Tag Archives: Hunter 376 improvements

A Fresh Rinse

Sometimes when we raise anchor, it comes up coated in thick, black, foul smelling mud. I don’t want the stinky muck to end up in the chain locker, but the only practical way to wash the anchor and chain has been to keep dropping a five gallon bucket over the side with a rope to dip up seawater for rinsing, repeating a dozen or more times until the anchor is back onboard. At eight pounds per gallon, a full five gallon bucket weighs 40 pounds, and my poor back is usually begging for mercy after the first half dozen drops.

We love it when Rhonda can hook a big Mahi or other pelagic fish while we’re offshore. But by the time we finally get the darn thing onboard, subdued and filleted out, the cockpit looks like the shower scene from Psycho. There’s blood spattered from the swim platform to the companionway, and rivers of red run through the cockpit. We can get to some of the mess with our existing cockpit handheld shower, but cleaning the rest requires going back to the bucket brigade.

I’ve known that someday we’d want to install a washdown system so that we could just break out a hose and spray away the messes. Since we usually have plenty of fresh water onboard, I wanted to start out with a freshwater washdown, because it was the easiest to install. All we needed to do was tap into the boat’s existing water system. A saltwater system would have required a new hole in the hull for a dedicated thru-hull fitting (which would have required hauling the boat), and installation of a washdown pump and associated electrical circuit.

Something that made this job a pretty easy one to tackle is the fact that our Hunter (and probably most modern production boats) are plumbed with PEX piping, which is a semi-rigid plastic. The plumbing is put together with Qest fittings, which are just about the easiest, most fool proof plumbing connectors you can imagine. You just cut the plastic pipe and slide on the Qest connector nut, metal collar and compression acorn, and you’re ready to connect up to a new fitting. No special tools or skills required.

qest

Developed for use in the mobile home and RV market, Qest fittings aren’t something you can usually find in your local Lowe’s or Home Depot. But we can find whatever we need at our local RV dealer, with the added benefit that they’re sold at cheap RV store prices, rather than at a marine store markup. They’re also available from several online sources, such as PlumbingSupply.com.

The first step was to empty out the starboard lazarette in order to gain access to the plumbing for the cockpit shower, disconnect the cold water line from the shower, and cut the line in order to insert a T connector.

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Next I broke out the drill and hole saw, because every good boat job involves making a hole in the boat. I placed the hole where there was enough depth to connect the plumbing, carefully avoiding interfering with the engine stop cable.

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Next I installed a Jabsco washdown quick connect fitting in the newly drilled hole, bedding it with some butyl rubber for a watertight seal. I liked this fitting because it sits flush so that when you disconnect the washdown hose, there isn’t an ugly ankle-knocking hose bib sticking out.

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The last step was to use a Qest elbow and a short length of 1/2″ hose with the appropriate connectors to tie the washdown fitting to the newly installed T.

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The washdown fitting comes with a quick connect that you attach to a standard hose. You then just insert the hose into the washdown fitting and give it a little twist to lock it in place when you want to do a rinse.

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We purchased a 50 foot coiling hose so that I can easily stretch it up to the bow to deal with a muddy anchor.

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But the hose coils up compactly enough to easily fit in the lazarette when not being used.

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We could probably use a washdown connection at both ends of the boat, but for now I thought we’d just put one back aft since it was the easiest place to access the existing freshwater system. Maybe when the day eventually comes when we’ll have to haul the boat again, we might consider installing a new thru-hull somewhere up forward so that we can add a saltwater washdown system also.

Sunshine And The Fine Art Of Boom Management

Last Monday at 0900, I turned off the breaker to our onboard battery charger. Since then, our refrigerator and freezer, lights, water, stereo, fans, indeed our entire DC electrical system, has been running solely on solar energy that we’ve captured and stored. In the days between then and now, we’ve seen a mix of sun, clouds and rain. I’ve followed the system’s operation closely. The day’s first trickle of power starts flowing into our battery bank a little before 0730, and the panels don’t shut down and go to sleep until about 5 PM. So far the peak power generation I’ve seen in bright sun at midday is just a touch shy of 20 amps. I designed our solar array to put out over 30 amps, but since it’s only mid-February and the sun is pretty low in the sky (and the panels are often being shadowed by the masts of surrounding boats), I’m confident we’ll get closer to and maybe even exceed our design goal once we head further south.Solar2

