Tag Archives: howto

Electrical Projects: A Trip Down the Rabbit Hole

This winter, as the rain poured down day after day, I found time to start some electrical projects. Since I’ve never done electrical work in my life, this was a bit intimidating initially. What if I electrocuted myself? What if I messed something up and set the boat on fire? I had read the electrical chapters in Nigel Calder’s book – twice – but some parts were pretty advanced, and I still didn’t feel like I understood it all. Getting started turned out to be the hardest part.

windGen

Oh, our boat has a wind generator? Just kidding, it has a wire labeled wind gen connected to nothing!

Fortunately our boat had a pretty good electrical setup, so nothing major was required – but on a 32 year old boat there are always minor improvements to be made.

Detective Work

One thing I discovered I like about electrical work is it’s like being a detective – there are lots of little mysteries to work out. Electrical wiring is like the cardiac system of your boats – lots of arteries and veins leading everywhere and serving useful functions – or serving no function at all! One of the surprises was how many old wires had been left in place after boat hardware was removed.

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Rebedding on a C&C Landfall 38

With day after day of rain lately, thoughts turn towards preventing that water from ruining wood coring. Almost all boats have it, and most boats have at least a couple leaks. If I had known all the locations of coring on the C&C Landfall 38 (LF38) upon purchase I would’ve resealed penetrations in those areas much earlier.

But as far as I know there are no online resources which map out every single cored location, and even the knowledgeable long-time C&C owners on the mailing list didn’t have a conclusive list of cored locations. The C&C builders schematics (deck plan, sail plan, cabin plan) – which I have from a prior owner purchasing – don’t document coring locations.

Now after a year I feel I know most of the cored locations, and will document them here for other’s use. This isn’t a complete list however, as there are probably still a few I haven’t found. Reader Warning: This post is a bit technical, and I’m going to assume you have already read a couple books / articles on coring and hardware rebedding (Maine Sail / Compass Marine’s excellent articles, Don Casey’s book).

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Crevice corrosion on one of the bolts for the backstay chainplate. Leaks can destroy your boat’s hardware and rigging – a good reason to catch it before that happens!

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How to Get Stainless Steel Rigging Parts Fabricated

The hardest part of boat repairs is often just finding the part you need. A lot of parts aren’t exactly sold on Amazon.com with 2-day Prime delivery. For the more unusual parts, for old diesel engines or custom rigging, local and online marine stores may simply not carry it.

When I discovered this crack in the link plate connecting my forestay to the boat, I knew it was time for replacement:

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In fact I was already working on replacing this – a rigger hired for the rig survey last spring had recommended replacement with a stronger piece, and I agreed it was definitely the weak link in the forestay.

Spoiler Alert: In the end, I don’t end up getting the part fabricated.

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Rebuilding Marine Head Plumbing

Project Summary:
  • Time: About 8 hours + research time
  • Cost: $100
  • Knowing your toilet won’t clog: Priceless

On our Memorial Day cruise the head (marine toilet) got clogged. Really totally blocked up – the pump wouldn’t move without a lot of pressure, and forcing it too much caused air / liquid to hiss out of a hose clamp.

So once back in Seattle we disassembled it. Needless to say, this is a messy job – quite literally a shitty job. Pulling hoses off hose barbs is actually really hard. It required a lot of muscle power in tiny tight spaces under the sink, all while knowing as soon as the hose popped off I might have a river of sludge flowing onto my hands and into the cabinet where it would be hard to clean up. We used garbage bags and large Ziplock bags as catch sheets wherever possible.

The holding tank under the nav seat, with the inlet fitting opened and a new hose lying on top.

The holding tank under the nav seat, with the inlet fitting opened and a new Trident 102 hose lying on top.

Inside the 90 degree PVC elbow that connects to the holding tank, we found petrified poop completely blocking the pipe. It had dried into a solid rock plug. It’s actually amazing liquids were still making it past. This had probably been developing for years, from the prior owner’s time, mainly caused by using the toilet without flushing enough water through the system to get the material all the way into the holding tank.

We decided to replace the old hose since it’d be easier to replace with new hose than trying to salvage, and we really don’t want to have to do this again soon. So starting fresh ensures we have new hose with no buildup or scale on the walls.

The Y valve below the vented loop

The Y valve below the vented loop

It turns out there are several types of sanitation hose vastly superior to the rigid white vinyl stuff we had in the boat. For some reason most boats have that unflexible white hose, and it’s the only kind of hose stocked onsite at the local West Marine and some other marine stores. This hose may be the cheapest, but it’s just stupid that so many people still use it – is it worth saving $50 on a head rebuild by using cheap hose?  I don’t think so, since we really don’t want to have to do this again anytime soon.

