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Old 11-04-2013, 05:59   #1
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Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

We are in the process of purchasing a Island Packet 370. The boat was surveyed yesterday and the surveyor noted a strong head odor. It was indicated that the holding tank did not appear to be leaking. It was later found that the tank was half full. The boat has winterized and stored on the hard. The vessel is located in Annapolis Md and has not been used for about two or more years. So evidently the holding tank has been sitting around half full for that time period. Also the previous owner had the Y valves set up for over board discharge. Not sure this means anything.

The sewage smell is very strong and is strong around the head and in the bilge area around the tank. The boat has a fiberglass holding tank.Also the head is flushed with sea water. We are questioning if the tank could have froze and cracked and be seeping sewage.Also what other problems could we be looking at with this situation.

Hopefully I can get a marine plumber on the boat today to access. But time is short for us as we have to return to Indiana soon. I would love to put this issue to bed before leaving. Any help or input would be greatly appreciated.

In general the boat is in great condition and we are excited but surely do not want to start with a huge holding tank issue.

Bob
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:20   #2
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

why not make your offer contingent on the repair of the holding tank and proper performance of existing system with the broker. This way when you sea trial it you ca test it to ensure it flushes and have it pumped the fill it with water to ensure it holds.
As for smell there are additives you can use to take care of it (sometimes) other times it requires replacement of hoses. I'd pitch it to the broker to get fixed / replaced
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:22   #3
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

Why do you want us to guess when you can get someone to actuall inspect the system?
Not a good way to make purchase decisions...
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:23   #4
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

If not cracked, then the tank could be permeated. Get a warm wet cloth and rub it against the tank below the sewage level. Get off the boat and smell the rag. You will know if it is permeated. Same test for hoses.

If the tank is half full and has a decent air space then it probably did not freeze and crack. The tanks' air space would allow for expansion upwards.

You should detect sewage in the bilge if the tank is seeping.

Not a deal breaker for me unless the tank is highly inaccessible. Every boat I have owned except the present I did a complete head refit including new hoses and tank.

Your surveyor should have been able to give you a more definitive answer. No need to bring in a special "marine plumber". Not sure I have even heard of one of these.
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:24   #5
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

I do not mean to sound harsh, but if you think this is a huge issue perhaps you should reconsider boat ownership. This is something you paid the surveyor to find out! Ask him! If not stick your head (the one attached to your body) into the hole and look to see if the tank is cracked. If so replace it. If you are able to hire someone to do every little job, good for you! You will be a welcome addition to any boat yard. However any serious crusing will be limited.
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:28   #6
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

Hi Bob, you obviously have a leak somewhere. It could be a cracked tank, but I kinda doubt if it would be due to winter freezing. Crap in the tank will freeze and liquid will expand, but unless the freeze is very fast, it will expand up first. The boat is pretty far south for this kind of freeze.

I look at hose connections and valves as the more likely problem. No need for a specialist. Anyone should be able to identify where the real problem is.
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Old 11-04-2013, 07:01   #7
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

Doesn't sound like a show stopper -- more like something that needs to be addressed.

Cracked or permeated hose most likely.

Get it fixed and move on.
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Old 11-04-2013, 07:29   #8
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

Be very careful here, I have seen integral fiberglass holding tanks which were not properly internally barrier coated before. The fiberglass becomes saturated with sewage, and a repair is a horrible nightmare. This is why a fiberglass holding tank should not be integral, ie using the inside of the hull for a tank wall. Last time we fixed a boat in this situation we just sawed a huge hole in it to remove the saturated material. No one was willing to grind it. Also seen this happen with diesel integrals. Make sure this is not the problem before buying. Ask questions about how the tank was built. If its a removable glass tank it's an easy fix, if its integral with the hull I'd start to reconsider, as that is a terrible design flaw that's particularly hard to make right.
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Old 11-04-2013, 13:03   #9
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

My money is on permeated sanitation hoses. That can make a whole boat smell like sewer. The odds of a permeated tank are very small...if it's FG, it's not an OEM tank, 'cuz IP used--STILL uses--aluminum, which means it may be fairly new...a leak has apparently been all BUT ruled out...that leaves hoses and also very likely a wet dirty bilge. Wet dirty bilges are primordial soups that can stink even more than permeated sanitation hoses.
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Old 11-04-2013, 13:11   #10
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

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Originally Posted by Tingum View Post
I do not mean to sound harsh, but if you think this is a huge issue perhaps you should reconsider boat ownership.
Kind of my take on it as well. I've fully replaced my head four times already and those are relatively easy jobs compared to other things.
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Old 11-04-2013, 14:22   #11
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

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Originally Posted by Tingum View Post
I do not mean to sound harsh, but if you think this is a huge issue perhaps you should reconsider boat ownership.
Some people don't renovate their own toilets at home, either, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't own a home. Maybe they can afford to pay someone else to snake their sewage pipe.

Some people like to work on boats, and some people like to sail them. Most people are somewhere in the middle. If they have the cash, they can pay someone else to change out their sewage-permeated sanitation hose, while they sip margaritas in downtown Annapolis.
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Old 11-04-2013, 14:39   #12
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

Get a good torch (flashlight for some of us), an inspection mirror and a digital camera with flash. Inspect the area round the head inch by inch paying particular attention to fittings, crevices and surfaces.

Then, when you return home go through the photos very carefully.

For a strong odor I'd be guessing that the sewerage has run along the inside of the boat. Don't ask how I know this...

My guess is that the holding tank will need to be removed and probably replaced, along with much if not all of the associated plumbing. Any offer you make should take that into account.
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Old 11-04-2013, 15:15   #13
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

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Originally Posted by letsgetsailing3 View Post
Some people don't renovate their own toilets at home, either, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't own a home. Maybe they can afford to pay someone else to snake their sewage pipe.

Some people like to work on boats, and some people like to sail them. Most people are somewhere in the middle. If they have the cash, they can pay someone else to change out their sewage-permeated sanitation hose, while they sip margaritas in downtown Annapolis.
I hear you on that, but this "cruisersforum.com" which means traveling places, and even if just marina hopping in the US you'll still end up needing to do your own work eventually or be at the mercy of whomever.
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Old 11-04-2013, 15:30   #14
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

This is a good thing, if the tank were empty you wouldnt know it had issues until after you bought it.
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Old 11-04-2013, 18:09   #15
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Re: Possible Frozen Holding Tank and Head Problem

Hello all. Thanks for the input, its great to have different sounding boards when working thru things of this nature. I think we have pretty well decided the holding tank is not the problem. By using a flexible light and mirrors have been able to see a lot of it and it appears clean and sound with out traces of leakage.

Also Peg just for the record it is OEM fiberglass tank on the 370 and the other current models ,Island Packet has switched to the moulded fiberglass tanks. I think you are right on the hoses we have done the rag test several times today and in certain runs it comes out very smelly! You are also probably right about the dirty bilge in general causing at least some of the oder.Its pretty dirty with foul water.

Boracay good idea on the digital camera! Tomorrow I will give that a try I think with the flash it may show areas that we are missing with mirror and light.

Once we get the boat bought I think we will switch to a electric fresh water flush and of course change hoses out. So some of the other threads on heads going on now are great timing for me.

I was a little surprised that some thought we should not be buying a boat because we asked for input on this. We are simply trying to evaluate what repairs and the cost of these repairs to make a fair purchase of the boat. By the nature of Island Packets construction removing a holding tank is a somewhat major issue. So being a person that likes to know as much as possible going I am going to seek information from many sources.Being marine professionals or members of this forum. Which in some cases looks like the two overlap.

Well thanks again for the help! And a matter of fact I am on my way downtown in Annapolis to have a Margarita or two.

Bob
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