A Quick Fix, Often Overlooked

John smelled something bad. Just a little something but enough to make him change into his work shorts. He bought these shorts for a couple of dollars on a trip to Vietnam and they seem to be indestructible. He puts them on to get down to series maintenance work like Superman stepping into the phone booth. Once the shorts come on he completely focuses on the job at hand.

Since buying Halcyon our concern has been with the engine and its problems. It seems to be running well these days (knock on wood). On this day John decided to pay some attention to the port side, which houses the holding tank. Good thing he did because he discovered a small leak where the sanitation hose (through which the pump out nozzle sucks the sewage) meets the tank.

While John readied his tools I went to the marina office to tell them our problem and to see if they had spares in stock if we needed to replace the hose. Doug, the office manager, assured me that it was a common sanitation hose and they had them in stock. He stopped me before I left his office and said that an often overlooked maintenance item is the holding tank vent hose and since we were in there anyway, we should look at it. The pump out hose sometimes forces waste up into the vent hose or critters get into it and build nests, he said. Both will eventually block the hose and create pressure build up within the tank, causing things to explode and go really, really bad. FanTAStic.

By the time I returned to the boat, John, Troubleshooter Extraordinaire, had already removed the vent hose from the holding tank and had figured out that it might be the problem. He traced the hose to where it exited the boat: under a stanchion. The stanchion had a small-diameter hole that let out the air.

With me keeping an eye on the hole, John forced water through the hose from below. At first only a trickle of water came through. Eventually a little more water with more pressure behind it shot through until finally what looked like grass clogged up the hole. We removed the debris and forced more water through until it was clear and water exited the hole in the stanchion with considerable pressure.

Doug was correct. The clogged vent allowed pressure to build up in the tank each time someone used the head. The weak spot was where the pump out hose met the tank and it began to balloon at the hose clamp just enough to leak. Eventually it would have completely come undone from the tank and we would have had a bigger problem.

Clearing the vent also took care of another problem. A few weeks ago we noticed that the handle on the head was no longer drawing in raw water when we pumped the waste out of the bowl. Also, the head sink drained extremely slowly. By chance, I noticed that pumping the handle drew the water out of the sink and into the bowl. It wasn’t using raw water. These were both on our list of things to look at but after John cleared the vent the head returned to normal and the sink drained as it should.

Superman prevented a sh*# storm.

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