Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Christmas wishes

First task of the year - wish all the readers and followers of this blog a happy new year and I hope you all had a great Xmas.  I appreciate the support and interest.

I, of course, spent as much time progressing things on Gannet as I could and good progress was made.  It is always useful to get one's skills up to scratch ahead of doing the proper job.  Which was fortunate as I have decided to move onto Gannet at the end of January to help speed up the task of restoring her.

That means a lot of work in a very short time.  The plan was (and is) to convert the 4 cabins that have still yet to have their portholes put on into living space.  It will be basic though.  I was lucky enough to find a mattress company that makes custom mattresses which meant they were able to supply them for the odd shaped cabin beds.  The tasks ahead of me were relatively simple

1) Fit the MDPE pipework to the water supply on the marina (can't use hose as it has nasty chemicals in it, but you would be surprised how many boats have yellow garden hose feeding their drinking water supplies!).
2) Fit a toilet
3) Fit a sink
4) Fit electricity into cabins

It turns out that these were massively effective learning tasks and enabled me to test some of the technology that I would have to use on the main ship.  

If there is one single recommendation I would give to anyone doing this kind of thing its this.  Set up a room and do each of the tasks you think you will need to do before you start the main job.  Why?  Obvious really.  Yes it is a little more expensive (you would think) but it is cheaper to make mistakes here than on the main job.  The other advantage is that you will be faster and better when you come to do the main job and you will have seen how well certain solutions work (or don't work in this case.  So let's start with each of the jobs at hand and you can see what I mean.  One useful tip.  I have avoided the term 'dry run' as this involved plumbing and there is nothing dry about starting out testing plumbing systems!

Water supply.
MDPE is strange stuff.  It's the only plastic pipe approved for potable water.  I had looked into this extensively some time back and found that none of the other widely used piping was WRAS approved.  This is quite alarming given how many people will have fitted the push fit plastic piping.    The main problem with the 20mm MDPE is that it come coiled.  This makes it compact to send but it is almost impossible to straighten!  The pipe is so highly sprung after being coiled that if you try and straighten it and let go the force of the backlash as it springs back is dangerous.  Within 2 minutes of handling this stuff the air was bluer than the pipe itself.  But this also led to another issue.  With that much spring left in the pipe the joints themselves (see later para) are under constant pressure and this makes getting proper water tight joints very hard indeed.

I had ordered a 25m length and after wrestling with it like a snake in a black and white Tarzan movie (and there the comparison ends) I managed to get the pipe from the marina up to the boat, through the back door gap over head where the old wiring used to go.  That pipe was fed into the old bathrooms and down through an old waste (water not sewage) pipe and into the cabin where the temporary bathroom would be.  Running the pipe in one long piece without joints is a key lesson that many have said.  Because the joints (however good) are not reliable, you should use as few as possible and ensure that no joints are ever buried into walls or floors or ceilings without easy access.  They will leak for certain.  Only a matter of when.

Oh yes, and lesson on MDPE.  It comes with what looks like the inserts into the ends of the pipe.  But what looks like an insert is in fact a cap.  So when you connect the MDPE onto the tap fitting and screw it in removing most of your skin in the process in driving cold rain and switch it on, nothing happens.  Because it's not an insert, its a cap and without a route for the water to go down the pipe in a MDPE tap fitting there really is only one place for it to go.  Yep, out the side of the fitting like a high pressure shower!

The next job was to fit a macerating toilet downstairs.  I opted for a WC only Saniflo.  There is mixed opinion about these products on the web ranging from 'the devils own toilet' and a general view that it would be better to use a bucket than fit a macerator (they have a point) and some that have found them to be fine.  The only way to find out was to try one, so I did.

They are quite simple things to fit actually.  But the instructions are rubbish to the point that it takes longer to do trying to work out the instructions than if you just looked at it and did it through gut feel.  There are only three things involved in it.  A big pipe which fits to the back of the toilet.  It cable ties onto the macerator and jubilee clips to the toilet.  That was a fiddle (it was a tight fit) but simple in terms of what needed to be done.  The second bit is the exit pipe.  That is obvious and simply jubilee clips to the unit and then to whatever it needs to connect to on the exit side.  The third thing is to wire it in.  Why you needed pages of instructions and diagrams for that is anybody's guess.  There are do's and don'ts though.  They say use the standard solvent weld waste pipes or copper.  But they also say that every joint you put in will reduce the flow rate and therefore pump distance (and height).  Not useful then to specify only piping types that are rigid and require joints to get around the boat.  So ignored all that and fitted 22mm PEX flexible water pipe.  Yes, I know, its a decision that may come back and bite me.  I suspect the PEX is not suitable because it may not handle the chemicals for cleaning long term.  But this is a short term usage so it should be fine.  With this pipe of course there are 0 joints.  Just a single pipe which goes up through the ceiling of the cabin, out of a porthole in the upstairs bathroom (to be) and into a waste pipe and over the side of the boat.  No joints, no risk of leak.  Time will tell.

