Plumbing, Head, Part 1, Cutting and Dry-Fitting the Hoses

The Trident brand hoses, cut and dry-fitted into place
On the surface, it would seem that the replumbing of the head on a classic sailboat would be a relatively straightforward task. After all, the word replumbing implies that one must simply replace the old with the new; and this would indeed be the narrow focus of any replumbing work, if indeed a boat had been plumbed in an appropriate and logically coherent fashion in the first place. How often, however, is it the case that one encounters quality work by those who have preceded him? Based on my experience here and elsewhere, I would say not very often at all. It is the case, then, that almost all of us, save for the lucky few, must pay for the sins of commission and omission by those who have gone before us. This was especially the case with me in my replumbing of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25. In this article, which will consist of a series of postings, I preserve in pictures and words the many steps I took in the replumbing of my head. If anyone says that this is a simple task, he's leading himself, and all of us, for that matter, astray.
One of the problems here, as elsewhere, in the refitting of this boat, was that I was faced with a blank slate. I could find no adequate descriptions anywhere of anyone's replumbing of the head of an Ericson 25. Likewise, I could find few pictures of such a head. The few that I have ever seen look very similar to my own, pictured below. My solution here, as elsewhere, was to figure it out for myself. How many times did I utter these words in my refitting of this boat? Yes, let this be inscribed in stone over the entryway to the tunnel that was this seemingly endless project: "FIGURE IT OUT FOR YOURSELF."
One of the problems with the existing set-up was that there were no anti-siphon loops in the hoses. This meant that the boat could sink, if someone forgot to close one of the seacocks. Another problem was that the Raritan head was so out of date that it wasn't even worth the time or money trying to rebuilt it.
Yet another problem was that there was not a holding tank. What you see below is a fake holding tank. I discussed this problem and many others in an earlier article on the original plumbing:
The water intake seacock was shot.
The same held true for the overboard discharge seacock.
Yes, I ripped all of this out and started over from scratch.
If you've read my multi-part article on the replacement of the original bronze through-hulls with new ones, you'll know that this was a major project in and of itself.
At the same time, I had to figure what brand and type of new seacocks I would purchase. Everything had to fit together just right. For more on this, see my ten-part article beginning right here:
The holding tank was, as I said, a phony.
My replacement of it with a new Dometic Sealand vertical holding tank was very much like my replacement of the through-hulls - a time-consuming project in and of itself, because it involved the modification of a large locker under the V-berth to accommodate this tank. For more on this, see this series of four postings:
Having completed some of the work I have described in these links (but certainly not all of it), the task before me now was figuring out how to route the many hoses that would make this a fully-functioning head.
Yes, I purchased the Groco brand bronze through-hulls and bronze seacocks, but when it came to purchasing anti-siphon loops, I opted for Marelon. I had read on some of the sailing forms that some persons had had trouble with bronze loops. The problem was that they were somewhat rough on the inside, and because of this roughness they created problems in terms of clogging.
I needed to install two of these Marelon anti-siphon loops - a big one for the waste discharge on the aft bulkhead and a small one for the seawater intake on the forward bulkhead.
Somewhere in this space I also needed to install a Groco brand seawater strainer.
My thinking was that it needed to be on the hull, or I should say the hull liner.
Additionally, I needed to install a Whale brand manual pump for discharging the contents of the holding tank (when at least 3 miles offshore).
This too seemed to belong on the hull.
I did lots of research before I settled on Trident brand hose. As I recall, Peggy Hall, the renowned and self-described "Head Mistress," or "Princess of Poop," on the popular online forum, Sailnet, said many great things about this high quality hose. Her arguments and those of her acolytes convinced me that it was worth the extra money not to have to worry about the odor permeation associated with medium quality and low quality hoses.

Just for the record, this was Trident #101 Premium Sanitation Hose, 1-1/2 inch, Black. I got it from Defender, the well-known chandlery in Connecticut, during their annual spring sale. I opted for black instead of white, because black would more easily hide dust and grime than the white. The surface of this hose was not slick and smooth like some other brands of hoses; in was, instead, cloth-like in its texture.
