From the very beginning of our life we deposited little bonbons into our nappy for someone to clean our bum. As we grew older we were trained how to do this for ourselves. There was the military one square, the frugal four little square sheets of rapidly dissolving single ply to the half a roll wadded up in a fist full of uber soft Charmin techniques. You know the toilet bowl choking and sewer line blocking handful. Then in our sunset years of life we may have to return to the very first days of life again. Thankfully I’m not there yet.
When good boater friends get together for sundowners we all discuss our travels, boat issues and projects. Invariably, the subject arises regarding marine heads and or equipment. The topic will include make and models, hose management, tanks, discharge, pumpout, odors, leaks and everything else related to the topic. It’s a natural bodily function that is talked about regularly, but that doesn’t mean I want to apply for a job at the local wastewater treatment facility. You could almost say that poo is what brings us together.
During our recent freshwater tank replacement project, I discovered a very unpleasant issue. There it was on my freshly white painted bilge bottom; a lovely dark brown liquid near the mast compression post. Yes, without a doubt I knew it wasn’t rusty water. There was no need for a taste test either as there was a very nice aroma of savory stew. I was very happy that we had pumped out Dazzler’s blackwater tank before we were hauled out to the hardstand. This meant there was very little material left in the tank.
After cleaning up the liquid it was disgustingly obvious that our blackwater tank had a leak and it would also need to be repaired or replaced. The only downside to this was all the cushions and equipment that lived in the saloon were now resting on top of the bunk and as such prevented any access to the tank while working on installing the new freshwater tanks.
No Rest For The Weary
The time came to go from water tank installation to cleaning up the interior to make access to the blackwater holding tank under our bunk in the forward stateroom. I’m not sure what state it is but definitely one of the smaller ones.
Upon gaining access to the blackwater tank area, it appeared to have easy access to the tank itself. More importantly it appeared as if I would be able to cut the fiberglass joints holding a standalone fiberglass tank in place. I was so excited that I could hardly wait to make a few cuts to test my observations. Don’t get ahead of me here. Yes it looked like a few cuts would free the tank form its installed position.
After putting up plastic in the bunk area to minimize the dust pollution that was about to begin I started to use my Multi-max Dremel tool to make surgeon-like cuts along the tank’s edges. Less than thirty minutes later the tank was free. Could it be that easy? Were the stars aligned in my favor? Let’s see if this tank will fit through the stateroom doorway shall we? Wait for it…..damn it! As it would happen, the tank was about a half inch too wide to pass freely through the doorway.
Plan two! I put the tank back into the bunk area and would now have to cut the tank into two pieces. For this task I busted out the big guns and went straight to the angle grinder with a cutting blade. About twenty minutes later I had two pieces of the defective blackwater tank. The tank would now fit through the doorway. I tossed out the narrow piece first.
I then had to use the wet vacuum to suck up about half a gallon of liquid. Meanwhile Jilly made her way down the ladder to the the car where she was pacing around and whining about the smell she was certain would permeate every piece of wood, fiber and fabric on Dazzler for the rest of our lives. Women!
I know this next part may be a little gross. The inside of the tank was actually very clean. I expected to see, you know, poo piles, stanky pies and who knows what other things your imagination can come up with. But, seriously the tank walls were visible and almost no build up. Not what I expected from a 1987 holding tank. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised. This larger piece of the tank fit through the doorway and fell about ten feet to the yard’s pavement with a loud thud.
Not only were the tank pieces still intact, but it made an excellent mold to take to Hercules Tanks for them to duplicate it with a new polypropylene tank. But how will we get it into the car? A few quick measurements and it was obvious that it would not fit in our rental car’s trunk. And it appeared that it might almost fit in the backseat. But who in their right mind wants to drive forty minutes away with your stinking two piece blackwater tank looking over your shoulder from the backseat? Not me and definitely not Jilly. I can’t blame her either.
Plan three. It looks like I’ll have to cut the large piece of tank in half again in order to fit it in the trunk of the car for delivery to Hercules Tanks. Break out the angle grinder again.
Dropping the tank off happened without incident. It is times like these that I am glad we decided to move and haul Dazzler out in a yard closer to the tank manufacturer.
More Work While We Wait
Back on Dazzler I needed to develop a plan for installing the new tank, clean the bulkhead and prep it and determine what supplies would be needed to complete the project. Now that I’ve cleaned things up a bit I have assessed that I’ll need a ¼ sheet of thin plywood to add to the bulkhead. I’d also need a bit of penetrating epoxy and a small can of insulating foam to help fill in a few small gaps around the tank. Just waiting on the new tank for now.
While waiting for the tank I reinstalled the shower sump and secured the 1 ½” hose that transfers liquid from the head to the holding tank. That will help clean up all the loose ends under the floorboards.
Okay, okay, I’ll get started working on the bottom paint. There was a whole day and then some full of sanding and prep work on the bottom. Just three short days later, around midday, Frank from Hercules Tanks drives up behind Dazzler and stops. He was delivering our new holding tank. I was at a loss for words as it was done much sooner than I thought possible.
Who Says Poo Tanks Can’t Be Beautiful?
It was a work of professional quality tank artistry. A definite showpiece that could have been easily on display at a trade show. It will be a shame that it gets mounted out of sight and will be filled with you know what. But, everything old had to be new once. We are both so excited and then, it happened. The proclamation from the christening princess declaring first strike plans. That glisten in her eye was oh so revealing that her mind was making tactical plans of how and when to commence her bombing run.
Now when we meet with other cruisers and the topic of head and holding tank blues arises, which it always does, we will have a winning story to regale.
Okay back to sanding the bottom. What a taskmaster. I finished sanding for the day just in time to drop the new holding tank into its assigned location. Just touching the tank brought back the feelings of opening that one special gift on Christmas Day. The tank slid into place and the fit was magical. I’ll have some work to finish on the bottom tomorrow and then I’ll finish up the installation of the tank. All in all the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. Special thanks to Frank and the crew at Hercules Tanks for their professionalism and quality of their products. They manufacture water, fuel and the holy grail of waste tanks. And we couldn’t be happier with their attention to detail and quality.
The installation proceeded as planned with no hidden or additional projects cropping up. We are installing an ultrasonic tank sensor and gauge to help with knowing when the tank should be emptied. Just a little techno addition to take the guesswork out of when the tank is full. Because you gotta know these things. Plus when we have guests we can show them the gauge and tell the story of The Beautiful Hidden Waste Tank, volume one.
Well boys and girls, That’s the story of the great Poo Tank upgrade. I will leave you with this thought, who used it first? Until next time miles and smiles from the crew of Dazzler.