Boat Plumbing – Part 1

September 8, 2018 Peter No comments exist

It seems there is always something to do on the boat. It is now almost three months since we arrived in Wyee and Great Escape has not moved from her swing mooring at Wyee Marina. Most of the outstanding maintenance had been done in Adelaide before we left but there are still a few items that need to be sorted out before we head north for warmer waters. The timber in the V-berth has 6 coats of fresh varnish and the V-berth also has a fresh coat of paint and a brand new carpet.

On the trip from Adelaide we had noticed a rather unpleasant smell on the boat and put this down to a milk container that had exploded on passage which we only noticed a few weeks later. There was sour milk everywhere and it took a few days to clean the mess. We assumed that the smell would clear once the mess was cleaned and the boat aired. It didn’t. Further investigation revealed that it was probably the pipes in the head (the bathroom for the landlubbers reading this). Why they call the bathroom the head in a boat is an interesting story which can be found here.


It was with some trepidation that we started dismantling and replacing the pipes in the head. The plumbing on Great Escape may not win any prizes for aesthetics but it is very functional. The waste can be pumped either directly overboard or into a holding tank which can then be pumped overboard when we are allowed to do so. The water for the head is sea water rather than fresh water which means we don’t use precious drinking water. To cope with all the permutations there are two pumps and macerators as well as vented loops to stop backflowing into the head. All this means is that there are lots of pipes and Y-valves which have to be replaced and cleaned. To add to the problem when heads are flushed with salt water there is a build up of mineral deposits in the pipes which can cause them to become blocked.


Sanitation grade piping is not easy to work with. It is hard and inflexible and the only way to get the pipe over a fitting is to either soak the pipe in boiling water or heat the pipe with a heat gun. We started with the outlet pipes and were fairly sure we had found the cause of the awful smell. The pipes and Y-valves were blocked solid and it is amazing that the head actually still worked. Fortunately we were able to dismantle the pipes on the boat and then bring them back to the caravan where we could do most of the work before taking the pipes back to be installed. We didn’t take any pictures of the blocked pipes and Y-valves and you really wouldn’t want to see that in any event.


So far we have replaced all the pipes leading from the head to the holding tank and those that lead directly to the seacock where the waste is discharged. It is now time to try and figure out how to drain and flush the holding tank. The tank appears to be about three quarter full. We have also removed the inlet pipes but it looks like we have another challenge on that piping which we will deal with later.


Fortunately the Marina is only a stone’s throw from our caravan and we can work on the boat and return to the comfortable caravan at night. It was one of the reasons we bought the caravan in the first place.

It has been a cold winter on the New South Wales Central Coast and we are determined to be in a warmer climate next winter. For now the priority is getting Great Escape ready to head north. And getting rid of a nasty smell on the boat.


At least our boat doesn’t look like this.

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