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Old 23-08-2009, 21:00   #1
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Installing Head and Shower in an Old Boat

I am new to serious boat. I've sailed my own small boat and have done a bit of fiberglass and I've done some bareboat charters, but I'm looking into buying a boat.

I found a killer deal on a boat, but I'm concerned that it doesn't have a head or shower and both are a requirement for me.

The owner says a porta potty is fine, but I'm looking for a liveaboard.

I'd love to get this boat as it's instant equity, given the small amount he's asking for it and what I know about the general condition elsewhere.

The boat is a Columbia 30 and most of these boats have a head, shower and holding tank and it has a separate area for the head so I think the space in there for everything needed. How much would it cost and how practical would it be to install on an early 70s boat? The owner says they have the through-hulls and some of the adapters, but they were removed ages ago.

Is it something that's time consuming? Is it difficult? Is it expensive?

I've been looking around for parts, but honestly, I don't know what parts are required and how the system goes together and I'm concerned that this sort of thing is something where trial and error may have disastrous results. ;-)
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Old 23-08-2009, 22:21   #2
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You will need an intake thru-hull, probably 3/4", an outflow thruhull, 1 1/2", a head vented loop for both the inflow and outflow hoses, and the hoses to put it all together. That's it in the simplest form. If you want a holding tank or waste treatment system like an ElectroScan, the cost and complexity go up. Since the boat already had a head at one time. Just locate where the old thru-hulls were and drill new holes in the same place. Can even be done in the water using a plunger and someone hanging out with the necessary parts to insert in the pukas.

I really don't like showers on boats. If it's cold enough that you want shelter, the condensation inside can be fearsome. Used the shower in our old boat once. It took days to dry the boat out. Take sponge baths and wash your hair in the sink if you don't have showers at your marina. If it's warm enough, just shower in the cockpit using one of those sun shower bags.

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Old 23-08-2009, 22:40   #3
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By thru-hull, meant seacock or marine ball valve and thru-hull. You need a way to shut the water off should it be necessary. You also need the head and a flat surface to mount it on if that has been removed. Because of the 3mile bull crap rule head could only be legally used 3 miles offshore on the ocean, never in fresh water. Since there is no logical reason for the 3 mile rule in salt water, it's up to you on how you want to deal with it.

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Old 23-08-2009, 22:53   #4
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Its interesting that you advise against the shower. A number of liveaboards and cruisers have advised me that it's one of their first requirements on a seaworthy boat they would be living on for an extended period. I've heard it described as one of those "essential luxuries" when everything else seems broken.

I'm going to probably have to have the boat hauled and painted as I think the hull is in a minor state of disrepair. It's probably most practical to do the through-hulls when I do that, but I'm going to be really tight on cashflow to do that.

Is there a way to punch the through-hulls and rig the lines without completing the job immediately? I'd need a holding tank, so I'm guessing some sort of Y-valve is required and somehow the ability to interface it to the tank and the head.

Gad, I wish there was a good diagram somewhere of how the head/holding tank system works. I have searched for hours without finding one.


Anyone have one?

What do you expect the cost might be? I can find a boat that is in perfect shape for about $13k more than this fixer-upper. The only other issue I know of is interior fixing (like cushions) and a few small fiberglass cracks, which I'm going to have looked at before I buy the boat.

Thanks!
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Old 24-08-2009, 01:01   #5
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There's a lady who occasionally hangs out over on this site CSBB Forum - Message Index Her name is Peggy Hall, she bills herself as the 'Head Mistress.' Believes she has a book so google might turn it up. She seems to know everything there is to know about installing wastewater systems. Putting in a holding tank is a little more involved than just stuffing the tank somewhere.