Now lets discuss the Dometic Sealand holding tank. This tank contained one inlet and two outlets. The inlet was where the waste entered the tank. The two outlets were where it exited. One of the outlets was for the manual pumpout. The other was for the deck pumpout. The manual was for overboard discharge when the boat was at least three miles offshore. The deck pumpout was for discharge at a dock.
One of the advantages of this Dometic Sealand tank, aside from the fact that its vertical orientation saved a lot of space, was that its two different discharge outlets prevented me from having to purchase a Y-valve - a necessary piece of hardware for anyone (with any other type of tank) wanting both overboard discharge and dockside pumpout.
In the fiberglass bulkhead that separated the head from the V-berth locker there already existed one hole. This was for the hose that had led to the fake holding tank. Now I needed to cut two additional holes.
I used a hole saw on my Makita electric drill for the cutting of these holes.
Three holes for three hoses - one for pumping waste into the tank and two for pumping it out.
I carried out this cutting of the holes (and the cutting of the hose segments that followed) when a friend from out of town was visiting. It was summertime in the Carolina Lowcountry. The boat was hot and humid, and we worked steadily without pausing to take very many pictures. We had our hands full just trying to figure out where to locate all these things. Moreover, it wasn't easy wrestling this Trident hose into submission. Often we'd have to rethink what seemed to be a good idea simply because the hose would not cooperate.
In the pictures above and below you can see several of our initial accomplishments. After temporarily reinstalling the old Raritan brand toilet (which was almost identical in outward shape and appearance to the new Raritan toilet that I had purchased), we began by routing the toilet discharge hose to the holding tank.
Then we routed the manual pumpout hose from the tank to the Whale brand pump. We temporarily screwed the pump to the hull liner, but only after we fiddled around with the hose to figure out the best location for it. At this point we still could not tell if this was indeed the best location for it, since we had not yet routed the other hose on the other end of the pump.
This Trident brand hose gave us a devil of a time whenever we tried to cut it. That's a good thing, if you think about it. There was a heavy duty steel wire that spiraled its way along the length of the hose. A hacksaw was good for cutting the rubber of the hose.
Aviation snips were good for cutting the steel wire.
We installed the large anti-siphon loop near the top of the aft bulkhead. Then we installed the piece of hose that ran upward from the pump to the loop. Next we installed the hose that ran downward from the loop to the waste discharge seacock.
You can see these two hoses to the right in the picture below.
This next picture is more helpful. With red arrows I have indicated the direction of flow.
The last of the large hoses that we installed was the deck pumpout discharge hose. In the picture below you see that I have indicated the vertical flow with the red arrow.
I have no pictures of the hole I drilled in the deck to accommodate the new stainless steel deck plate that I had purchased. As I recall, after taking many measurements, I drilled a pilot hole upward from the interior of the boat to the exterior. Then I installed a hole saw bit and made two different cuts, one downward from the deck and one upward from belowdecks until they met in the middle. Before I started the cuts I set the drill on Reverse. The reverse motion of the teeth ensured that the chipping of the gelcoat would be minimal. I had used the same technique when cutting the large hose holes through the fiberglass bulkhead.
Yes, I drilled hole for the deck plate hole, but I did not yet install the deck plate at this time, since doing so would involve epoxy-work for the protection of the balsa core within the deck. Therefore, I simply pushed all of the excess hose up through the hole I had just cut. Later I would come back and cut the hose when I knew with greater certainty how much I needed.
After this I installed the small anti-siphon loop for the seawater intake hose. You'll notice that this hose is considerably smaller. This was not Trident brand hose. This was Thermoid brand heater hose that I had purchased at an O'Reilly's Auto Parts store. Don Casey had made a good case for saving money in this area of marine pluming work in his witty and valuable tome, This Old Boat.
As I said earlier, my plan was to install the seawater filter on the hull. I found no need to install this filter temporarily at this time, so in the picture below I have simply indicated (with an oval) the spot where I had drawn the shape of the filter in pencil on the hull.
Before I continue to my next subject, I should point out that the pictures above and below do not actually date to the time of the work my friend and I did in this part of the boat. As I said, we were busy with this work and did not take very many pictures. You'll notice that the hoses are covered with white dust. This is from all of the grinding and sanding that I did in various parts of the boat at a later date. If I knew then what I know now, I would have removed all of the hoses after we had completed this dry-fit. It was difficult to remove all this dust from these hoses after it had sat on them for such a long time in all the heat and humidity.
