Monday 28 January 2013

Its got to be the worst job on the world...

Removing a pump out holding tank
January 2013

I remember reading a Granny Buttons post about the perils of aging holding tanks. GB was 10 years old at the time of its replacement and I remember thinking - hmm.... something to bear in mind when Wand'ring Bark approached the end of her first decade afloat.

Well, a couple of years ago I had problems with the Thetford dump through loo and I had to take it out to undertake some running repairs. When I removed the unit I found the steel tank beneath was rusting badly, so I slapped on some bilge paint and accepted that a more permanent solution would be needed in the not too distant future.

Loo out - not looking too bad

I have never liked the idea of all that muck swilling round in a tank under the bed and on three occasions the tank has overflowed with truly terrible results. And then there is the smell - sometime tolerable and sometime really unpleasant.

So the end result is to retro refit of a cassette system and this is the big job of the winter. The new Thetford unit is on order so its time to bite the bullet and get that smelly old holding tank out. I knew that this would be a tricky and seriously smelly but nothing prepared me for the experience itself. 

Hmm - not so good

Removing the throne was no problem. 15 minutes with a spanner and there it was sitting in proud splendour on the front of the boat, but the tank itself was another matter. At 6ft long and about 18 inches wide by 12 inches high, build out of 3mm steel it was a brute of an object. In itself it was going to be heavy, so I had to take a deep breath and bail out the residue - oh what a stench!

With the tank empty (ish) I then commenced the extraction battle. Of course, the tank was installed before the rest of the boat was built and no thought was given to its later removal. The only way out was to slide it right under the bed and then lift it up and out - easier said than done.

On its way out...

First the bed supports had to be removed and then the bulkhead opening between the bedroom and the shower room enlarged to let the protruding pipe connections out. As I worked on the tank I realised that there was already one rust hole in the top near a weld, so it was a very timely project.

Rust hole

With the tank slid right under the bed one end could be lifted and the limitations of my previous bail out effort were plain to see. More bailing through the smaller dump through hole! Finally, with much groaning and straining I had the tank up onto the bed base and so out onto the stern deck, ready for a much needed rinse down. Then it was back into the "sweet smelling" cabin to mop out the muck which was lurking under the tank and repairing all the supports I had cut out to facilitate its extraction.

Cleaned up and ready for the installation

With the interior of the boat more or less clean and ready to receive the new loo, the last task was to get the old tank into the car. But this was a significant problem as the jetty stops about 4ft before the start of the back deck. I pondered this long and hard and was just about to turn the boat round to get the stern next to the shore when a fellow boater with a stout pair of gloves offered to help. Oh, an answer to prayer! 10 minutes of manhandling and we had the smelly item festering in the back of the long suffering Mondeo.

And how to dispose of the tank? Well, we seem to have an endless procession of tatters rolling up and down our road so I left it on the drive and by 10.00 am the following day there was  a knock on the door and a couple of Polish guys asked if they could have it. The atricle vanioshed into the back of their transit

So there we are. At the half way stage with the old put behind us and the new yet to come. I will let you know how I get on with the installation phase of the project.


Halfie said...

If the smaller hole at one end of the tank is for the loo, what is the larger, more central, hole for?

No Direction said...

The tank we removed from our old boat went to the tip at Sutton Coldfield, carefully placed with all the other scrap metal, the man on duty at the time spotted this heavy looking piece of steel and headed towards it as it looked of value, we cleared off sharpish before he got a close look at it.

Nev Wells said...

Blimey Andy what a good post....about a truly awful jobbie. I don't like pump outs, even before thinking about rusting ect. I think it was from our days on our ownership boat and the yeasty smell that came form the loos, plus the cost to get rid of my own waste was always a frustration. Plus.... as you sound like you have direct experience, having a full poo tank cuts across crusing enjoyment. We have done a deal with another boater who is selling his little used CS200 cassette system with 3 cassette as he is having a pump out put in. I can't get on with porta potties. Good luck seems the hard work is done.

seadog said...

Sorry we were not around to give you a lift.The previous owner of Nebulae pulled out the pump out,saving us the job.Like you,I have never fancies large quantities of poo under where I sleep.Previous two boats had a pump out (ex hire boats).As you say,the smell is digusting and few boatyards seem keen to do running repairs for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Big job! Fnrr fnrr

Andy Tidy said...

The big hole is an inspection hatch through which I have gained access to the tank in the past to clear out the residual "solids".
I was aware of your new loo being available - but Helen had her heart set on the porcelain version....
I didn't know you came from Sutton?
One of your neighbors helped me out after I walked to Nebulae to return the books - so you did play a part in its extraction, sort of.

No Direction said...

Yes Andy, Worcester Lane, Four Oaks.

Ian Bingham said...

Whilst watching the Hobbit, did the popcorn taste strange?