We lived aboard and cruised for four years. There was a shower set up in the boat that, as I said, we only used once. Used the marina showers when they were available. Sponge baths or washing down in the cockpit and rinsing off in salt water or went swimming. Never felt the need for a shower but we've stayed in the tropics after leaving SoCal. Think I only took one honest to goodness shower in more than a year in French Polynesia though did get a couple of natural showers in downpours. It's a little different story in cooler climates but condensation is a real problem where it gets cold. Our boat was completely insulated, no fiberglass showing anywhere except the shower pan, yet it was dripping water from almost every surface after that shower on a bitterly cold SoCal afternoon. Also had condensation problems in a plastic fantastic, without taking shower, that I wintered over on in Norfolk, VA. I just can't see how anyone could take a shower in cool wx without soaking the boat.

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Old 24-08-2009, 01:16   #6
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try this one http://www.cruisersforum.com/gallery...210&original=1e
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Old 24-08-2009, 01:47   #7
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Gad, I wish there was a good diagram somewhere of how the head/holding tank system works. I have searched for hours without finding one.
Ask, and it shall be found

Marine Sanitation Layouts
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Old 24-08-2009, 03:13   #8
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Not actually being familiar with the standard setup of a shower onboard, how does the drain work?

Sure, dumb question, but start from the beginning. :-)

I read that there's a small basin in a drained head that holds the water and then is pumped out or into a tank by means of a pump.

It probably wouldn't be good to just let it go into the bilge for the pump to handle, eh? :-)

Just not sure how it's normally done.

Thanks!
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Old 24-08-2009, 03:14   #9
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Ask, and it shall be found

Marine Sanitation Layouts

Ahhh these are stellar, thanks!

I'm starting to feel like I may even be able to handle this job on my own. The part that worries me is still the through-hull fitting as I'd be so afraid that my "first-timer" handiwork might sink the boat.
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Old 24-08-2009, 03:19   #10
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I added a shower to my boat.

I created a shower tray, and under that had a shower sump


This has a pump and a float within it, plus a grid to protect the pump from largish bits.

I fitted a normal shower U bend before the sump, which also helps to prevent valuable stuff falling down the shower drain and being lost for ever! It also helps reduce any smells from the shower. I found the best way to ensure that everything stayed smelling good, was to put a couple of pints of fresh water down the drain after the sump had finished pumping.
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Old 25-08-2009, 18:42   #11
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If you can find a boat in much better shape, for $13K more, get it!

You will go through alot of money quickly working on an older boat. That said, you will know it well, and have confidence in it, but I doubt it will be cheaper. And that is with free labour. You can't do much on a boat, in terms of repairs / upgrades without spending a few hundred here, there, every weekend!

I have most of my receipts, after doing alot of work on mine, but am too afraid to add them up.
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Old 26-08-2009, 01:40   #12
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Well, I don't have $13k more to spend right now. I was planning on buying it without financing.

I can easily contribute $500-$1000/mo toward it if I'm living aboard.

I figured if it's structurally sound, I can upgrade it over a few years and maybe selll it to upgrade in a year or two for more than I bought it for (not necessarily more than the total spent though). The upgrades will be partially written off as "made me more comfortable" and partly as "learned a ton".

Do you disagree with this approach?
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Old 26-08-2009, 01:44   #13
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This is always an individual decision, depending on your own skill sets, spare time available, money available, earning capability, and availability of cheap land storage while working on the boat, and finally attitude of family to your continual absence working on the boat!

The only person who can work out what is best for you, is you.
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Old 26-08-2009, 01:58   #14
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As a liveaboard boat may I suggest yo buy one with a shower and a dunny.

Otherwise you will remain single for a loooong time.

I would have throught the USA would be full of good quality 30 footer with commodious appointments in the rest room department!

Go look for a better boat. Whatever your price range you must find one with a toilet and shower if you want to live and work from it!
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Old 26-08-2009, 02:10   #15
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Well, I just started a business. It's doing quite well, but I'm broke. I can only scrape up about $5k, but as a result of scraping a business together the last year, my credit is marginal.

I figure I could wait a year and have some cash and better credit, but I'm planning on moving to the coast in the next 1-2 months and figure I might as well live aboard if i can work it out.
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