Saturday, December 10, 2011

So what have we been doing over the past year?

After the very short honeymoon following the purchase, all boat owners find themselves as we did overwhelmed with that "to do" list. At some point for every task started, new tasks were discovered and added to the list - a good illustration of exponential growth. We look back over this past year to review the list of the tasks completed or at least underway. It is impressive really. We may post that entire list on a separate page as soon as we figure out how to do that.

A new holding tank for Christmas

We review the path of the one task perhaps most dreaded by boat owners for the pain it caused and for the patience it forced us to develop. Some odors on boats are actually pleasant or at least accepted as "boat smells" as they combine the natural smells of wood, fiberglass, upholstery, moisture and confined spaces. Most of us cannot accept the odor of the head or anything related to the boat toilet as "natural". I had my suspicions from a faint odor on Layla that the stainless steel holding tank had a problem. Holding tanks do what their name suggests, keep that nasty material in the boat as required by law when proximity to shore dictates. Stainless steel is certainly not stainless, nor is stainless steel well, strong as steel, at least as we imagine it to be. It should be readily apparent to anyone that if you combine sea water with some of the most caustic of all wastes, no stainless steel will ever remain impervious for very long.

Who ever thought a stainless steel holding tank using sea water was a good idea, other than the guy who got paid to build it? I am sure he understood that when you weld a tank, all of those great properties of stainless steel just go away. This tank had been in Layla for 8 years, and, as I was to find out, had begun to develop pin holes in all of those areas that had been welded - the seams and the brackets. Of course I could not determine this from merely looking at the tank. The holding tank was located near the forward head (yes Layla has two heads) beneath a cabinet adjacent to the shower. I had to first cut through the "wall" to expose the tank. While it provided me access, I could not see the sides of the tank to confirm any leaks as the tank was partially secured by fiberglass. There was no other option - I was going to have to remove it - just to see if I needed to remove it. The first trials showed me that I really needed a better saw. Off I went to the hardware store to buy yet another tool - a scary Roto-Zip with a cutting wheel capable of cutting through fiberglass or bone in no time. I cut through the fiberglass in a cloud of cancer-causing fine dust particles (I did wear the appropriate dust mask). I then needed to cut the hoses going into and out of the tank to pull the tank out of it's home. But, that meant, of course, I needed to first drain any remaining contents or run the risk of it going ... yuk, well you get the picture. I had inquired about someone coming to pump out the tank, but no local guys could do it for some reason, and the "honey wagon" guys that service the porta-potties said it would be $150 just to come and regardless I had better have the right adapter for their pump-out hose because they did not have it. I came up with another plan using a kerosene heater siphon hose, the kind with the little red squishy bulb on top. I extended the short hose to reach the bottom of the tank with another flexible hose, and it actually worked. It had to work because mouth siphoning was clearly out of the question. Following that I turned back to about an hour of prying and pushing, and then I went the hardware store and bought a bigger crow bar to dislodge the tank. I broke it loose and did the "holding tank removal celebration dance". I enticed a guy on a neighboring boat to come help me by saying, "Hey, want to help me carry a bulky, stinky, heavy holding tank through the interior of my boat and then up to the cockpit and while holding one end, climb down a 14 foot ladder to the ground?" He was foolish enough to fall for that invitation and, although we secured the tank to a rope as we climbed down, he dropped his end and the tank swung free to gouge a chunk out of the gel coat on the side of the boat. No real harm. I paid for his dinner later that night.

Cabinet has been cut open and shows where the tank was.

The tank was out and inspection revealed the bad news, actually the good news. It had holes in it and that meant it was not going back in the boat.

The old tank shows the distinctive rust from the pin point holes. Look at the odd shape that is required to fit under the cabinet.

What does it say about our relationship when Tracy said, "All I want for Christmas is a new holding tank"? Tracy got her wish, although it took another 3 months to arrive. We scoured the country for a replacement. As you can see from the pictures, the odd size meant that no standard off the shelf holding tank was going to work for Layla. No, sir, she wasn't going to just take any "of the rack" tank. She needed a custom made tank. Our search would be far and wide. If the plastic tank company would even consider building it, it was going to be expensive (top estimate $1500 for a 25 gallon tank of plastic). Most said that they did not have time to do just one special tank. In weaker moments I even considered having someone make the tank just like the old one. Tracy relied on those "engineer genes" she inherited from her father and built at least three full size models first out of paper, and then cardboard. We knew we had to get it right and there was no way to simply measure it.

Newly designed plastic holding tank with flat bottom to fit against hull.

We finally found a company in Florida (Dura-Weld that custom made our tank to our specifications. Their service was superb.We have the tank back in the boat along with new (odor free) hoses. We still have to finish the woodwork, but you know, other chores continue to take priority.

Here is the early picture of the new holding tank in the new home. It is pretty . . . well for a holding tank.


  1. Hay great post guys! And its good to see your blog up and running (always reassureing to know that we are not alone when it comes to dealing with the less elegant side of owning a boat ;-) Keep up the good work you two ; Layla is beautiful and we look forward to seeing more of her as well as hearing about your other projects and future travels.

  2. Thank you guys! I have read your head story aloud to others to help them appreciate the great drama and adventure we boat people share. In those low moments it is always good to be able to share it with someone. Hope to meet up sometime soon.

  3. Thanks for letting me be a fly on the wall so to speak to your excited for both of happy and can't wait for your dream on the ocean waters to be realized.your proud little sister Jennifer

  4. Welcome aboard Jennifer! We have been waiting to "come out of the closet" about Layla. It is time to share some of the adventures we have already had. We look forward to seeing you and the kids in exotic places.


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