Large boat issues

On October 12, 2011 In Boat

So I haven’t done a posting in a while since I was hoping that the next post I’d do was with a small video of a ribbon cutting ceremony for my new functioning toilet. For the most part the toilet is functional. Right this moment I have one of 2 water tanks partially filled with water, that water goes to a manifold to distribute the water to either the toilet or to a water pump for the rest of the domestic water items (shower, sinks, dishwasher, cloths washer [Yes I’m serious about the last 2 items there… Life is hard when you have space let me tell you!]). The water line for the toilet then goes down nearly 10 feet through a wall, along a pipe channel that’s below where the shower base will be, then to the water pump for the toilet and then from there to the toilet itself. For the waste water from it I have sewage hose going from the back of the toilet, through a 1 way valve (it was attached directly to the toilet itself but space and size constrictions required me to remove that and reattach it just a bit further out from the toilet itself), back to the sewage pipe, out along the pipe channel, through the engine room, up a wall through that wall with a 90 degree elbow, and into a 250 gallon waste tank. FROM the waste tank I even have the pump out hose attached properly from the bottom of the tank, up through the deck to a nice fitting that lays flush on the deck that I had to grind down flat and repaint. I still have to add a vent pipe to the tank itself to let it breath through a charcoal filter but it’s not super urgent right now. ON TOP of all of this I even have all the electrical for the toilet done which required me to do the following (in point form since this post is already getting kinda long):

  1. Rip out all the old wiring from the batteries in the back of the engine room to the power distribution panel up on the pilot house
  2. Replace those wires with 2AWG (translation super heavy duty cables) and run their unflexible selves up to the pilot house
  3. Rewire the distribution panel
  4. Run 6AWG (translation rather heavy duty and still a pain in the ass to run cables) from the terminal points on the panel down through conduit that is barely big enough for them down from the pilot house, through the channel, to a distribution box behind the toilet
  5. In the distribution box attach 2 terminal nuts and 1 40amp fuse.
  6. Attach 1 terminal nut with a wire to the 40 amp fuse (the hot side)
  7. Run wire from the other side of the fuse and the ground terminal nut to a plug system with lower gauge wire into a plug to plug into the computer to run the toilet.
  8. Make the plugs for the water pump.
  9. Plug everything in and check for smoke.
ALL THIS worked as well. So now (about 2 weeks ago) I flushed it. It WORKED! Water went to the waste tank with no issues (Ya. BIG tip here guys. When working on a toilet of any sorts test with clean water a LOT first. Don’t just “Drop it like it’s hot” otherwise if you have issues you’re not just cleaning up water. Fortunately I did just test with water so no gross story to relay.). But a new issue arose.
Apparently the Italians that designed the toilet system assumed that the water tanks for the toilet would be below the toilet itself. Not a bad assumption for 90% of the boats out there. What this assumption does for them is that when the pump pumps it sucks water up and pumps it into the toilet, when it’s done gravity naturally pulls back all the water sitting against the pump itself. In my case I actually have natural gravity fed water (not a lot of pressure but a little bit) so when the water pump engaged it broke the air lock holding back the water up top and pulled the water down. So when it stopped pumping water was still pushing down. I had assumed (wrongly) that the pump had at least something resembling a solenoid (on and off valve of sorts that opens or closes when power is sent to it) to stop water flow immediately. Instead the toilet filled endlessly, slowly, into the toilet. Thus I have spent several weeks making a very slow water fountain. Fortunately with the manifold etc I was able to shut off the water flow manually (ball valves are our friends), unfortunately this means I had to acquire a solenoid of some sorts.
Part 2 of the toilet saga: The search for solenoids
I read online and tried to contact the tech support for the Italian toilet manufacturer. The time differences made communication a test in patience and the language barrier eventually broke me down into making MS Paint diagrams to explain the situation to him and my solution to make sure it was kosher. The solution is simple:
  1. Find a good 12 volt normally closed solenoid (normally closed means that you have to give the solenoid power to open)
  2. Install the solenoid in front of the pump
  3. Wire the solenoid to the same power source as the pump (this means that when the pump is given power to pump water that the solenoid opens to let in water. When the water pump is turned off to stop water it stops the water flow. Simple)
Eventually without getting confirmation that this would or wouldn’t work from the manufacturer (they started to ignore me) I just decided to go ahead with it. NOW I needed to find a solenoid. I went to the website for my normal marine parts supplier and was confronted with a rather terrible website (Sorry guys if you’re reading this but honestly even with the viewable catalog online I still have to use the “other guys” website to find what I want before I contact you guys at all), I went to their competitors next who are known to charge way too much for stuff… Well that belief was not dissuaded when I went there and saw that the only solenoid that was suitable was too small for the pipe (not a big deal really), plastic, and $110. Wow. Just wow. So I said nuts to that and went online to look for solenoids. First hit was a similar one to the first one I found and only $7.50. Ya. A bit different in price. But I wasn’t very happy with the fact that it was plastic and would be at the lowest point in the entire system really so I decided to continue looking for stronger ones and found some brass ones that are industrial grade, good for air, water, oil and freon (in case I want to air condition my butt I suppose) and also capable of holding back 147PSI. Price? $35. Perfect. Lets order 2.
I get the email saying its shipped that very evening and saying that at latest it should arrive by the 12th… Today… But 1 thing was on the email that made me nervous. USPS. Oh god. I checked online with my tracking number. HA. Why bother? All they say is “Yup. It was shipped priority 1 and we acknowledge that there was a shipping request.” Literally that’s it. There has not been any updates, their update by email system sends nearly a week later to inform me that there was an order when in theory it should be at the border already. So ya. Here I am. Solenoidless and incidentally still functioning toiletless as well. The manufacturer of the solenoids themselves has been nice though and said that if I don’t get it by today that I should contact them. Which I probably will tomorrow and ask for it to be shipped by someone reliable.
Anyways I hope I have good news later today on that but I’m not holding my breath at this moment in time. Fortunately I have adjusted myself nicely to Boater Time which means it’ll get here when it does. And when it does. Great.
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