Systems+Engines

Let there be water

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Of all the upgrades you can lavish on an older boat, few will give you more bang for your buck than a complete overhaul of the fresh-water plumbing system. An improvement in water quality should be immediately apparent; any of the new breed of water pumps will be quieter and less power-hungry than their predecessors, and with a little planning, you can make your boat much more user-friendly both for your family when cruising and for yourself at winterizing time.

The water system on Ostara, a 1973 Norlin 34, was about (or just below) average for a boat of its age. Two 20-gallon fiberglass tanks of recent vintage were mounted under the port settee, feeding a faucet in the galley via an elderly Jabsco pump and another in the head via a Whale Gusher foot pump. Another Gusher pump in the

galley supplied salt water, a great idea for offshore sailing, when fresh water needs to be conserved. On tracing the salt-water hose, I found it was connected to the intake line for the toilet. Call me old fashioned, but I didn’t like the thought of that.

This setup had obviously served the previous owner well enough, but he had done a lot more racing than cruising. With children aboard and plans for extensive summer cruising, we wanted a bit more sophistication. But how much is too much? I initially planned a simple system, with a more powerful water pump supplying faucets in the galley and head as well as a transom shower—the latter a request from the children, who unaccountably like to swim in the frigid waters of New England. It’s much better to wash the salt off on deck than down below.

Checklist

Tools

  • Cordless drill
  • Hole saw
  • Screwdrivers
  • Tube cutter
  • Materials

  • Semi-rigid tubing, 1/2" ID
  • Reinforced PVC tubing, 1/2" ID
  • Couplings
  • Hose clamps
  • A simple plan

    Step one was to rough out the proposed system on a plan of the boat’s interior. Drawn to scale, this allowed me to calculate how much tubing I would need and where and how to make the connections. The tubing runs would include low points where I could tee in valves to let me drain the system in the fall so I could avoid winterizing it with antifreeze. I also decided to move the water pump out from under the galley sink and into a side locker where it would be easier to service. I would replace the galley faucet, add a freshwater manual pump in the galley, and install a new faucet in the head.

    This simple plan soon morphed into something more complicated. Why not take advantage of the free energy provided by my diesel cooling system and install a water heater? The kids would be even more impressed with their transom shower. I could put a second shower in the head, and there’d be hot water for dishwashing too. I anticipated appreciative cheers from the whole family. So I decided to install a water heater; you can read about this project in the Fall 2007 issue of BoatWorks. The resulting system is, I think, about as good as it gets for an elderly 34-foot coastal cruiser.

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