Tanks For The Memories

No matter how well you plan in advance to try and head off any possible problems or breakdowns, a boat will always find a way to surprise you. By definition, cruising is repairing your boat in exotic places. I don't know if I would classify Marathon, Florida as exotic, but we did find ourselves needing a fairly substantial repair. It all began as a casual check and prep for our move to stage at Key Biscayne for a crossing to the Bahamas. Climbing around in the engine compartment, checking fluids and giving everything a once over, I discovered a bit more water in the bilge than normal. We usually try and keep the bilge dry, but a little always finds its way in. Using the trusty wet vac, almost two gallons was extracted - way more than should have been.



Since the weather forecast was still suspect, we decided to give it another day and research more on where this possible water intrusion was coming from. It didn't take long to find the source was coming from the aft cabin. After eliminating anything in the head, it soon was apparent that the water was coming from a leak in our starboard fresh water tank under one of the aft berths. A substantial puddle and some wet shoes were a dead give-away. The leak wasn't letting the water run out - it just weaped enough to allow a slow amount to run under the tank until it built up enough to flow into the bilge. It may have been leaking for a while without us realizing it.

Now we had a couple of choices. We could probably repair the tank and go on our way, but there is always the possibility that another leak would develop, and we didn't want that to happen in the Bahamas. We have another tank and we could use the good tank, but that would cut our available fresh water in half. This is not something we wanted to deal with in the Bahamas where water can be hard to find in some areas. Of course, the other possibility, and the one we chose, was to replace the tank now while we had easy access to services and facilities. We could have replaced it ourselves, but decided not to for a couple of reasons. First, we didn't feel like it and second, we would have to deal with removing and disposing a large heavy tank while at anchor using our dinghy and no vehicle. Then there was the decision on what type of material to use for the new tank. Ideally we might have decided on a plastic tank. But after checking with the major manufacturers, we found only one that had a tank close to the size we needed and even their ready-made tanks are not ready-made. The standard sizes are still not made until you order them and it would have taken two to three weeks at least to get it to us. So we decided to have one made locally, and the material of choice was stainless steel since the old tank was stainless steel as well as the other existing water tank.


One needs to be very careful in choosing a repair facility or service in the Florida Keys. We have found over the years that making the wrong decision can create all sorts of problems you never had before. We have done business with Marathon Boat Yard in the past and know the owners. The yard has always had an excellent reputation and, as usual, they did not let us down. The morning we arrived, they were on the boat, gave us a fair estimate, and, once we okayed it, ordered the new tank to be made at Keys Welding, right down the street. The estimate for the fabrication of the new tank was actually a little less than we expected and ETA to the boat was two to three days. The day after we arrived, the yard removed the old tank and Keys Welding picked it up to use the dimensions and placement for the fittings. The yard techs didn't fool around and the old tank was out in less than an hour.


Since it was out and the area was in need of a little TLC, everything was scraped, sanded, wiped down and a fresh coat of paint applied. At some point in time, every square inch of the hull interior will have a coat of paint. When installing or repairing equipment, any wiring or other work that might be needed is also done.


It's amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do. Now we just had to wait for the tank to be finished. The welder started on it on Wednesday, and by midday on Friday, it was delivered to the boat. The tank was the exact size we needed and the fittings perfectly placed. It had been pressure tested for any leaks before it was delivered.


Installing the new tank took only slightly more time than removing the old one. Some adjustments were needed to the framework that hold the tank in place, but it all went smoothly and in short order. We can't say enough good things about Marathon Boat Yard and the crew. But be careful, things in Marathon can be confusing. There is Marathon Boat Yard, which we highly recommend, then there is Marathon Marina & Boatyard, with which we don't have any recent experience, and the Marathon City Marina, which doesn't have a boatyard. If you need repairs in Marathon, you will want Marathon Boat Yard Marine Center. They are inside the harbor. Turn into the canal to the north (port) just as you pass through the old Boot Key Harbor Bridge coming from Hawks or Moser Channel. Now if we can only get the weather to be as cooperative as the yard.

12 comments:

  1. Great Post! Thanks for the pictures & advice about boat yards.
    -Joel
    WATERMUSIC
    Fathom 40 trawler

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  2. Chuck and Susan, Bill and I enjoy reading your posts Thank you..Joy from Proud Lady

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    1. Your very welcome. It's good to know that we can be of some service. That's why we keep the blog going.

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  3. Hi again. I love your blog, in fact it has motivated me to start my own trawler journey blog.
    http://marine-trader-trawler-nostra-signora.blogspot.com/

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    1. That's great. Good luck with both the new to you boat and the new blog. You'll find both a lot of work but well worth the effort.

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  4. Great writeup as usual, Chuck. Best wishes getting your weather soon. I'm sure you two are ready to go. I look forward to your posts from the Bahamas.

    P.S. We're finally in Clearwater! Life is good.

    Ralph (aka RTB)

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    1. Great news Ralph. Now you can enjoy the Florida west coast. We are still in Marathon waiting for weather. You know how it goes. Maybe another week or possibly two. Oh well, it's all part of the adventure. We will keep posting while we're waiting. Our wifi connection here is really bad, and we're paying for it. Chuck

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  5. We have a 41' Defever and we can't get the water to smell right. The old owner may have put stinky well water into the tank. The best thing we used was a mixture of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. It really help a and gets rid of most of it. Sometimes the hot water has a blackish tint. The tanks are Fiberglas and the lines a grey plastic like PVC. Any suggestions? I would never drink it! The above treatment does help a lot.

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  6. Sounds like you need to "shock" the fresh water system. Empty the tanks and then add 8 ounces of chlorine bleach for every 10 gallons of water. You will need to clean the entire system and not just the tanks. Once the tanks are full, open all of the hot and water taps until you can smell the chlorine. Don't forget the shower heads. Once the chlorine is coming out of all of the taps, close the hot water and open the cold water taps until the chlorine is coming out. Let them all sit for about 10 hours but don't leave it for more than 24 hours. Next flush the tanks via all of the lines and refill with fresh water repeatedly until the chlorine smell is gone. Make sure all the taps are running and remove any screens that act as aerators. They will become clogged if you don't. If you do this successfully, there should be no issues drinking water from the system. We drink water from our tanks all the time. This flush is a regular yearly maintenance for us. Hope this helps.

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  7. Hi! We have just purchased a 40' Trader that will be our live aboard. We have been reading your blog from your first posting about Beach House. You can't imagine how helpful the information you have shared has been - as we are improving, redoing, and inspecting everything. We brought it from Fort Pierce to Fort Lauderdale with no problems. I am curious how you took out/installed the water tank. In the photo, it appears you have a large hatch in the salon for access to the water tank. If this is correct - was the hatch already there or did you cut it in?

    Susan
    Marine Trader 76

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    1. Susan, The tank is directly under the aft berth, so it's very easy to get to. Not sure where your is on the 40. Sometimes it necessary to cut out the tanks in some of the older boats to get them out, and re-install a series of smaller tanks instead of one large one. Good luck

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