Internet site.  The Raritan Silent Flush arrived two days later.  Perfect shape, quite a thing to pick up and examine. Really good workmanship. Frances approved of it wholeheartedly so we took out the directions and started our installation drawings.

First, we'll have to install a new holding tank under the floor outside of the head. As part of that, we'll be cutting a access hatch in that same floor (thanks, Rob for suggesting it) so we can reach the shower sump.  Once the holding tank goes in, the shower sump would be behind it where we won't be able to reach it in case it needs repair or cleaning.

It look like a 14-15 gallon holding tank will fit in that space.  The plumbing - all with 1-1/2" sanitary hose - should be a nasty job to say the least.  The hose, at $6.00 a foot, isn't very flexible and it requires the use of a heat gun to get it soft enough to accept fittings.

Then there's the task of routing the outlet hose of the holding tank to the pump-out deck fitting. There's a piece of old, black hose going to it now and we're hoping we can use that to pull the new sanitary hose up to the deck fitting. The deck fitting itself is El-cheapo original equipment so that will have to be changed as well.

The toilet itself is only 14-inch high (they all are, apparently) so we'll be mounting that on the holding tank base from the old toilet to bring it up to a comfortable height. The toilet also comes with a syphon-breaker assembly, which is basically a solenoid that keeps water from the toilet from syphoning back into the fresh water supply. That's a hefty enough electrical draw so that we'll have to provide new wiring for it.  Just one more little detail, but we'll get it done.

Then there's the refrigerator replacement. The old Norcold works but the door seals leak pretty badly and parts are hard to get so that is going to go.  To replace it, Frances found a compact-sized two-door refrigerator-freezer that is meant for household use. All of the compact marine and domestic refrigerators of this type are approximately the same size, so it will fit.

Another interesting note: all marine refrigerators like the Norcold, are 110-volt appliances. They are "marinized" by adding a small inverter built into the back of the unit that changes 12-volts DC from the boat's batteries to 110-volt AC to run the compressor.

It's amazing how much you learn when you begin to research these things.

So, with that in mind, we've developed a plan to "marinize" our new refrigerator. We have a large empty space under the salon floor right behind where the refrigerator is installed. In that space, we'll install a 2,000-watt inverter supported by two 12-volt, Group 27 batteries wired in parallel. We'll charge those batteries with a new marine battery charger that we just happen to have.

Our calculations show that those batteries should keep the 'fridge going for more than 24 hours without being charged. A  24-hour cruise, for us, is not on the horizon, so for a typical cruise of say, 6 hours, we will be fine. Once we dock and plug in again, the batteries will be recharged in a few hours.

If we anchor out, then we'll just have to be a little more careful about opening and closing the fridge door. It appears that a weekend at anchor (our limit, I think) is still well within the capacity of this system.

It's certainly possible to charge the batteries using one of the engines while under way.  That requires an isolator and while a its cool thing to do, it just might be more than we can handle this winter.  We learned last winter that the to-do list has to be reasonable. Next summer will be a good test of the design.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Widowmaker Pizza

Saturday night, A-dock met at Willington Pizza for a post season get together. Carol Ann suggested this spot and did all the work of finding a restaurant and contacting everyone on A-dock.

On Friday, she expected 16 to 18 people but 26 people showed up. It couldn't have been a better party or a better place to have it.

Having never been there, we didn't know what to expect.  Willington is in rural eastern Connecticut where the wildlife is primarily deer and University of Connecticut students. We thought that we'd be meeting in a little pizza place, where the A-dock folks would be the biggest show in town. How wrong we were and knowing Carol Ann, we should have known that this place would be good. When it's difficult to find a parking place in Willington, Connecticut, you know you must be on to something very good.

The place was huge and very crowded, as it would be on Saturday night.  We waited as the A-dock folks arrived and after a while, it seem that we took up most of the waiting area. Carol Ann kept updating the management on the total number in our party. 18, 20, 24 then finally 26.

Eventually, we were all seated at two tables and everyone ordered pizza of some kind. That was too much food for even a crowd this big but it gave us a chance to sample others' choices and all were excellent.

Here are some of the pictures of A-dock folks having fun:

Dick (at right) wasn't asleep. We just caught him reacting to the camera flash. LouAnn (center) was enjoying Dick's company.

There was lots of talking about boats... Dale, at left, showed up after we were all seated and he made our total 26 people.

And Marvin, our most senior dockmate, had fun.

Our table got together for a group shot. Every gathering like ours has to have a photo like this. Deidre and Barbara (second and third from right) ordered the "Widowmaker Pizza." It was delicious and we had to use that name in the title of this blog.

And that was only half the crowd.

Eventually, we all filed out with the remainder of our pizzas in boxes and everyone got home safely. We missed Deidre's husband, Daryl, who was recovering from an auto accident, but we know he'll be with us next time.

Next week, we'll be back to boat projects. OK, maybe the week after. Our boat, Act Three, is back on land for the winter and our first project is to install a new head (toilet) and holding tank. We'll take lots of pictures of this project and we'll keep working on our list of projects until next spring,

Of course, if someone invites us back to Willington Pizza, we'll drop our wrenches and be there!