Dolce Vento has three 50 gallon water tanks (a bow, port (left) and starboard (right)), all functioning nicely since we left eight months ago, except for the gauge on the starboard tank that refuses to read more than 3/4 full (but that’s besides the point since we know how to read it).
As one tank empties, we switch to another tank using valves positioned under the galley sink. When the starboard and bow tank gauges read empty, I switched to the full port tank. Simple, nothing to it.
But, as with all things marine, it is not so simple. The water pump pumped, droning softly, sucking its heart out, hopelessly. The galley sink faucet sputtered and the foot pump gasped. The 50 gallons in that tank were not coming out. Why? John and I were faced with diagnosing the problem ourselves, without Cindy’s oversight. She was off the boat, in town, on an errand. Luckily, this diagnosis did not require rocket science knowledge. We narrowed the problem to a blockage in the water line between that port tank and the water pump. However, we didn’t have a clue as to what the blockage was or how to remove it.
Upon her return, Cindy, our marine doc, and us, her nursing staff, prepared for water line surgery. This required a trip to a marine store for caulk, another trip to the auto store for cork gasket material (after we discovered we needed it mid-surgery), and a roundup of surgical tools – hand manual water pump and two buckets to empty the tank, two gallons at a time, our dinghy foot manual air pump to push air through the line to dislodge the blockage, pliers to open the line under the galley sink, a “baby” ratchet and screw drivers to remove the plywood panel and open the tank access holes. Oh, yes, and a bunch of other small tools.
We prepped the patient by removing the settee cushions and the plywood panel over the tank (everything on a boat is buried underneath something). Then, surgery began with unscrewing and then prying off the seal over the access hole closest to where the water line meets the tank. The patient moaned a bit as Doc Cindy worked to relieve the pressure. With the tank open and its innards accessible, Cindy plunged her arm into the bowels of the tank, located the line opening under the water in the corner of the tank, and after a few tests with her nurses assisting, she surmised that to remove the blockage would definitely require emptying the tank as a first step. And so we did, one two gallon bucket at a time.
In the end, the blockage culprit was Bahamian fine sand that had escaped our filters. Using the dinghy air pump, we blew it clear and confirmed a clear flow with some water in the tank. It was now time for our doctor to “close up” after creating a new gasket and applying caulk. Forty-eight hours later, the access hole now properly sealed and the calk dried, so I filled the tank. The final test — port tank water flows through both the foot pump and pressurized faucet…but we can’t seem to get the water system to pressurize on any or all tanks. Is the water pump finally kaput? Is the accumulator sensor broken?
Work continues…we do have a spare pump on board…Fast forward an hour…It was the water pump. Cindy installed the new one, the new pump is strong, quiet and quickly pressurizes. It’s time to go tasting at the winery, sipping at the bourbon distillery and then a special dinner out for our doc.
The moral of this story…Simple can get complicated and solving one problem often leads to the discovery of another. Stay tuned…zinc replacements to protect the shaft, propeller and bow thruster are next on the list.