Travel 2020-2021


Water Tanks — Cut Once Measure Twice (?)

The usual advice is measure twice cut once. But. We’re not there yet.

I’ve (finally) cut away enough of the top to reach inside and work. While it’s taken a bunch of weekends, it’s really one, long messy cutting job. 

We wait for afternoons where it gets up to about 7°C, so it’s quite chilly for poor CA who’s handing me tools and waiting to hear if I drop a running saw on my foot.  

I can now plan the two shelves to hold the two bladders. If you squint, you can see the blue sharpie lines. One is 11″ down from the top. The other is 22″ down. They make neat triangles, I think.

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The master plan is to screw some supports onto the sides of the tank along the sketched lines. Then I can set two triangles of ⅜″ plywood on the supports.

The bottom berth’s triangle is 12″ across the aft end and about 13″ tall. Almost equilateral. While the triangle isn’t large, a 25″×25″ bladder can rest on this bunk and the sides of the tank.

The upper berth’s triangle is 34″ across the aft end and at least 43″ tall, so a 26″×45″ bladder will fit up here, nicely.

I’ve got wood and self-tapping screws for the aluminum: McMaster-Carr lists the screws for tapping into aluminum as 90203A629. I need some bilge paint for the wood, then I can cut some strips to support the bunks. 

Then we’ll cut some cardboard to be sure I’ve measured the awkward bunks properly. We can all nod and smile about the triangular shape, but this is a boat.

Once we’ve got a sense of exactly what the shape is, we'll lay the cardboard out on my plywood to try and figure out how best to make the pieces. The plywood is in 24″×36″ sheets, so getting everything to fit is tricky. See this: McMaster-Carr 1125T24.

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After a coat of bilge paint on the wood, I’ll be able to throw in the bladders. Since the lower bladder will be nearly inaccessible, I need to plumb it first and test it before adding the upper bladder.

After testing the lower bladder, I’ll have to cut the filler line to add a “T”. It also means adding a “Y” to the drain lines to combine the two bladders.

You can barely see the triangle cut out of the lower portion of the aft wall of the tank. That was intended for the drain hoses to exit. There’s not enough clearance for the tubing. And razor-sharp aluminum edges that are hard to file smooth.

Measure once. Cut twice.

So I had to cut an extra hole.

I can file the edges smooth on this access window, wrap them in foam insulation used for home water pipes and run the two drains down into the plumbing confident they won’t chafe through.

Part V? Cut the supports and paint them. If the weather’s nice enough, we might be back the next day to install them and start shaping the bunks.

Water Tanks — Part III — The Wreckoning

We’ve learned a lot of lessons.

First, the 4″ segmented TiN coated blade for the Fein Multimaster is the secret to this job. See this from Multifit Blades. The technique of scribing the line carefully with the blade oscillating, followed by running the tool slowly back and forth works really well. A little pressure is enough to start cutting a a layer of metal. Eventually, you break through the metal and can follow the starting line, finishing the cut.

The tank’s walls seem to be 3mm thick, about 0.13″, which makes it 8 gauge aluminum. The blades say they’re good to 11 gauge, so, we’re pushing things here. I did finish cutting a pretty nice 21″×21″ opening. I’ve deburred the edge, so it’s not razor-sharp. I have good access to the interior of the tank.

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As you can see...

There’s a bit of yoga involved, since it’s barely 27″ deep. But I can fold up pretty compactly.

I tried some “blind” cuts: sawing up under the edge of the tank where you can’t really see what you’re doing.

The blind cutting worked out well, but you have to have a good grip on the tool, and a lot of patience. It’s not a thing where you can reach a long way inside the tank and hack away hoping for the best. You need to be close and solidly braced.

Originally, I thought I might be able to design a set of rigid tanks that would fill the space. That idea new seems way too complex. The more time I spend, the more I realize how constrained the space is.

The current thought is two tiers of flexible bladders. A piece of plywood can divide the tank into upper and a lower berths. Bladders tend to be less than 10½″ tall when filled, dictating the height of the layers in here. The pointy bit at the bottom-most 3″ can be blocked by a triangular floor.  This leaves 24″ to be split into upper and lower berths for tanks.

I think it could be as much as 56 gallons, if I can find the right bladders. And if my estimates are correct. Pragmatically, it looks like the Plastimo 16658 is 115 cm long and 105 cm wide; which is close to the top triangle: 42″ long and 40″ wide at the aft end. This is 30 or so gallons. Underneath it is room for at least a 10 gallon tank; possibly enough space for a Natua FT911121 which is 14 gallons.

Next steps? Measure and mark the location of the shelves to separate upper and lower. Get some plywood and epoxy paint and self-tapping screws and build the shelf. Then. Bladders. Then hoses and hose-clamps.

And once that’s done?

