Improvements to Rhapsody (3) - Plumbing

New Seawater Strainers and Plumbing

Before we hauled out, I cleaned and prepped the compartments where the new thru hulls and valves would go (removing extra pipes, removing rust stains, etc). Then after John removed the old waterchest, thru-hulls, and valves, and put in new ones, it was my turn again to hook it all back up with new Strainers, Hoses, and so-on.

In the first picture above is the Water Compartment when we first bought Rhapsody. You can see the rust stains, but what you can't see are the corroded fittings and the slow leaks on the water-chest. The second picture shows the compartment after the thru-hulls have been removed and the hole for the water chest have been fiberglassed and epoxied in. The third picture shows the completed project. Much nicer looking, if I do say so myself!

After I painted the compartment, I repositioned the sump pump for the starboard head a bit (to the left, in the pictures above) to make more room in the compartment. I then moved the watermaker filters a bit to the left make room for a new air-conditioner strainer in the bottom right corner. Finally, I added all new strainers and hoses as needed for the Air Conditioners, Deck Wash/Freezer Cooling, and Genset. There were about 100 pipe clamps to put on since most if it is double clamped to maritime standards. And, due to the mishmash of metric versus standard sizes, different thread types, and so on, there were quite a few parts to line up (and return and get the right ones) in the process.

Overall it took me about 3 days to do all of this plumbing. We had to replace one of the brand new thru hulls, as we found that the valve leaked slightly when we put the boat in the water. (Rhapsody was hauled out a 2nd time to put the prop on, and this valve was replaced at that time). Also, during the process, I broke the nipple off the watermaker lift pump while attaching a hose, and so had to hunt down a replacement housing and impeller (I also bought a spare). In the end, however, everything works right, nothing leaks, and the new, mostly plastic and marelon valves, strainers, and fittings will probably last longer than the original water chest.

Three New Toilets, Plumbing, and Macerators

Also before we hauled out, with help from my buddy Theo, we removed all the toilets and waste-water hoses from Rhapsody. That took a full day because it was so hard to get to some of the hoses. Rhapsody was strangely plumbed when we got her. The starboard head had a manual discharge pump and the port head didn't (and was not even hooked up). The forward head had a macerator, but neither of the other two heads had one. And, for some reason, the discharge from the macerator was sent thru a Y fitting BACK TO THE WASTE TANK. Somebody would have to explain that one to me. I think it was a mistake by the previous owner.

As we disassembled the system I was surprised and pleased to find out that the waste-tanks themselves were in pretty good shape, and after a bit of cleaning, I had them like new (don't ask!). Especially important to me was that the Tankwatch sensors were all revealed thru testing to be functional (although not hooked up), so we decided to keep the waste tanks, and replace everything else in the waste system. I kept the old macerator as a spare.

So, as soon as the boat was back in the slip at our Marina, after the haulout, I put in the new toilets, macerators, and plumbing.

The three new toilets are plumbed with Odor-Guard 1.5" hosing direct to the tanks, so we no longer have any "direct-overboard" discharge capabilities. That's good. Direct discharge plumbing is frowned upon by port authorities, and is even illegal in certain waters. Now each head goes directly to it's waste tank, and from there to a new Y valve that allows either pumping out thru a deck fitting or discharge thru a new macerator, thru hull, and additional valve. Of course, I had to add switches, wiring, and fuses to run the macerators as well.

The aft macerators and plumbing were difficult because of the tight spaces I had to work in. See the pictures. And the forward head had one hose that was a real problem to replace. I got Theo's help with that one, and after much struggling, we were finally able to run the hose from the forward head, under the compartments, to the tank under the master bed. There were a host of small issues to solve, but they were solved and now we have a good waste managment system, with 45 gallons of storage, and most important of all, it doesn't smell funky any more!

Hookup existing Tank Watch system

Tankwatch is a system by which a little red light comes on in the head when the waste tank for that head gets full. One thing you don't want to do on a boat, is to pump 16 gallons of waste into a 15 gallon tank. If you do, you will have a mess on your hands.