We were now at the stage where the inbound water pipe was into the cabin (unterminated, please please please nobody turn on the tap!), the toilet fitted (a cheap but OK one from screw fix, bargain) and the exit pipe fitted to the outside world.

Next I needed a sink.  Originally I was going to use a pedestal bathroom sink but in the end thought it better to fit a kitchen sink as it would be more useful.  Try buying a kitchen sink which is standalone.  All I needed was a sink on a stand.  Actually quite hard to find.  But Ikea came up trumps again and a large sink and draining board on a typically cheap metal Ikea frame (all in a kit) was acquired for about £100.  That included the waster trap etc was well.  That was put together in an hour and a cold tap fitted from B&Q.

With all the components now in place I just needed to connect it all up.  The MDPE is 20mm.  The tap and the toilet input value was 1/2 inch fittings.  Can you buy a 20mm to 1/2 inch pipe converter gadget?  Nope.  That would be too simple.  The only tap fittings at 1/2 inch nut were 15mm pipe push fit (or to copper).  So the final set up goes like this.
20mm MDPE pipe into a 20mm MDPE stock cock.  Plastic horror.  Out of the 20mm plastic stop cock value into a push fit 20mm MDPE T-junction.  Out of each 20mm exit from the T-junction comes a short length of MDPE into a 20mm to 15mm converter.  Out of the 15mm converter comes some 15mm PEX pipe which goes into the flexible pipe for the sink and out of the other one to the toilet input junction.  But this whole set up was so highly sprung that it was like a jack in the box ready to boing out at any time.  So I nailed it all to the wall with clips.

With all the pipes connected it was time to test.  This is of course tricky as turning on the tap at marina is about a 60 second walk back to the cabin to see if it is leaking, popped off and generally flooding the boat.  Help was at hand though so we switched off the stop cock (MDPE) and on went the marina tap.  All good.  No leaks at this stage.  Next step was to turn on the stop cock.  Fountains from a few of the push fit joints ensued.  A quick extra push in and the fountains stopped (Yes, I cut the pipe using a proper cutter and yes I had proper pipe inserts in place).  All in all only minor dripping remained which was incurable despite lots of tightening and pushing.  I think the push fit joints are under such tension that they struggle.  But I can live with that minor dripping.

Finally, we hit the flush and hey presto the whole solution sprang into life and I have a working new toilet.

The next stage of the work over XMAS was to fit the electrics.  A simple solution for now.  A single cable from the outside world into one of the cabins.  Into the Mastervolt isolator and then into a consumer unit.  One ring main to run through all four cabins with a twin socket in each and one socket at the bottom of the stairs.  The first one took 20 mins to fit and was touch and go whether it was sound, the final one I had down to a fine art and took me 2 mins.  Practice is well worth the effort.  All that remains now is to wire up the consumer unit.

The portholes are not fitted on this side but the place on the hull where they are had been exposed and will need to be re-covered until the rest of the ship is complete and this side can be stripped out and refitted to the new standard. 

So that was XMAS.  Some things took a lot longer than expected, some things went smoothly.

Lessons learned

1) How to wire a twin socket well and quickly. 
2) Don't use 20mm MDPE for anything other than the main run into the boat.  Convert to 15 mm ASAP as it is less sprung and easier to run/join reliably.
3) Ignore instructions on macerator toilets and apply common sense.

There is still a few things to do before the end of Jan.  Hot water will come from a catering boiler (new 10 litre one).  That takes 20 mins to heat up and can be put on a time to ensure hot water is available morning and night and in fact will keep the water hot if required.   That will sit nicely on the new draining board.  Heating will not be needed as such.   Fitting 100 Watt lights produces enough heat to keep the place warm.  The rooms are very very small so heat up very quickly.

There are a few things to do on board when I get there.  The first is to work out the wiring for the TV, phone and networking points.  There is no mobile signal below deck.  Therefore telephone points will be needed in each room, TV points (satellite and conventional FM and terrestrial TV).  Not sure how to connect up all that yet but if I have a good load of Cat 5 in place in each room, a twin satellite cable, an FM cable point and a conventional TV RF point that should be it covered.  How it all connects up in the utility room is another question for another day (I already have a Giga bit switch for the network, so maybe some VOIP phones may be the way to go.  Either way, I intend to fit double the cable into each room than is needed.  The first is that I cannot guarantee whether I will need to have a there and back set-up and secondly (even if I don't need there and back set-up) it is good to have spare cables into the room in case one gets damaged.  Refitting later will be all but impossible.

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