The Sherlock Holmes of boat repairs
Just the other day, while discussing various repair jobs with our friend Kirk, I was struck with the realization that, outside of two sail-repairs, we have yet to pay a single contractor to do work or to fix something on our boat. This is not to say that we haven’t had assistance from a number of friends because we certainly have, but rather that we have not turned over any repairs to professionals. In my mind this is no small feat because I would not describe myself, or Rebecca for that matter, as being overly handy. We are however pretty determined, and frugal, and at least near the beginning of most projects, fairly patient. Which brings me to the following.
In the recent post I made about our new Granddaughter, who is doing wonderful I should add, I hinted about a head-repair job that we had to tackle. Specifically we were faced with the intermittent problem of our toilet being unable to pump in any water. Jabsco manual toilets, as we have on our boat, are pretty simple devices with few moving parts. Because the toilet seemed to have no suction when attempting to draw in water, we initially guessed that the issue was being caused by the large O-ring around the plunger failing to make good contact. Rebecca, who is always game to help with boat maintenance, volunteered to install the spare O-ring that we had purchased for the job. After doing so though we were both disappointed to find that the problem persisted.
The large O-ring in the pic was purchased specifically for this repair. In fact, we purchased two just so that we’d have an extra one on hand for future jobs.
Even though what we were experiencing was much different than what is typically caused by a clogged intake line, we still explored that possibility, including examining every bit of hose right from the toilet to the intake thru-hull. The next step in our troubleshooting was to remove the intake hose from the back of the toilet and, placing our hand over the intake, attempt to pump the head. Doing so demonstrated that the pump was in fact creating excellent suction. Our assumption at this point then was that there must be an air leak into the system. Once again we checked the hoses leading to the toilet, including removing each connection and placing it into a bucket to see if the toilet could draw water. It did, and so we were still perplexed.
Note: This is just like a murder-mystery novel were the identity of the killer is about to be revealed. Pay attention!
As we had now checked each of the hoses and connections, and were reasonably confident that there were no air leaks leading to the toilet, we decided to check to see if we could get water to come in through the thru-hull by running our watermaker (the watermaker’s intake is T-ed off the same thru-hull). Before we could do so though we needed to replace the watermaker’s pre-filter as we had it out for cleaning with the filter housing removed. Once we replaced it and fired up the watermaker, the unit functioned just as it always does, drawing sea water in and spitting drinking water out. Satisfied with that, I went back to check the toilet one more time and was surprised to find that it was working again. Hmmm!
Have you guessed the problem yet?
I didn’t right away. In fact, it took me another 20 minutes or so, spent putting away stuff that we had displaced during our repair procedure, before I ultimately figured it out. We had been looking for an air leak and OF COURSE there was an air leak… the watermaker’s filter housing had been removed and that is connected into the same intake stream! With the housing (and filter) replaced, the air leak was removed and the head’s pump functioned as it should. Doh!
Of course removing this filter housing allows air into the system!
This entire thing, while it took me a while to type out, took significantly longer to work through in real time. Would a professional have been able to do it any more quickly? Perhaps, but I tend to doubt it. I can tell you that I definitely would have been seriously POed if I had been required to pay someone to fix that silly error.