Liveaboards don’t get holidays.

When sailors live on their boat, they are called “liveaboards.” A more fitting term would be “full time live-in engineer.” If we have something break or leak, we are completely on our own. We can’t call a serviceman and go about our business. Our business is finding the problem ourselves so our boat won’t sink or catch on fire. Why are we on our own, you ask? Because every boat is built differently and usually includes faulty workmanship either from the factory or more likely from repairs or improvements made by someone else. Besides, a boat handyman will charge you 50 to 125 bucks an hour to learn your about your boat, and maybe fix it the first time but probably not, and that is if you can reach him and if he can show up in the next couple of days. We are forced to learn our boat’s systems whether we like it or not.

Today is the 4th of July. Last night, when I got home from a pool party, Lindsay let me know that the gas at the stove wasn’t workin (ummm, the tank is half full…) and there is a small pool of water in one of the cabinets (that’s a mystery). Okay, so that’s me for tomorrow. So as a liveaboard, there is no calling anyone, just dig in and fix it asap, which luckily in this case I got is all done in a morning.

I woke up and put on my work clothes, which are stained shorts with lots of pockets and a light colored t-shirt. I then ate a cold breakfast and made coffee. I started cleaning the stove parts.

This is a 3 burner propane (LP) stove.
This is a 3 burner propane (LP) stove. The front burners have always been weak, Today it just quit.

I cleaned all of the parts where the gas comes out, soaked the nozzles in vinegar and ran some wire strands through the tiny orifices to see if that helped.

These are the brass nozzles turning the vinegar green. Note the wire strands used to gently clean the orifices.
These are the brass nozzles turning the vinegar green. That is a black electrical wire, marine grade.

I lit the stove and fiddled with the knobs. It didn’t help, the flames were very weak and then went out. I suspect the cheap regulator I bought from Amazon has failed. I pull out all of the tools necessary and remove my custom-made wall-mounted regulator and shut off valve manifold and start disassembling it.

Tools in Makara cockpit

I notice the water pressure pump cycle a few times, which usually means someone is showering. Lindsay opened the door to our cabin and stepped into a pool of water and water running down the steps. She was not showering, which means the small leak just went full force and is pouring water into the bilge. Why did that happen just now? Man, I’m glad that didn’t happen in the middle of the night! Now the gas problem is on the “back burner” so to speak.

We shut off the water pump and started with removing seat cushions and everything we have stored in the lockers and cupboards to get closer to where we think the water is coming from. I had to find the leak right now, no matter if it’s a holiday or not. We shut off the air conditioning, radio, fans, ice maker, etc. and turn on the water pump. The leak can be heard under this storage locker floor. I have to cut a hole.

Here’s where livaboard experience counts. I need to cut a hole to see what’s going on under the floor panel. It would be best to know how what size of hole to cut for an access cover plate thing before I started hacking up the floor, even though it’s in a locker. Luckily, West Marine is three blocks away and I go and buy a deck plate for an access hole cover, I also buy a new LP regulator as well. I trace the outline and use my roto-zip to cut a hole in the floor, being careful to not cut through the bottom of the boat. (Yeah, we’ve all done that once.)

I stick my camera in the hole and see this….

Find the leak

I can’t see the leak. This hole I just cut is now useless, except for pictures. I cut another hole in an area that is behind panels, so I don’t need for it to be any special shape. I stuck a light in there and shot a video towards the light, this is what I saw.

See the spray from the pinhole? There’s your sign.

I cut another access hole directly on top of the pipe with the leak. I cut the tubing and inserted shut offs that I had in my inventory. Yeah, experience coming in handy again, especially because my tubing is metric. I go to West Marine and buy another deck plate for this hole.

plumbing in access panel

I wait, here’s the good part. So why was there a hole in the tubing right there and nowhere else? Because every boat is built differently and usually includes faulty workmanship either from the factory or more likely from repairs or improvements made by someone else. Remember that? Oh yeah, and in this case because someone dropped a utility knife blade where there is pressurized water tubing and electrical wires, and didn’t bother to find it. So the vibrations of the boat rubbed the water tubing against this piece of sharp steel until eventually it made a pinhole, on July 4th, 2016.

IMG_1120
Thanks, buddy, whoever you are. You are sloppy and you ruined my holiday. Get bent.

Okay so that’s the plumbing fixed. Back to the gas problem. I watch a You Tube video and then fiddle with trying to raise the pressure by turning the thing that holds the spring. It doesn’t change anything. I decide it’s just best to replace the regulator. I re-customize the mounting bracket, yes re-customize is a word, and install the entire manifold again. Mind you, this is a couple of hours later.

That black thing on the right is an electric switch, for safety.
That black thing on the right is an electric switch, for safety.

So this new regulator has a pressure gauge that shows the pressure coming into the regulator. It’s on top on the left. I notice the pressure is kind of low, like 50, when the gauge goes up to 300. The stovetop burners light, but the flames are very low. So I switch tanks, still 50. I remove the hose that I bought from Amazon and use the hose that came with the new regulator, the gauge goes to 150. Crap, it was the hose. I light the stove and it goes wild with tall blue flames. Huh, the hose, go figure.

Happy Independance day, everyone. I’m feeling quite independant and alone in my liveaboard debacle today, but I have water and gas again, and it’s 5:30pm. That would have cost me like, I don’t know, 500 bucks. I wonder what tomorrow will bring. Who cares, I’m going to see the fireworks tonight!