Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Of Water Pumps

When arriving on the boat after a time away one of the first tasks is to refill the tanks so there is water for cooking and washing. We usually precede this at the start of the season with a dosage of Milton to sterilise the tanks, delaying the resumption of normal water service but we can be confident that what comes out of the tap later will taste sweet. Several 500ml bottles of Milton were duly purchased, it always raises eyebrows at the checkout! These were poured in as the hose filled Temptress' three tanks (a total of 580 litres of water). When the tanks are reaching full three loud  reports (still alarming after over ten years) as the tanks change shape, usually alert us to the imminent need to turn off the tap.

The next step is to turn on the water pressure pump and open the taps to let this first fill-up drain away. The Milton flavour won't kill you but it is not at all palatable, and after showering you end up smelling faintly of swimming pools all day! Mid-afternoon on a cold March Friday it was not to be. Turning on the water pressure switch was followed by an ominous silence, no buzzing as the pump brought the system up to pressure. It had been a bit dodgy before we last left it in November but at least it had been working... a quick trip to the chandlery and we were confronted with an array of pumps with more than confusing packaging (identical boxes with a barcode sticker being the only unique identifier of the contents) resulting an initial purchase of a bilge pump with no pressure sensor. The sensor is essential as the hot water tank has a maximum pressure and if exceeded its relief valve will chug chug chug nosily away releasing water into the bilge until it is happy again. Well at least we were able to pump the Milton-laden water over the side.

Another trip to the chandlery on Saturday morning and job done. Kevin even mounted the thing which involved some lateral thinking quite literally as 20 years on the design has changed and instead of  mounting on a base plate attached at the bottom of a wooden panel, the new pump needed to be mounted via two side brackets directly to the same panel.  Now the reverse of this panel is home to a myriad of grey 3/4 inch plastic piping that ensures all three tanks are connected to the hot water system and to the cold taps in both heads and the galley, not something you want to start drilling holes in from the other side! Substantial self-tapping screws of a well judged length replaced the supplied bolts, job done!

The water was changed once more and we were in business, hot showers, washing up water and easy to fill kettles. Well, until late on Sunday when nothing, the water from the tap dwindled to a dribble as the pump once more failed to kick in. Give it a hefty tap and it sprang to life. OK as an occasional fix but with the whole kit and kaboodle located under the saloon seating not a practical long term solution unless we wanted to live with a large piece of plywood (the locker lid) and a collection of cushions permanently piled up on the remainder of the seating.

Monday morning on his way to work the skipper called the manufacturers Jabsco and then relayed some instructions back to me. Was the pressure sensor confused by our large accumulator tank that retains the pressure and avoids over use of the pump? The new clip on clip off plumbing was a boon - simply unclip the pipe to the accumulator, turn the pump on and see if it would work. It did after a tap but failed again an hour or so later. More talk to the extremely helpful technical support people. Diagnosis - faulty motor winding, it needs replacing under warranty.

With the skipper commuting to Bracknell in wintery weather and the chandlery open 8am - 6pm its going to be several days before the exchange can happen. (I have my bike but its not the weather for an expedition across Portsea Island to Port Solent.) Meanwhile our trusty manual pump supplies cold water, we have an electric kettle for heating it up and Southsea Marina has some very nice showers with lashings of hot water!

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