Sunday, November 05, 2006

Close Enough To An Anniversary

It was just about one year ago I started this blog, and I certainly hope to keep it going - inasmuch as I'm looking to move to a larger boat that will be my home and office. It's not that Inertia can't be that, but it would be very cramped and I'd probably not be able to sail her very much because of the difficulty of keeping stuff stowed.

But that's another story. This one is how you can modify your boat to make winterizing a snap!

Many people really dread winterizing and pay a yard to do it - but with a little tubing, some valves and an inexpensive air compressor you can do the job very easily.

Before we start, safety: If your thru-hull valves are not in good condition, or you can't operate them simply, then you'll have to do whatever you did or do the job while the boat is out of the water. You won't be able to modify the hoses while water is pouring in. Don't even try. Next, make sure you use good quality hoses, valves, and hose clamps- The valves should be stainless steel ball valves or plastic schedule 40 minimum (80 is better). The hose clamps should be all stainless steel. This isn't an expensive job - don't cheap out on the hardware.

Freshwater cooled engine's have two cooling systems - the freshwater (see my post about changing the freshwater pump back in August) and the raw water system. The freshwater system you just fill and check like your car's - it uses either the green stuff or the new red stuff available at auto or marine stores. Just make sure you get the right stuff.

You know this post wouldn't be complete without an opinion. My water tanks are clean. They have no taste and the piping to the faucets is cpvc. It is only on the very hottest days below that you can taste the plastic in the water from the tanks. I use it all the time for brushing my teeth and so forth. I generally drink bottled water, but I don't have to. Because of this, I hate the idea of putting the red potable antifreeze in the water system. It's too hard to get the taste out during the season. So I don't use it.

Now the theory: The only time water will hurt piping is if it's confined in freezing weather. A full cpvc tube will freeze and break. Ditto a water heater or water tank. But if there's just a little bit of water, it's no problem. Also: a dry thru-hull won't freeze.

When I bought Inertia, I put tees and valves at the potable water tank outlets - these are at the bottom of the tanks and and drain into the bilge. I open and drain the tanks and leave the valves open all winter. If you don't have access to the bottoms of the tanks (for instance, they're built into the keel) then you'll need to pump them dry - run all the water out until the pump sucks air. That means the pipes should be dry to the pump, or at least mostly empty. But the pipes after the pump and the hotwater heater will still be full.

Another project I did when I first bought Inertia was to install a shoreside water adapter. You don't need to do this, but one way or another you're going to put a fitting on the cold water side of your water system for a compressor. I made a fitting from parts at Home Depot that joined an male airhose connector to a male waterhose connector. One screws into the shorewater connection, the other connects to an airhose to the compressor.

Note: Make absolutely sure your compressor is oil-less, or oil free and there's no lubricator at or near the regulator. This is extremely important - you don't want oil in your water lines.

If you're going to install a shoreside water regulator, do that - it will require cutting a hole somewhere and following the installation instructions - it's an afternoon job and maybe $100 in parts including the regulator. You'll need to tee into the cold water line after your internal potable water pump. Most of those pumps have check valves so water can't flow backwards through it. If yours does not, you'll need to install one on the pump discharge as close as possible to the pump.

While I'm talking about the potable water pump you'll want to put a tee with a short hose and a ball valve just after the pump and the check valve I mentioned before - if you're not going to install the shoreside water supply, then you can use this valve and tee as a place for connecting the air compressor. The time to do this should be a couple of hours and perhaps $40 in fittings valve and hoses.

You may be getting the idea here - instead of connecting a water hose to the system, we're going to connect a compressor then open valves in the potable water system one at a time and blow the water out of the pipes.

Using a compressor, set the output pressure no more than 40lbs or so. Higher pressure won't work better and could burst a pipe. Most potable water pumps have cutoff switches at 45lbs, so you'll be under that.

On Inertia, I start with the cockpit shower hot water - I run that until all that blows out is vapor. Usually that empties the hot water heater. Then, to be sure, I open the hot water heater's drain valve until all that comes out is sputtering or vapor. Finally I open the head's hot water valve until just vapor comes out, and finally the galley's hot water valve. Only one valve is open at a time, and I wait for each to just release vapor. It doesn't make sense to try to dry the lines out.

Next, I do the same thing with the cold water valves - one at a time until only vapor comes out.

Finally, I open my tee near the pump and run that out - if you're using that to inject air, you don't have to do that.

It took longer to describe this than it actually took to winterize the potable water system.

The engine raw water system requires closing the supply thru-hull, cutting the hose to the engine, installing a tee with a ball valve on the T and a length of hose long enough to reach to the bottom of a bottle of antifreeze - here you need to use the red potable stuff since it will end up going out the exhaust hose.

Simply, get your bottle of antifreeze ready with the hose in it and the thru-hull closed and the new tee valve open. Start the engine- if you have a big engine or lots of exhaust hose, make sure you have a couple of gallons of antifreeze so you can switch. You could also have a friend watch the exhaust outside the boat to see when it turns pink or red. When it does, stop the engine.

Next, connect the compressor to the hose and while the air is blowing open the thru-hull. When you hear air bubbling out around the hull (you will), close the thru-hull and remove the air hose. Then close the valve on the tee. Remember, even if your thru-hull is three feet under water the back pressure is about a pound and a half - don't overdo it with the air hose. The last thing you want to do is blow all your hoses off. Not that I think you can do it. But who knows? I'm certainly not going to experiment with that.

Finally, I winterize the head - I installed a tee in the head inlet water line. I close the inlet thru-hull, open the valve on the tee, stick the hose in the antifreeze container, and pump the head just like it is being used. Then I take the hose out of the container, and pump the head until I hear air going out the discharge, then close both valves.

For the sink drains, in the head I can blow out the drain with air and close the thru-hull, but in the galley, there's no way to close the big drain holes so here's the trick with that: pour enough antifreeze into the sink until there's an inch or so in the sink(s). Open the thru-hull until the sink drains and then close it. Bada boom, bada bing, fuggeddabouddit.

The last things to be winterized are the shower sump pump and the bilge pumps - just pour antifreeze into the bilge (hopefully dry first) and pump it through the bilge pumps. Do the same with the shower sump and it's pump.

That's all there is to it. Total time to winterize Inertia - 1.5 hours, maybe 3 gallons of antifreeze.


Tillerman said...

I'm confused. Why would you want to winterize a boat? Surely you are not going to stop sailing now that we have some nice windy weather?

Zen said...

My winterizing take about 5 min. Put a tarp over the front hatch, put another tarp over the companion way, clean cockpit drain.

dayam, winters in the S.F. Bay Area are brutal, all that rain :-)