"Nothing Without Labour"

This is the slogan painted on the primary school in the village of Viseisei down the road from the marina. When I take the early morning bus to town it doubles as the local school bus. For half the ride there is a crush of neatly uniformed little boys and girls piling into the seats and overflowing into the isle. At the small, white school the littlest kids get off and march towards a wall that has this idiom emblazoned on it in blue paint.

It is a simple idea but a weighty one; you must work hard to achieve success. But what it omits is just as important. It doesn’t say that you must struggle, or suffer. It doesn’t say you must be strong or pretty or smart.

It simply says you have to try.

So, this week I decided to roll up my sleeves and give it go. It started on Sunday.

I had consulted with Steve and figured out how to get the pressurized water system back online while the water maker is disconnected. I just had to install a simple valve that when closed would isolate the two systems, allowing the pump to pressurize and prevent water from pouring out of the hose.  It was as easy as putting the hose onto a hose barb that was already on the valve, a 5 minute job. I flipped the “WATER PRESSURE” on the main switch board and the pump ran then turned off. I could now shower on board, granted without hot water.

So, after the days chores were done, I tried to do just that.  I stripped down, flipped the switch, stood in the head with the shower rose in my hand and the tap fully open. The pump didn’t turn on and the water didn’t spray out of the shower rose. I double checked I had flipped the right switch. Then that I had actually opened the tap. I checked the shower head hose for kinks. I tapped the pressure pump, more or less lightly. Nothing.

I stood in dry silence.  Then I swore.

This was not a job for late Sunday afternoon when there was a live band playing at the bar and the sun was shining. I had a shower onshore, put on a dress, a pair of danglie earrings and a smear of lip gloss and went for a cold beer. Or two.

On Monday I tackled the problem, figuring it was probably just a case of water logged wiring, not an unusual occurrence when plumbing and wiring are routed through bilges and hidden storage compartments. I found a set of connections close to the pump itself and after peeling back some electrical tape and finding a crust of green covering the copper wires I hoped I had found my problem.  After digging out the “Electrical” toolbox I cut back all the wires to expose pink coloured copper, used butt joints to connect them all back together, replaced a spade terminal that fell off in my fingers, and hoped I hadn’t connected the knee bone to the neck bone, so to speak.

Under Pressure

Back at the main panel I held my breath and flicked the “WATER PRESSURE” switch again. The pump turned on!!! I ran into the head to make sure nothing was smoking, turned on the tap. Water came out!!! I turned the tap off, the water pump turned off and I did a little “Hurray for Heather” dance.

Using shrink wrap and liquid electrical tape I sealed all the new connections and beamed at my tidy handiwork. I opened the tap again and the pump turned on again, but this time when I closed the tap the pump stayed on. Must be an air lock I thought, happens some times. I opened both the tap in the head and the one in the galley. They sputtered a bit and then the water flowed freely. I turned them both off, the pump kept running.  I knew it wasn’t my wiring job, the pump was turning on but now the problem was it wasn’t holding pressure. I turned the system off on the main panel.

This was not job for Monday at noon.

I cleaned up my job site, put away the tools, washed my hands and had lunch. I sent photos to Steve later that day, surprising him with my trouble shooting (I purposely didn’t ask the electrician for advice before trying to fix it myself), he quickly deduced the cause of the new problem. I had tightened a screw that was protruding from the front of the pump, I thought maybe it wriggled out when the pump vibrated. That little screw (which I’d like to point out is unmarked) actually governs the pressure of the pump, and I had cranked it up to full. As soon as I backed it off again everything worked properly. I resumed the “Hurray for Heather” dance.

Spurred on by my recent accomplishments I finished a job I had been dreading since I started it a week and a half before. Since we’re out of the water we decided to replace the backing plates of a few more thru hulls, changing them from rotting plywood to fiberglass. The contractors had already done their job, everything was properly sealed and painted. Now all that was left was to put the thru hulls back in and replace all the plumbing.

Holes in the boat!  Thru hulls installed

Thru hulls are just what the name implies, the valves and hardware that go through the hull, usually below the water level, allowing things like sinks and deck drains to empty into the ocean. The reason why I was dreading putting them back in is because if they are not properly sealed and tightened down fast then they will leak. The one place you don’t want a leaky hole is the bottom of the boat. As Steve likes to say that would “let the ocean into the people tank.”

Not good.

So with the help of Jim, an expat who has actually been at the marina longer than me, I put the four thru hulls back in, properly caulked and tight. (I needed someones help to push the thru hull into the hole while I secured the nut from the inside.)  Caulking oozed out where it should and didn’t where it shouldn’t. I took that as a good sign.  I waited a day for the caulking to set and then tightened the nuts down even more. Then I installed the valves and replaced the plumbing for the two deck drains and the galley sink. I swore and pulled faces and swore again even louder. But at the end of job I filled the galley sink, did the dishes and when I pulled the plug the water went down and overboard and not into the bilge.  I was happy, but too tired to dance.

This strangely made me happy

If anything leaks when we put Kate back in the water I will be surprised, my arm is still sore from given’er on the pipe wrench.

I could have gone without pressurized water; we have hand pumps and the showers at the marina are clean and heated. I could have paid the contractor to put the thru hulls back in; I did at Christmas time when we did the same to the thru hulls in the head. Sure the jobs would have gotten done but by putting in some hard work myself I gained confidence about solving boat problems and got to do a little dance. Two pretty important things in my world.






5 Comments Add yours

  1. David & Suzi says:

    Heather, your writing is so entertaining. Suzi is so impressed with your new found expertise that she is feeling guilty. Not a bad thing considering you stuck it out and were successful in the end. The next time we need help with Sidewinder I’m calling you ~!!!

  2. yachtkate says:

    Hey Guys! If I could just “come over” and help you out on Sidewinder it would be my pleasure. I take it you’re not “home” yet or you wouldn’t be finding boat repair stories so amusing 😉 Looking forward to seeing you….sometime, somewhere.


  3. Well done Heather!! This is just the motivation I needed to get moving on some odd jobs around the house, one of which is to instal a new pop-up drain in the bathroom sink. The parts have been taunting me from the windowsill where I put them sometime in the winter. Today’s the day.

  4. yachtkate says:

    Let’s see your Hurray for Hannah dance!

  5. OK we got the pop up drain in place –after completing the rather fiddly job, Sophie-Ann and I did a little dance– and then discovered a leak when we turned the water on! The old trap has a hole in it, right at the bottom of the U bend. S-A patched it up with plumber’s putty (love those 6-year old minds!) so we can use the sink for now. Off to Kent today to buy a new trap (or J-pipe as they call it here) which we will install tomorrow.

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