One of the least favorite, but most critical systems aboard any boat is the head… if it malfunctions, it’s sure to ruin your day!
But there are less suspected threats associated with the typical marine head installation. For example, the deck waste fitting. Cruisers that frequent US waters use this pump out fitting regularly. However, those of us that have been cruising outside US waters for the past six years where no pumpout facilities are available, rarely need to open that crucial fitting. On our boat, anything that is not used regularly rarely works when we need it, as we found out when we tried to open the waste deck fitting in Isla Mujeres just before returning to Southwest Florida.
In Isla Mujeres, typical of cruisers everywhere, everyone had an opinion and they all wanted to help (I love our cruising community!). We tried them all, from heating the fitting with a torch (difficult with our teak decks) to using large hammers and chisels at each end of the fitting going opposite directions. No success in Isla.
Back in Florida, we soaked it again with PB Blaster – for 48 hours this time, then tried Tri-Flow lubricant, WD-40 again, anything we could think of, but no luck. David again pounded on it with the hammer and oversized screwdriver – carefully tapping at first and then just all out beating. No luck.
Since we were back aboard with still no way to pump out the boat, we were forced to act quickly. Removing the deck fitting required removing a wall, but David got it out so we could replace it with a new stainless steel waste deck fitting.
Now came the biggest surprise … at least for us. Taiwan built boats such as our 1985 Passport 37 had different size stainless steel deck fittings than those available in the USA. They LOOK the same. It’s only when we tried to put the new fitting in the hole that we discovered it was different.
No problem that a determined owner, an approaching thunderstorm and a Dremel can’t fix. Teak and fiberglass dust flew everywhere and suddenly voila, the fitting fits. Now just to putty it in with right flexible goop and redrill the screw holes. Refit the new sanitation hose connection and put the entire mess back together again! Voila!
Lessons learned – never ever neglect your waste deck fitting even if you’re in cruising in countries where there’s no hope of ever locating a pumpout station! Open it regularly otherwise when you need it to open, it’ll just laugh at you!