This indeed took the best part of a day. Stretching inside cupboards, unscrewing the old connectors and ‘piping up’ the new ones. One reason it took so long was because they didn’t all have the same size threads, did they? After all it is a boat! So there were the inevitable couple of trips back to the store, to buy adaptors and exchange fittings.
BRITANNIA also has a shore water connection, also known as a City water supply, which we connect when in marinas to save using the pump and batteries. A hose connects from a dock faucet to a pressure reducing inlet on the boat and pressurizes the boat's water system. This gives a constant pressure in the boat's water system without using any pumps or battery power, which also means no noisy pumps. The supply can often be a more even flow to say a shower, than using a small pulsating pressure pump. Also, if you live aboard and have small tanks, it saves having to fill them up. We liked the advantages and convenience. But when one of the old connectors broke I realized there was nothing to prevent the boat completely flooding and even sinking if nobody was on board to hear the bilge pump running.
My thoughts turned to how to make a fail-safe system, because there was no accounting for another internal failure, even with new pipes and connectors. We always switched the water off on the dock when we left the boat, but that's not foolproof, because it’s easy to forget.
Some people suggested not using a dock water hose at all, drawing from the tanks and refilling them as needed. But you might say the same about a shore power electrical supply, which everyone uses without a second thought, but which have been the cause of many an electrical fire.
As a cheap added safeguard I fitted a second shut-off tap at the hose/boat connection, just in case anyone switched the dock faucet on again. This was still not an automatic safety measure, so I considered how I might install some sort of automatic shut-off.
I found a 12 volt solenoid water valve on line. It is normally open, but instantly closes when voltage is applied. I connected it directly after the pressure inlet, and wired it to the bilge pump float switch. On tests it closed flawlessly, but when the bilge pump lowered the water below the valve float switch, the valve opened again and the cycle repeated continuously.
To prevent this I incorporated what is called a latching relay. When activated by the float switch it stays live and keeps the shut-off valve closed, even when the float switch power disconnects. The relay only powers off when the circuit is manually switched off at a breaker.
I also wired a bell into the circuit, which rings when the system is activated. In other words, the boat now has a high water bilge alarm.
I also fitted stop-cocks on the hot and cold supply to the washing machine, which we close when it is not being used, in case the valves on the washer fail.
I had to fit a larger contact breaker in the circuit board, from 15amp to 20amps, to carry the increased draw of the larger pump.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
Since there was only air in all the new pipes I opened all the faucets, checked all my fittings for the third time, said a little prayer, then pushed the contact breaker. The pump immediately started up, then ran, and ran, and ran, but with absolutely no sign of water at any faucet. These new style diaphragm pumps are capable of being run dry, so I was not much bothered, but after a few minutes I began to wonder why not even the slightest spurt was coming out of even the nearest outlet to the pump.
Then it suddenly dawned on me: both water tanks had shut-off valves, which enable each to be used as required. I remembered closing these while I connected the new system, but I couldn’t remember ever opening them. Without thinking to switch off the pump I quickly lifted the floor board under where the values were located. Both valves were closed and I quickly opened one!!
The pump instantly changed its tone, as though it was talking to me, and what it was saying was not complimentary!
In an instant water gushed out of all the faucets with so much more force than we had been used to. I switched some off, then turned on the shower in the aft cabin, which was now as powerful as our house shower!
I quickly made an inspection of all the connectors, and I would be lying if I said I had no leaks. I hadn’t pushed the pipe fully into three connectors to engage the O ring, but that was easy to remedy. There were also a couple of straight threaded connectors which dripped, which were easily stopped by a few extra turns with a wrench.
After this, all became silent; until I opened a faucet, and the pressure drop activated the pump, which again stopped the moment the tap was closed. Wow!
I tested the automatic shut-off valve by filling the bilge with fresh water until the switch activated the bilge pump and simultaneously switched the shore water supply off. This worked perfectly and remained switched off, even after the bilge pump lowered the water level.
This was another good job done in restoring worn out systems to an otherwise soundly constructed ocean cruiser.