Rhapsody came with a Tankwatch system, but it wasn't hooked up when we got her. It took me a little while to trace all the wires, reconnect the sensors, and provide power to the system. I ended up adding a dedicated fuse to the electrical panel to run our tank monitoring systems. Yay! It works!

New Black Water Monitoring System

As well as knowing when your waste tanks are full, it's nice to know the specific level within each tank. That way one can balance the loads (forgive the very bad pun) between the different heads, without necessarily filling any one to the brim.

So I added a Waste Tank Monitoring System, redundant to the Tankwatch system, that would provide us with a little more information about our head usage. Above you can see the monitor panel, which I mounted next to the generator controls on the side of the companionway. Below, you can see one of the waste tanks with the sensors for the monitoring system on the side (as well as the Tankwatch sensor, on top). The sensors run to a circut board in the wiring compartment and that board connects to the control panel.

By pressing one of the buttons (that I still have to relabel "Port", "Starboard", and "Forward"), the panel lights up and shows if the tank is empty, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, or full. I'm a firm believer in redundancy, and, as with the Tankwatch system, yay, it works!

New Fresh Water Level Guages and Sensors

Even before the haul-out, I addressed the fresh-water system, which will be so important to us. When we bought Rhapsody, I just assumed that the fresh water tank monitors were working. There are buttons on the electrical panel and a meter. When you press the button for the tank (there are four water tanks on Rhapsody), the meter reads the level in the tank. Some said half, some said full, some said empty, so I kind of figured it was working.

Then, after buying the boat, when I filled the tanks for the first time, I noticed that some still said half, and some still said empty lol! So I debugged the system, and after about a full days work, came to the conclusion that ALL of the sensors were bad (the meter, switches, and wiring all appeared to be working). But then I was shocked to find that the replacement sensors, which are capacative and European (read: expensive) cost $250 each. Yikes. And finding a replacement U.S. unit proved to be iffy and exasperatingly impossible on the internet.

So, in the end, I decided to replace the sensors and the meter with a WEMA system, made here in the US. The sensors were like $40 and the meter was about $30, so overall it was $150 compared to ... well ... much much more. And they were simpler and easier to work with, and functioned perfectly, and so are recommended. The only things I kept were the wires to the sensors.

I also had to do a little work at the electrical panel to hook up the new meter, making the hole bigger, and changing the way the switches were hooked up to the power, sensors, and meter. The system works flawlessly and was really not difficult to hook up (using the existing wires). Much better than trying to fix a 14 year old capacative system.

New Bildge Pumps

Not necessarily in that order, the last thing I did before I put the batteries back in was replace the bildge pumps. I kept the old ones as spares. There was one automatic centrifugal pump and one switched diaphragm pump. The automatic pump had a lift switch that was above the sump (you can see it both pictures above), so it would not come on until there were 2 or more inches of water ABOVE the sump (which is high enough to start flooding out of the bildge to the other compartments). When it did come on, it was discomforting to see the water squirting out of the sides of the grey check valve and running back to the bildge. And the diaphragm pump had been noted as "marginal" in the survey.

I've decided to keep Rhapsody as a fairly "dry" boat. Since there's a dripless shaft seal, the only water that should normally end up in the bildge will be the condensate from the air conditioners. So there's really no reason to wait until there's 2" of water in the bildge, sloshing around getting things dirty and increasing the humidity, to turn on the pump.

So I put in a new fully automatic 2000gph centrifugal pump in the sump. This pump will switch on when there's 2 inches in the sump, before it fills. I left the existing float switch and wired it as a backup (in case the internal switch in the new pump fails). I also replaced the check valve. In addition, I added an electrical panel with a switch in the manifold closet (to right) with which I can turn the pump on manually, just in triple-case.

As far as the 200gph diaphragm pump (not shown), I replaced IT with a new one and kept the old one as a spare. It is wired to a switch on the electric panel and has a hose with a coarse strainer that runs down to about the level of the float switch in the picture above. Also, just to mention it, in case you care, in an emergency there is also a manual Whale bildge pump in the cockpit, and of course, several hand bilge pumps on the boat in various places. Just in case you understand ...

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