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Walking on Water
~ Walking on Water ~
The Fresh Water System & Water Heater
Water Water Everywhere…
Our primary, planned project was to get our water tanks and lines working. The boat was not properly winterized while in Connecticut, and one of our two tanks had split as a result. Several of the water lines, which were the original copper pipes, had also been damaged. A couple of days of getting water straight from the hose was all it took to move this project to the head of the list.

Don spent a weekend pulling the old copper out and replacing it with flexible PVC tubing. Then he isolated the tank that was still intact, and we gave it a shock treatment. Out boat came with an installed 6 gallon water heater, and much to our surprise it worked like a champ once we found the reset button. Hot and cold running water! These little things are now what make life great.

Water Heater
~ Water Heater ~

Repairing the second tank took a bit more effort. Removing the access plate held in place by 100 rusty bolts was a real chore. And there is always that one last bolt that just doesn't want to give up its hold. We pumped all the stagnant water out, and were elated to discover the crack was only on the fiberglass top of the tank. After repairing the split, Don spent a great deal of time hanging upside down steam cleaning the tank; a real joy in Florida's already humid environment.

Our Hans Christian came with no means of indication as to how much is in the holding tanks at any time, so we decided to install a Tank Tender. This ingenious instrument requires no electricity, and comes in a 4 tank monitoring system which was just right for us. We decided that while we had at least one access plate off, we would go ahead and install it. The most difficult part was figuring out where to mount the panel. And the scariest part was cutting the big hole in our beautiful teak for the panel. But I'm very happy to know that we now have the capacity for 90 wonderful gallons of fresh water, and to know exactly how full all of our tanks are.

Instant Propane Water Heater
~ Instant Propane Water Heater ~
04 Apr 2010 Refit
Though the water heater did a great job for us while plugged in at the dock, it became a useless space hog while on the hook. Our first attempt at having hot water on hand during long stays at anchor was via solar power. Basically, a black bag filled with 3 gallons of water sitting on a sunny deck produced temperatures somewhere between tolerable and painful, and the attached hose running down through the forward hatch tapped us in for many a Russian Roulette rinse.

But as the daylight shortened with the season, so too did our hot water window. I'd taken on a job that often had me absent in the height of the heat, so it soon became apparent that solar showers and schedules didn't go well together. Enter the propane powered instant hot water heater!

After some research, Don found an Excel vent-free unit that was reasonably priced and appropriately sized to mount on the rare, flat surface of the bulkhead inside the anchor locker. The vent-free option meant we didn't have to worry about big holes in the cabin top, reducing installation to only minor re-plumbing, and an additional propane solenoid switch for safety sake. Voila, we had scalding water on demand. Well … as long as the demand was for no more than 45 seconds.

Now I'm efficient at the water saving efforts of brisk bathing, but even the U.S. Navy granted more shower-time than that! Once soaped up, I'd open the valve and hear the futile click-click-click of failed ignition as freezing water sprayed down on this shocked sailor. "DON! The water heater isn't lighting!"

My hapless hubby would plod into the head, spread the towels aside, open the louvered locker doors, and "POOF" (a good sound) we had lift off! He'd confirm the little blue blaze with a vexing and vexed "Looks like it's working fine now" quip, then put everything to rights.

Rinse and repeat. Click-click-click … "DON!!!"

Vent Fan in Locker
~ Vent Fan in Locker ~

We'd fiddle with the flow and flame controls with some success, but our showers continued to be a study in contrasts. Alas, batteries filled up the old tank space, wire had been run, holes had been drilled and sweat had been spilled so there was no going back. Our bubble of hopes for hot water on the hook were completely combusted so we swallowed the situation as yet another eccentricity of this aquatic life.

That was until an unrelated conversation occurred regarding engine compartment fires. When it was mentioned that an automated extinguisher or Fire Port would mitigate the risk of feeding oxygen to the flame, a cognitive spark of association flared up in my brain.

"Don, why doesn't our water heater need a vent?"

"It has a sensor in it to shut it off if the oxygen levels get to low … HEY!"

I saw the realization flash on Don's face. We'd installed the water heater in a space so small it couldn't occupy a gasp; the unit's safety feature was functioning as designed. Each time we did a status check, we'd unwittingly let the suffocated flame breathe again, but tucked tight behind closed doors had us taking cold showers.

We'd not been that quickwitted about the cause of our problems, but a viable resolution came pretty fast. Don connected a small fan that turned on with the propane solenoid, and we showered with the locker doors cleared and opened wide. With all that oxygen flowing freely, we once again enjoyed hot showers of sufficient, sailory length – about 90 seconds!

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