It’s now exactly one week later, and after seven days unplugged, our bank reads 87.2% full. The charging day is just beginning, so even though it’s supposed to remain cloudy today, I expect our bank to be above 95% full by dinnertime. My goal was to create a system that would eliminate the need to run our generator or engine to charge our batteries. I believe we’ve succeeded. 🙂

Also, on Monday afternoon a strong front blew through with 40+ knot winds. The method we worked out to mount our flexible solar panels to our fabric Bimini survived the gusts with no hint of lifting or flapping.Bimini5

One thing I didn’t sufficiently appreciate though until we actually activated our array is just how sensitive solar panels are to shadowing. I found that the shadow cast on the panels by the boom could drop the system’s total output by up to 60%.  Getting the most out of our system means that in the morning, I have to pull the boom to its starboard-most position to get its shadow off the panels. In early afternoon, it has to be pulled all the way to port as the sun moves west in the sky. So we’ve learned that proper boom (shadow) management is now going to be a part of our daily routine if we want to keep the solar juice flowing and the bank topped off.Solar3

I’ll soon do another post in our More Power, Scotty! series to give some of the technical details of how we integrated solar charging into our onboard electrical system.

Sometimes A Small Thing Can Make A Big Difference

A year ago this week, I posted Happy Wife, Happy Life, which told the tale of how much better things were onboard the good ship Eagle Too after upgrading our freshwater pump to one with a higher flow. As things turned out, the situation wasn’t quite ideal. It needed just a little…more.

Now some diehard salts will tell you that there’s no need for a pressurized water system on a cruising boat—that it’s wasteful of both power and water, and prone to leaving you stuck without a water source (even if your potable water tank is full) in the event of a pump or electrical system failure. I say to hell with that. Maybe if we were young 20-somethings who wanted to take the aquatic equivalent of a cross-country tour in a pop-up VW camper, we might buy into that view. But that’s not who we are anymore. At this stage in our lives we’re more the nautical version of the set-the-cruise-control-on-the-diesel-pusher-RV crowd. With a spare water pump onboard and carrying seven batteries, I’m pretty confident if something breaks we’ll be able to rig up some kind of work around before succumbing to dehydration. Being able to take a decent shower is just too important to the crew’s morale, and then we have things to consider like all the dive gear we’re carrying, which requires a thorough freshwater rinse after each use. So we see a pressurized water system as a need, not a want.

But our poor ShurFlo Aquaking 4.0 GPM pump was taking a lot of abuse. Oh, it could really strut its stuff when we’d fully open a tap to fill a sink or take a nice long shower. But 90% of the time we’re just washing our hands, or rinsing dishes, or brushing our teeth, or some such thing. Something that doesn’t require using more than a moderate trickle of water. Since the pump was the only source of pressure, it would have to rapidly cycle on and off to keep the trickle flowing. Sort of a brrpt-brrpt-brrpt-brrpt thing that was hard on the pump’s pressure switch and internal bypass valve. After a year of that, the brrpt-brrpt-brrpt-brrpt would sometimes continue even after we’d shut the tap. To stop it, we’d have to open a faucet wide for a few moments and then quickly shut it, which was obviously very wasteful.

I was pretty sure our answer was an accumulator tank. Shurflo makes one specifically for use with their small water pumps. It’s a small sealed tank with an internal diaphragm that contains a bubble of pressurized air. When installed in your water system (somewhere on the discharge side of the pump) it evens out the pressure oscillations and lets the pump start and run without cycling. No more brrpt-brrpt-brrpt-brrpt. Which makes for a much happier pump, which should positively affect its will to live. Installation was straightforward, the hardest part was finding 18 inches of reinforced ½” water line, which is apparently in big demand and short supply. West Marine didn’t have any, Home Depot didn’t have any, and Lowe’s only had two feet left from their 100 foot spool. Driving around looking for a bit of hose to make up the connector I had to fabricate was the longest part of the entire process. But then such is often the way of marine repair tasks.

So here’s the picture-is-worth-a-thousand-words part. Before:

Accumulator1

And after:

Accumulator2

That’s all there was to it. But it made a huge difference in the operation of the water system. We should have done this a year ago!