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Remember this post? Well, what if the object in question is only a little bit broken? What do you do then?

After seeing that the tiny leak from our watermaker has been getting progressively worse, I decided yesterday to tackle the job of replacing the seals in the pump, a project I could at least attempt as we have been carrying a replacement seal kit with us since we cruised the Bahamas. The instructions that came with the kit said that the seals could be swapped in one hour but that if this was your first time attempting the job, to allow 3 hours to complete it. As it turned out, I was pretty much on the money with the 3-hour estimate, the first time that is. Unfortunately, after being unable to get the unit to function properly after reassembling it, a 2nd and 3rd disassembly was to follow, along with countless other troubleshooting steps. Sadly, the 1-3 hours that the instructions talked about turned into an all-day affair and when 5:00 came and went, still without it working properly, I decided to call it a day.

At least a portion of last evening was dedicated to further reading on the subject and this morning, armed with no more information but at least a bit more energy, we resumed the troubleshooting process. Another disassembly was to follow, and extra attention was paid to the “Poppet Valves,” apparently notorious for causing the problems we were experiencing. I even went so far as to re-install the old Poppet Valves back into the pump, thinking that perhaps the new ones supplied with the replacement kit were perhaps manufactured out of proper tolerance.

Further inspection of the pump led me to find that the new Wiper Block Seal that I installed, a tiny 10 cent rubber part (it should cost 10 cents but it probably sells for 30 dollars or more) was distorted. It is entirely possible that this is the root of our difficulties. No problem… I’ll just replace it with the old one that I took out. Problem… although I saved all the old bits and seals, that was the only piece that was damaged during the disassembly. Do you think anyone on the island of Grenada has such a part? Rebecca is on the job, out right now with our friend Kirk, trying to track one down although, to be honest, I don’t have high hopes of her succeeding. This is a unique problem because without that seal, the pump will not work and in the tropics, watermakers need to be treated with a preservative if they’re not going to be used every 3 or so days, a task which requires the pump! This means that we’re working with a pretty short deadline to get it fixed. Ahh, the joys of cruising.

By the way, before anyone posts on here saying that any day working on fixing a watermaker in the tropics is better than working in an office, I’m going on record to say that is BS cruiser propaganda. I spent all day yesterday with my head in a hole, in a rocking boat, getting sweaty and dirty, smashing my fingers on hard objects and tools. Not that I want to go back there but without a doubt, my office back on land was considerably more comfortable than that!


  1. I hear your frustration! I hope someone is able to help you out, if not, does that mean the watermaker cant be used again if you dont do the preservative thing in 3 days time? We busy building a cat and would appreciate any recommendations on watermakers from you or friends as its something i insist we have to have before we start cruising.

    • I’m sure we’ll sort something out. The reason we selected this watermaker is not because it is the biggest and fanciest but rather because it is reliable and simple to deal with. I am very happy with it in spite of our current issues. This problem is minor compared to many issues we hear with other more complicated systems.

  2. My hubby, who has worked summertimes as young in a paper factory, said that if the manual says 3 hours, You can count it as three days.
    Kudos to You for doing that fixing thing!
    I wonder how I would manage to take a winch into pieces and back again.

    It’s like an “advanced game” to add some heat and waves to the work.

    • I found servicing the winches quite easy as long as you take your time and keep the parts organized. I wrote a post with some pics about that much earlier in the blog.

  3. Yes but when you eventually do fix it there will no onshore office based project that will compare in satisfaction.

  4. I can sympathize with your frustration. :S The comment about being ‘better than a good day in the office’..funny…my husband mentioned that once when we went out and got caught in some nasty weather…..I threw the BS flag on it too..and he just scowled at me. Nope, sorry, sometimes it’s nice to be able to sit at a computer with a hot cup of tea and spout some legal citations or something…BUT there are highs and lows in everything. So it’s a trade of…but boy there are those days…!! 🙂 Hang in there Mike!

  5. =) glad I’m sitting in my office!

  6. I would say get on the phone and have it fedex’ed in. How much can it cost in a envelope? Get three while your at it.

  7. Keep your chin up Mike! Just remember where you’re at and WHO you’re there with, and the office won’t look so good anymore. In a few days you’ll be hiking and swimming and laughing and playing with your lovely wife making all of us envious. Remember things like this build character and all this will be distant memory soon.