The port side of the saloon has to come apart. That’s going to be (I hope) easier to get the top of the old tank completely off. And (I hope) easier to order a set of 4 tanks, each 33″×17.5″×11″. Many lessons still to be learned.

Getting to Done

For me, my day job things are rarely “finished” and “done.”

There are a lot of folks who can go home knowing they filled all the orders, dropped of all the shipments, closed all the tickets, and got things completely done. All the way done — for the day. Tomorrow there will be more, but those things are for tomorrow.

As a writer and a software developer, I often struggle with the tradeoff of “Good Enough.”

Intellectual property — books and software — aren’t ever really “done." There’s always more to revise and expand. But. There’s a publication date and a marketing campaign. So. At some point, I have to stop fussing and call it done. Or “done for now.” Or “good enough.”

The grand list of boat jobs — as a whole — is never done. There’s a long list of things to do and it rarely shrinks.


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Each job on the list is finite. 

The task may be very large — for example, rebuild the water tanks — but it’s still finite. There’s a definition of done. Once the tanks hold water and the berth is reset for guests, we’re done. Close the job. Move on to the next job.

The done part of this sailing life is highly satisfying.

A few months ago, CA decluttered the lazarette to remove old lines we weren’t using; lines filled with mildew. She also chucked out one of the two tiny danforth anchors for the dinghy. 

(We have no idea why there were two. Any why Danforths? Mushrooms make more sense for an inflatable.)

And she got rid of the tiny fender we didn’t know what to do with. 

Decluttered. Done. Everything else in the locker has a defined purpose on the boat. And we’d used it over the years, meaning it wasn’t some kind of “maybe we might need that” spare. 

We have our checklists of jobs. The cold, snowy days of February are for planning the work, buying parts and tools, and dreaming of sailing. 

Water Tanks, Part II

The reciprocating saw (known to us as “Maxx Damnage”) let me make four long cuts in the space of a few hours. 

Sadly, once we’re past the easy part, the new cuts involve less accessible places. And a less destructive saw.

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The DeWalt reciprocating saw is good, but still doesn’t have the tight clearance the Fein Multimaster FMM250Q does.

I’ve got one of the semi-circular blades and I’m learning how to cut along the line over and over again until the blade finally pokes through the metal. It’s important to let the saw do the work and not force it.

The tank seems like it’s 10-gauge aluminum. The ABYC standard is 0.090″ to 0.125″. I haven’t measured, because it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that is’s slow going.

Today I made two 21” cuts to clean up the opening.

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The process is loud. I mean “hearing protection required” loud.

After all, the aluminum is a vast resonating surface, connected to the hull of the boat, which is an even more vast resonant structure.

I spent time laying down, reaching into the tank. I don’t think I can reach up under the top all the way to the front of the tank. The tool is heavy and it’s a long reach. 

I’ve ordered some of the larger size (4″) semi-circular blades for the Fein tool. These are described as suitable for thicker, non-ferrous material. If they work, I’m going to use them to slice away as much of the lid as I can. Consistent with not dropping the saw. This means parts of the top may remain in place because they're nearly inaccessible.

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I looked at using the reciprocating saw from underneath, but the blade would collide with the fiberglass structure above the tank and that would be very, very bad for saw control and blade life.

Two more cuts with the Fein tool and we can start looking at fitting cardboard mockups in there to see how much tankage we can assemble through the 21″×21″ hole.


If the new blades are dramatically better, I may try to remove more of the top of the tank.

Worst case is two plastic replacement tanks. One little pointy one forward and one big chonker that’s about the size of the hole, but slides aft a few inches, leaving a little gap right at the forward edge of the opening. The forward tank would be (almost) entirely hidden, but the aft tank would be visible and accessible.

The triangular space forward of the opening is awkward and small. I suspect it’s on the order of 6-8 gallons. From the leading edge of the opening after, there’s at least 50 gallons of space. But. Dropping tanks in to fill that space is a real puzzlement. I think I can fill it with some 3-D bits and pieces of tankage and plumbing. I’ll be drawing sketches while I wait for another weekend.

(If you check back to Water Tank Replacement, you’ll see a volume estimate based on partial measurements. My current predictions are still based on still-incomplete measurements. The plan evolves.)

The Water Tanks

See Water Tank Replacement for some back story.

We’ve started taking steps. This involves radical destruction.

First, get the anchor we’ve never used up and out of the bilge under the V-berth.

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We didn’t even know we had this anchor until we’d owned the boat for about a year and found it there. 

You can see the pile of chain that went with it. The chain is still useful, and the 150’ of anchor rode is useful. But the Danforth wasn’t really helpful.


It took me close to 30 minutes to wrestle it up out of there. So that’s gone.

At the top of of the picture, there’s the V-berth and you can just see the exposed top of the tank.

Here’s the top of the tank. 