Now let's look at the work my friend and I did on the holding tank during this dry-fit process. This tank, like most tanks, came with one portal for a vent. Peggy Hall, the Head Mistress, had argued convincingly that the key to eliminating, or at least reducing, holding tank odor was to have two vents, one on either side of the boat. This would allow for a cross breeze through the holding tank, which would, on the one hand, nourish the good bacteria - the aerobic bacteria - and, on the other hand,create an unwelcome environment for that disgusting, anaerobic bacteria.
To create the new vent portal I used a hole saw in my Makita electric drill.
In anticipation of this project, I had called Dometic Sealand to get a price on the parts for a second vent. They wanted over 30 dollars, plus shipping. My local hardware store had similar marine grade right-hand through-hull for about 6 dollars.
If I had cut the hole for this through-hull any farther from the large clean-out portal, then I never have been able to install it. I could just barely fit my hand and arm into the hole and over far enough to tighten the nut down on the underside of the through-hull.
Another problem that we ran into when we were doing this dry-fit concerned the right-angle fittings that were adjacent to each other. These were the two discharge outlets. The problem was that whenever you tried to screw them into place, they would obstruct each other. You could screw one of them fully into place and install a hose on it, but then you couldn't screw the other one fully into place. The minimalist instructions were no help with this problem. The Dometic Sealand website was even less helpful. The operator at Dometic Sealand connected us to the tech department. The person in charge never answered the phone and never responded to my message. For the time being, therefore, we left this problem unresolved.
Instead, we focused on the vents. Inside the hanging locker, on the port side of the boat, we figured out where to locate the valve for the port side vent. I have no idea whether anyone else has ever installed valves for his holding tank vents, but I installed them on my boat. The through-hulls for these vents would be on the sheer stripe beneath the rub rail. I did not want to run the risk of water siphoning into the holding tank when the weather was up and the rail was in or near the water. Therefore, I wanted to have these valves as a safety option.
In the picture above you'll notice that I have just cut a hole through the bulkhead for the routing of the vent hose from the holding tank up to the bronze valve.
I also had to cut a hole in the shelf above the hanging locker. I made this cut from within the locker, as there was no room for the drill on the top side. After this, I cut yet another hole, this one through the fiberglass frame of the alcove box.

Finally, after making many measurements and double-checking my double-checking, I drilled the last hole, this one through the sheer stripe. Into it, I dry-fitted a stainless steel through-hull.
Why stainless instead of plastic? Because plastic looks cheap, and it doesn't cost that much less than the classy stainless steel. Did it look classy at this point, situated as it was in the middle of this tired and faded red paint? No, but eventually it would.
Back inside the V-berth locker, I routed the starboard side vent hose. It's the small hose to the left in the picture below. This required cutting a hole in the fiberglass bulkhead, not far from the three large holes for the three large hoses.
Then I cut a hole through the starboard alcove box and then another through the sheer stripe on the starboard side of the boat.
Believe me, it was hard for me to cut this hole through the side of the boat, just like it was hard for me to cut the other one. Would I know for sure that I had measured everything correctly? No. I wouldn't know that until it was too late. Fortunately, I had. The hole lined up just right.
I did not install a vent valve on the hull at this time. That would have to await my construction and installation of a plywood mounting plate. At this time, the most I could do was sketch the shape of the valve on the fiberglass hull liner and cut the hoses to fit this imaginary piece of hardware.
After I had completed this dry-fitting, I took this picture to remind me of the layout. Notice how clean the hoses look here compared to the earlier pictures with all the white dust.
My friend and I labeled each hose with duct tape and created this key as a reminder. Yes, that's sweat that dropped off my face while I was writing out the key. Do you think that's nasty? Sorry. Sweating is a way of life in the hot and humid summer of the Carolina Lowcountry. There's no escaping it, if you work outdoors. It's not at all like the desert heat of the American Southwest, where you sweat nary a drop. It's hot out there, but it's a comfortable hot, not a miserable one.
Now that I had completed this work, I could focus on the installation of the through-hulls. In the next posting in this series, I summarize in one brief posting my ten-part article on the installation of this hardware.
This ends this posting on my cutting and dry-fitting of the hoses for the replumbing of Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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