    • I wasn’t implying that an office was good, rather that it was a tad more comfortable than being stuffed in a locker. And yes, I am surrounded by friends and people I love so that makes it easy to deal with any temporary unpleasantness.

  8. Woe is the Word Mike…..Think TGIF and pickel what you can in vinegar til correct GOOD parts Arrive. Take Care…..j….

  9. No one knows what it’s like to be sweating your *ss off in the tropics while in a confined space. Doing it while on a rocking boat and with a frustrating task at hand unless they’ve been through it themselves… no thanks. I COMPLETELY sympathize with you. The only thing you have that makes it bearable is you can take a quick dip off the stern to cool off before you get back at it. And hopefully there’s a cold brew waiting or close at hand at some point. But, honestly, I wouldn’t want to be doing that.

    I hope you find a replacement and that it all goes back together without a hitch.

  10. Lord, did I ever mess that up. What I meant was:

    No one knows what it’s like to be sweating your *ss off in the tropics while in a confined space unless they’ve been through it themselves. Doing it while on a rocking boat and with a frustrating task at hand… no thanks.


  11. If there were no lows there would be no highs. Ive found that our fondest memories of cruising are overcoming the lows. What should be the good memories are not remembered as being in paradise is another typical day!

  12. Slightly off the point, but do you meticulously clean everything before you photograph it for the blog?

    Recently you had pics of a clean outboard engine -they are not usually clean. Then a scrupulously clean carburettor, amazing. Now a water maker with just a few artistic marks on it.

    It makes them all much more photogenic. But I hardly recognise them some times! 🙂


    • The engine and WM are both quite new so no, I did not clean them. The carb was actually photographed before I cleaned it. Outside of that though, I am always very aware of the composition of the pics I take, especially what is in the background (clutter, etc.)

  13. Rainwater with a little bleach, and jerry jugs, simplicity!!, i dislike hot confined spaces( i know from my experience as a firefighter!)

    • We do collect water, when it rains, which is not always. Carrying hundreds of gallons of water is not possible on a little cat though which is why the WM is a very valuable tool on our boat.

  14. I’m always amazed that you have the patience and focus to take pictures while slaying dragons. I get caught up in the battle and forget.

    Two weeks ago I went sailing with family and friends. After leaving the harbor and getting sails set, I was the first to wander down into the starboard hull, barefoot, and notice that the carpet was wet. It seems the shower pan was full and the bilge was completely full of water, complements of a slow drip from our head intake strainer. I had been out the weekend before with my parents, and though for day trips we generally just flush with freshwater to avoid having to reach for the sea cock twice, for them I open it because it’s simpler in use; they are 84 and 87 respectively. I had removed the strainer to winterize and not reinstalled it incorrectly; the o-ring was cocked. And I left the seacock open; I simply forgot.

    But did I take any pictures, to illustrate to others the hazards of leaving a seacock open? No, I was remiss.

    • The funny thing is that we did NOT remember to take pics the first time I disassembled it. I thought about it but then, caught up in the moment, I forgot. The pics I posted were taken on the 3rd or 4th disassembly I believe.

  15. I feel your frustration. The seal you are looking for is a standard wiper seal. Look for any hydraulic or pneumatic supplier, ie Parker, Bosh, Hercules-Bulldog. Also I would argue with you that the unit will not function without the seal. Wiper seals only keep contaminants out and do not provide any sealing. I would not recommend running the unit without the seal but if you only have to prime the filter then it should not be a problem. You will unfortunately have disassemble the unit again to install the new wiper seal. IMHO this is not the cause of your problem with the pump. Check the other seals for cracks and/or distortion. Also, look for any visible scratches on any surface the seals come in contact with.   
    When installing the seals take a page from Elvis, more is not better be it sleeping pills or grease/silicone while installing seals. Good luck with your repair and keep up the great blog. 

    • Thanks for the info and the tip, Robert. As I wrote yesterday, I fixed the problem and you’re right, it was not that seal that was causing us the problem.

  16. Mike, I know I’m the “better in the Carribbean guy” and I wave the white flag. I can completely sympathize. My plumbing projects usually end up with me making untold trips to Home Depot returning and swapping parts only to find out something else down the line breaks. Besides, making water is a little more important than fishing. (Its just jealousy) Love reading about y’all stay safe.

    • No worries, Cameron. If only it were so easy for us to run back and forth to the parts store. Fortunately we’re actually in a country that does have a decent chandlery (more than one actually). That’s not always the case.

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