Making the first cut involved a careful review. 

“This is permanent. No going back,” I said.

“We can’t use the tank,” CA replied. “It’s always been leaking.”

“Right. The space has always been wasted. This isn’t something we’ll ever regret and wish we hadn’t removed the cover.” 

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CA is holding the first of piece of the tank top.

The Dewalt 20V reciprocating saw (“Sawzall”) really really works. 

The little battery-powered device did all the damage I wanted it to do.

It’s a little touchy getting a cut started. It’s not a jig saw with a skinny blade you can poke down through a hole you started with a drill. You either drill a hole the width of the blade, or, you start horizontally until you’ve cut a slot and can rotate the saw up to perpendicular.  

Once it starts cutting, it goes through the metal quickly and cleanly. Even with the battery, it doesn’t weigh very much, and is pretty nimble.


You can see the curved edges on the piece we removed. I still can’t steer the damn thing. If I apply the least sideways pressure, the blade bends and turns.  It’s not a jig saw, so there’s no easy way to turn back.

I’ve ordered a 5-pack of blades to make sure I can get through this.

I’ll also being using the Fein MultiMaster, which has some plunge-cut blades for the hard-to-reach corners.

Once the cover is gone, I estimate we’ve got about 60 gallons of space under the V-berth. 

The hard part is designing replacement tanks that can fit through the 21″×21″ hole to fill a triangle that’s about 50″ long and 48″ wide at the base. We’ve got a stack of old cardboard Amazon boxes and tape standing by for the design work.

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These cold weekends are good for doing this kind of messy, sweaty work.

The mallard families

CA has a shiny, new Canon EOS.


The ducks living in the marina.

We’re checking on Red Ranger every other weekend (more-or-less.)

We top off the battery water. Make sure nothing’s leaking or broken or falling apart. Adjust the dock lines. Sigh a lot. Talk about trips we want to take.


There’s a Great Blue Heron at Herrington Harbour. We’re told its name is George.


It’s not clear, but the creek has a thin skin of ice.


This is the last big job of the season. For the next few months it’s watching and waiting.

The checklist involves a number of jobs, some of which we already did by accident.

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  1. Drain the water tanks. The forward tank has been empty (and dry) for years. The port tank leaked all the water, and the starboard tank was run dry a few weeks ago. So there’s that.
  2. Pump out the holding tank. Herrington Harbour did a nice job. The float sensor seems broken, so that needs to be replaced. (It still shows the tank as full.)
  3. Strike the sails. (Sadly, we didn’t get to try out the new main and mizzen. Next year.)
  4. Run anti-freeze through the raw water systems. This means the forward head and the engine. The forward head pump seems to be jammed, and needs to be rebuilt. The engine? Perfection.

We also brought the headsail sheets to the apartment for washing.

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CA found some advice that we should (1) soak them in the tub for an hour, then (2) pull them into daisy chains, (3) bag them in a pillow-case, and (4) wash.

They’re heavy: 3 to 5 pounds each sheet.

We have a front-loading machine, so the pillow case to avoid tying up the central pillar of a top-loader is a non-issue.

I tried one sheet without a pre-soak, and we’re not happy. We’ll report on the washing to see what seems to work best.

The Lehman engine cold-start device is the best. Mr. Lehman sprang to life in the cold without a complaint. Ran flawlessly for a few minutes until the pink -50° antifreeze was gone from the bucket we use to inject it into the cooling system.

And that left the final step on the checklist.

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Remove the key and tag it. No Raw Water. Engine cannot be run without resetting the sea chest valve.


Water Tank Replacement

The v-berth tank always leaked. The port side saloon tank now leaks.


The solution seems to involve custom tanks by Dura-Weld.  See

Under the saloon floor we have two choices:

Option 1: Follow the Joie de Vivre plan and tear out the old tanks in their entirety. This gains about 4½″ vertically (by 35″ by 72″) which doesn’t seem like much until you consider the tank is only 12″ tall; this is 37.5% gain in volume.

Option 2: Sacrifice some volume and install four new tanks inside the legacy tanks. This involves less destruction and less reconstruction. It sacrifices volume, but lets us drop four tanks through the available hole in the cabin sole, strap them in, connect up tubes and have water.

Under the v-berth, we have similar choices. The tricky part about the v-berth is the tanks are not fiberglass with an aluminum lid. They’re 100% aluminum over some supporting structure. The aluminum could be sitting in a fiberglass shell, or could be sitting on wooden stringers.

I think I want to assemble 5 mini-tanks inside the available volume. Four are wedges, jammed into the fore and aft corners. The remaining one sits over the center ∨ at the aft (deep) end.

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The access panel under the v-berth is 21″×21″. The space is 50″ long and expands from 12″ by the anchor locker to 54″ by the forward head.

