Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

It’s been a while since we wrote about the water problems that plagued us in the first year of living aboard Hendrik, and that was because we had been mostly getting on OK. A careful diet of treating the water tanks with kid gloves and listening to the pump like a hawk had us ticking over pretty well. Sure, there was the odd missed shower when our timing was out, and the occasional 6am wakeup call to fill the tanks while the boat was still afloat on weeks when the tide was disadvantageous to a 9-5 lifestyle. But in general, we had a rhythm going and those awful waterless days of 2007 were far behind us.

First, some context. Remember The New Hotness? Well, after about a year it went lukewarm. The pump body isn’t the most robust in the world on that model and it stopped making pressure, so we decided to upgrade and replace, swapping it out for The New New Hotness. One thing I love about these Clarke pumps is they’re completely user-serviceable and every part is available as a spare. I should have taken advantage of that, diagnosed the problem with the New Hotness and repaired it to keep in as a spare.

Ah, entropy, my old friend. On Tuesday the New New Hotness broke. We’re not certain what happened – it looks like it certainly ran dry, but we can’t quite tell the exact cause. It may have jammed outright from limescale buildup, but the non-return valve on the intake pipe was jammed too, so it would have been running completely dry and died very quickly. Whatever happened, £27 worth of parts fused themselves together and we were left without running water again.

When we first brought Hendrik into the moorings here, Stefan the skipper left me with one sentence of advice. As I dropped him home and turned to leave, he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “James,” and I thought, here it comes. He’s going to tell me, you did all right out there. “James,” said Stefan, “you really need to work on your technical skills.” I rather wish Stefan could have seen me, out on the deck with our tenant Euan, stripping the New New Hotness down and trying various ideas to get it back in shape. All right, none of them worked but at least I looked like I knew what I was doing this time. And that’s the point, after all.

Anyway, we formulated a three-pointed plan:

1. Order spare parts (actually, 2 sets for obvious reasons) for the New New Hotness
2. Get a cheap spare pump to tide us over until the parts arrive
3. Fix the New New Hotness, then disassemble and diagnose the Old New Hotness and order parts for that, too, thus leaving us doubly redundant should this happen again.

That was Tuesday night. It’s now Thursday night, 48 hours later. Let’s review our progress:

1. Parts are on order, but the bit we really need is out of stock and due in “soon.” The New New Hotness languishes in my work area.

2. Rather than get another Clarke pump from Machine Mart, I discovered I could get a Silverline pump from Amazon for half the price, including overnight shipping. It arrived today and I spent this evening with Euan plumbing it in. If you’d like to know how that went, you can read my review of it on Amazon. The short version is “not at all wel.” I have learned my lesson and will be buying another Clarke pump from Machine Mart tomorrow. Fortunately I had some money earmarked for buying a wedding suit this weekend so I can afford to be a two-pumps-in-two-days kind of guy. I may end up getting married in jeans and a t-shirt, but hey, at least I’ll have showered beforehand.

3. Held up for obvious reasons.

Would you like to see the class reunion photo? Of course you would. Sorry it’s a crappy phone shot, but I’m too tired and frustrated to go through the hassle of using the proper camera right now.


Front row, left to right: Old New Hotness, New New Hotness.
Back row, nestling in its packaging: New And Busted.

There is one bright moment in this story. I didn’t post about it at the time, but when we originally installed the New New Hotness Nikolaj and I set up a clever flexible arrangement for the intake and outflow pipes so any size of pump can be swapped in there quite quickly – getting the broken pump prepped and hooked up only took us about an hour tonight. If we can cross the surprisingly large hurdle of exchanging money for a working pump any time soon, we should be back in business quite quickly.

So the moral of the story is, don’t leave your backup pump sitting unrepaired for eighteen months just because your primary pump runs like a watch most of the time. That, and you can never be too paranoid about your water supply.

- posted by James O'Brien on 29 July 2010, 23:02 in