Boat Maintenance Through-Hull Fittings

Stones Boatyard & Marina, Nanaimo

Thursday, June 21, 2012S.V. CAMBRIA

The new valves for the forward head still showing blood from David's arms.

They say you’ve “hit the wall” when you’re no longer making any progress while attempting to achieve a goal.  It’s the moment when you’re so tired, both mentally and physically, that you can’t seem to get out of your own way.  When everything that can go wrong, does and you’re faced with one problem after another.  Tuesday was that day.  From start to finish, nothing seemed to work in our favour; and by the time five o’clock rolled around, we both felt deflated and beaten. 

First up, while waiting for David to get out of bed, I decided to do a little research and took a lookat all of the through-hulls that were bad.  Three came from the heads and one from the galley sink.  I deep clean the toilets with bleach from time to time, so I Googled the effects of bleach on bronze.  It only took a few minutes of effort to learn that bleach oxidizes metal: in other words, I had exacerbated the situation, if not caused it (not that human waste is a friend).  As far as the galley sink goes, well, you don’t even want to know some of the things we’re willing to throw down there.  I felt like a real idiot.  But David took the information in stride, smiled a bit and kissed me sweetly on the forehead: as always, we were in this together.  Even still, it affected my outlook for the rest of the day. 

Next up, with three new through-hulls to install, we started with the engine intake.  We slopped it with 4200, put it in place and David went up to secure it while I stayed outside with rain dripping down the back of my neck and under my shirt and held it in place.  It wasn’t long enough.  So it was back to the office to look through the catalogue to find one that was.  No luck.  Then it was off to Harbour Chandlery to see what they had.  No luck there, either.  Fortunately, Nick, the boatyard manager, found one from a local source and had it picked up.  Because the through-hulls in the engine room are very difficult to access and have to be installed in a certain order (starting with the engine intake), it was on to the next job while we waited for the new fitting to arrive. 

David moved on to the forward head and installed the new valves. This actually went well.  I held the through-hulls in place from underneath the boat while he attached them from inside the boat.  The rain had stopped, our new part had arrived while we were working (which was long enough), and things were beginning to look up.

With the new part in hand, he installed the last three through-hulls from the confines of the engine room while I held everything in place from underneath the boat.  Once again, it actually went well and the job turned out to be a lot easier than we originally thought it would be.  So it was on to the next job – attaching the hoses to the newly installed valves in the forward head.  This is where he “hit the wall’.  After fighting and fighting to secure the discharge hose to the valve, he realized the ends were different sizes – the hose was 1 ½ inches and the valve was ¾ inch.  Once again, we had the wrong part.  By this time the office was closed, so he couldn’t source a new one and we had to call it a day. 

At the time it felt like we were never going to see the end of this project – that we’d opened a can of worms that couldn’t be closed.  But in hindsight, it was a very productive day, even if it didn’t feel that way at the time, which is all that mattered.  We felt frustrated, tired and beaten, therefore we were.  But, as promised, Wednesday was a brand new day and the work went much more smoothly.  Nick, once again, picked up the parts we needed for the forward head locally and David was able to reattach the hoses.  Sure.  He gave a bit of his blood, sweat and tears in the process but he got it done, along with everything else over the course of the next two days.  And on Friday afternoon when the tide was coming in, Cambria was gently placed back into the water. 

Before we left, Nick and Ian came aboard to check David’s work and were impressed.  Not only had he done a professional job, but he managed to access areas of the boat that left them both amazed.  But the best news was that there were no leaks!  The only mistake we’d made was thinking that installing the new through-hulls would be easier than taking them out: they weren’t … they were merely a different challenge.

We slowly motored back to Mark’s Bay for the night where we slept like babies, swinging freely on the hook.  While cleaning the boat today, we took a look at all seventeen through-hulls and valves and did a quick forensic test.  We initially thought only four were bad: the aft head discharge, forward head discharge, holding tank discharge and galley sink outlet.  But the list grew to seven and included the aft head sink outlet, forward head sink outlet and galley seawater intake – it seems bleach wasn’t the only culprit after all (not that we’ll ever use it again).  As for the valves, the following weren’t working: aft head discharge, holding tank discharge, forward head discharge, lazerette outlet, both cockpit drain outlets,and the raw water intake for the engine (the most critical of them all).

The timing was bad.  Who wants to be at anchor, miles away from the nearest city, at the start of a five month trip only to discover they have a hole in the boat?  Nobody.  But it needed to be done and we're both happy that it is.  Now we can continue north with confidence in the boat and a job well-done.

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