Standard PVC hose

Standard PVC hose

Raritan Sani/Flex hose

Raritan Sani/Flex hose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This unflexible hose is a giant pain to install or remove from tight spaces. Since it doesn’t bend much if you need to go around a corner you need to splice in a PVC or Marelon elbow joint. We wanted to minimize elbow joints since they can increase the chances of a clog – you don’t want flat spots or upslopes in the system where sludge can sit and dry.

Premium hose like Trident 102 (which we ended up buying from Fisheries Supply) is better because it’s easy to bend, yet still very strong and odor proof. Raritan Sani/Flex hose is also supposed to be very good, although it’s one of the most expensive ($17/ft list, $14/ft at Defender). Also Maine Sail (a well known boat maintenance writer whose opinion I trust) recommends Trident 102, and says the old PVC hose should basically die a horrible death.

This job ended up being the toughest we’ve done so far. It’s surprisingly difficult to get hoses off hose barbs in tight spaces. It makes you wonder why so many people would ever worry about double-clamping hoses. The hoses in our head plumbing, after removing the hose clamps, probably wouldn’t have come apart even if a giant sat on them. I’ll still do it for below waterline fittings, but probably not above waterline.

Anyway, we’re very happy to have a clog free head now, and looking forward to not doing that again anytime soon! On the plus side, after disassembling holding tank hoses, all other boat jobs seem pretty pleasant in comparison.

You can read more on hoses here:

Tackling the Mold Monster

Mold is a dreaded word amongst boat owners. Mold is insidious, and sitting in a wet environment doesn’t help a boat’s chances.

Violet Hour had some minor mold on the headliner of the berths. Sitting idle in Vancouver for a few months in the fall and winter while it was for sale hadn’t helped. The surveyor noted it as minor, and I agreed. When we stepped onto the boat, it didn’t smell mildewy or damp like other boats we visited (a couple of which had really bad mold problems!) – Natalie has a sensitive nose, so she was our mold detector, and Violet Hour passed.

But, I discovered I have a sensitivity to mold – a mold allergy. Sleeping on the boat resulted in bloodshot, watery, itchy eyes and a runny nose. Within 8 hours I’d have the symptoms of a cold, and it would last for a couple days. So this minor mold presence became top priority to clean up.

After exploring the boat more we found mold in a few other places, deep inside hard to reach lockers and crevices that are rarely viewed. Many boats in the Northwest probably have some mold and their owners don’t even realize it.

Paper towels after scrubbing mold washed with a bleach water solution

Paper towels after scrubbing mold washed with a bleach water solution

Cleaning up mold is actually really simple.

Steps to Tackling Mold:

  1. Clean + kill the mold.
  2. Reduce moisture in the air.
  3. Fix sources of water being added to the boat interior (leaks).

Supplies:

  • bleach
  • sponges
  • paper towels
  • dust mask for nose/mouth
  • clear safety eyeglasses (optional)
  • dehumidifier (I used this one – the Eva-Dry, which is very compact for storing on the boat)
  • Damprid (optional)

Other Options I haven’t tried:

  • Borax
  • Tea tree oil – some say this is a natural mold fighter, but I’m skeptical – it sounds just like the hippie natural supplements store version of Clorox.
  • Ozone machine – this is the Big Bertha of mold treatments, and something I would consider a last resort.
Minor mold on the headliner

Minor mold on the headliner

After two months gradually working on this problem, I’m happy to say the mold is conquered – or at least as much as it ever will be on a boat.

We scrubbed the surfaces with a sponge coated with Clorox or a bleach water solution (about 1 cup per 3 gallons), wiped down surfaces below the headliner that mold might have fallen onto while cleaning, and then ran a dehumidifier. The dehumidifier was run in various sections of the boat for 2-3 days at a time once per week for 3-4 weeks, usually collecting about a ½ cup of water each time.

I also deployed Damprid to 5 or 6 locations around the boat – mainly in galley, cabin and head cubbies that have reduced air flow. I fashioned individual Damprid containers out of leftover plastic food containers because I figured it’s cheaper to buy one 4-pound Damprid bucket rather than 5 or 6 of the individual sized containers.

Damprid 4-pound tub

Damprid 4-pound tub

Homemade Damprid container - inner container with drainage holes in the bottom, inside an outer holding container.

Homemade Damprid container – inner container with drainage holes in the bottom, inside an outer holding container.

One thing I would do differently next time – wear gloves when working with bleach solution! I stuck my hand in the cleaning bucket each time I wrung out the sponge, and this made my hands a little red and irritated. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?

Other resources: