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11 July 2014. Water System and Filter Fix.

Boating and active cruising often means fixing things as they break in various locales. Actually, it usually means fixing things -- and there is always something that needs repair. Occasionally the issue comes up the day before a scheduled departure. That's exactly what happened to me with my whole-boat water filtration system's filter assembly. Here's what happened and how I fixed it.

Backing up a bit: The day before I planned to leave Carrabelle was spent in last minute preparations.  They included:

  1. Double checking charts and chart plotter

  2. Fully charge batteries

  3. Super chill refrigerator

  4. Stock galley with fresh produce

  5. Have easy-to-fix foods readily accessible

  6. Fill the water tank

In addition I had the genius idea that it would be a smart move to check the water filter and make sure it was still fine. Aboard Seaweed I use a whole-house filter such as you'd find at Home Depot. Mine's a Westinghouse. They run about $20 and the charcoal filters (buy the best) are $10 for two. 

The filters last thousands of gallons but because my sources vary (rain water, well water, dock water, etc.) generally I replace the filters every three to six months. The charcoal filters are inexpensive and serve both to protect me and my 12-volt pressure water pump.

My filter is tucked in a corner under the starboard step to exit the pilothouse. There's a small area about six inches deep that I use to stow my filter. It's relatively easy to access. I also have spare filters and leftover hose from various projects in that cubby hole. I like having things put away, and safe in a seaway.


Seaweed's Water System


On the bow is the deck fill, thus I first rinse off the bow then open cap and fill the tank. I'm careful (now!) with the cap because after the tank is nearly full it will "burp" and that bubble of air and water will wash everything off the deck. That would include such things as a fancy deck fitting cap.

Side note: You can buy a plug cap that screws into the hole that you, er I, just watched fall over the side. It's plastic, lasts about three years and is $2.50 or thereabouts at West Marine. Or, you can buy the real deal for about $50 that's stainless and is flush with the deck.

And yes, I do happen to have a spare $2.50 cap, just in case this one goes swimming like its stainless predecessor.

Continuing, water exits the bottom of the tank through a hose and moves up to the Water Filter.

From the water filter the hose runs a tee splitter.

One side (with a one-way water valve) feeds a hand pump at my galley sink. You MUST have a one-way valve (about $10) or your pressure system won't work. Nothing works without the one-way gizmo in place. [I added a few grey hairs figuring that out.]

Additionally, should I ever have a catastrophic pump failure I can get water out of the tank. Mostly I leave the 12-volt pump off at the breaker panel and use the hand pump, except when taking a shower or washing dishes.

The other side of that tee runs directly to the pressure water pump that feeds water throughout Seaweed. I have four water outlets for fresh water.

  • In the head there are two, one in the sink and the other for my shower.

  • The galley also has two -- hot and cold though at present I don't have a hot water heater.

  • In the cockpit I have another spigot -- so I can rinse salt water off after swimming.


But I digress.  I removed the filter case and took out the filter. It looked pretty good and as it was just a couple months old I simply hosed it off and rinsed out the container part. Then I made my genius move:

I dumped the water out of it by turning it upside down over the river. Promptly the rubber ring that ensures a tight seal fell out and did an imitation of a rock. It sank.

Ever the optimist, I put everything back together and tried to pump water. Alas, nothing. 

I knew that if necessary I could by-pass the filter but I do like that level of protection between the tank and the pump. Yes, there is a dinky pre-filter just before the pump but I like both in place.

Buying another o-ring isn't possible in this town. It's too small for that sort of thing and waiting for mail order wasn't on the agenda either. Here's how I fixed my problem:

See my magic marker notes on the cartridge (Remove and to tighten)
I don't have to remember which way to turn the blue gizmo (seen at base) that locks into the notches.

When I lost that doggone o-ring I had a few things in my arsenal of Stuff.

I keep a roll of plumbers tape and had some disposable vinyl gloves on hand. By cutting the gloves, and then wrapping them around the top of the filter holder part I was able to get an air tight sea and voila: the pump worked. The Teflon tape held everything in place.

It's messy, it's not perfect, but it works. And yes, I will be ordering two o-rings (so I'll have a spare) very shortly.

When you're a boater, there are times when you won't have what's Ideal and Perfect. With a bit of thinking however often we can make do with what's available and at hand. 

Have you ever dumped something over the side inadvertently?
What did you drop and were you able to retrieve it?


Categories: Gear, In the Bilges, Locations, Money

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