I think a handful of tanks that are less than 21″×21″ can be dropped into the space and plumbed together with a common filler, common vents and common drains. This will create a system of tanks less than the original volume, but made of of nice, clean, new materials.

I think I can strap each tank to a plywood base and screw the base to the aluminum, minimizing the destruction.

What’s the original volume? 

Yes, that’s calculus. 42¾ gallons. (The formula assumes the 54″×17″ triangle shape is consistent from front to back. I can’t measure the front triangle, but it appears congruent with a 12″ base.)

Five tanks of 4, 4, 6, 6, and 18 gallons gets to 38 gallons of water. It’s better than what we have now, which is an estimated 42¾ gallons of air.

Next Steps? 

Cut the old aluminum lid off the old tank. I think this involves the following:

  1. Drill holes into the aluminum tank lid under the v-berth access hole. Use the reciprocating saw (the Dewalt version of a Sawzall) to cut away the tank lid. This will be larger than the original (tiny) access panel on top of the tank, and make some room to work.
  2. Slice all the rivets around the outside of the lid. I don’t know if I can reach all of them. This may involve some advanced yoga to get the saw all the way in there. The Dewalt has four blade position alternatives, and this may key to slicing off the rivets. 
  3. Cut the lid into pieces and pull them out through the hole. This involves carefully checking clearance to be sure I don’t accidentally saw through something important, like the v-berth itself.
  4. See what access we have under the floor to the aft section of the tank. I theorize that there’s an awkward space that — perhaps — can be cut away to allow putting in really handy drains from the aft ends of the three tanks that fill the aft end of the void. A drain that’s at the lowest point (with no pickup) would be handy for priming the water pump.

Once we have access, we can start to make more concrete plans.

  1. Measure. Measure. Measure. The size of the forward cabin door and the size of the companionway hatch may constrain the tank sizes. (Scott and Jeanie got a 21″×16″ tank into the saloon, which suggests this may not be a constraint.)
  2. Redo all my concept sketches with correct measurements.
  3. Get some CAD software and draw the plans for all five tanks. Maybe will do what I need.
  4. Make cardboard mockups and dry-run the installation to see if this will work.
  5. Update the CAD drawings.
  6. Order tanks.
  7. Order plumbing parts CA wants to replace the filler and vent lines, too. Why not?

Then we can see if I can assemble it all.

I want to do the v-berth first because there’s nothing at stake there. It’s a complete win if this works out.

While the saloon is simpler geometrically, I think it involves a more complex path of destruction to get the old tank lids out.

The Sea Chest

The sea chest sounds so nautical and “yo-heave-ho,” but it isn’t. It’s also called a water box; it’s the manifold where sea water comes in for the various systems that use it. Once upon a time, we had air conditioners, a fridge, and two heads that flushed with sea water, plus, of course raw water for the engine. And. Bonus. A fancy deck wash down system that pulled sea chest water.

Now we have the engine, the forward head, and the wash down. CA likes things simple.

The system is below the water line and requires double hose clamps, with annual inspection and no tolerance for rust. CA has a socket driver with the hose-clamp socket on it. She likes to check things carefully. And independently from my casual, shrugging acceptance of rusty things.

CA didn’t like the vent line. It’s about 10′ of heavy-duty ⅝″ hose that snakes up to the tippy-top of the wet locker to allow air into (and out of) the sea chest.  The hose clamps were rusty and the hose was sketchy-looking. It has been mashed out of shape around a too-small hose barb.

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She shut off the water. Cleaned the strainer. And then took a utility knife down into the bilge to cut away the old hose.


Broke the sketchy, rusty fitting.

Clean off.

That lead a big “Oh, crap, what did I do?” question.

The visions of doom arise when you break something like that.

Followed by my response.

“You broke that which could not be broken.”

After dodging the utility knife she was still holding, I had to thank her profusely for breaking something that was probably only a few years from catastrophic failure. 

The picture may not reveal the essence of the problem. The original fitting was a reducer and a pipe nipple threaded into a ½” elbow. Not a hose barb.


Here it is in it’s shiny goodness. The picture’s awkward. But.

The bottom left is the top of the sea chest. A sheet of ¼” polycarbonate. Working from left to right, at the edge of the photo is a thick black hose that’s input.

Below it is a hard-to-see elbow that’s solid.

To the right, the blue circle, is the top of a valve that lets to the copper circle cap. This is where we put in antifreeze to winterize the raw water system.  

Then the new copper fitting for the vent hose.

Down below the new fitting is an old, greenish elbow that’s rock solid. Maybe next year.

At the very bottom is a loop of hose that needs to be shortened. I’m a fan of leaving some slack, that hose is way too long.

The weather was almost nice enough to try out the new sails. The tide, however, was uncooperative.

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We’re not sure we could get past he sea wall out into the Bay.

© Steven Lott 2020