Water Tank Install

Well the biggest job of the project is now complete. Was a pretty big undertaking and took a bit to get done, but did go very well. I have heard horror stories of other vessels having to pretty much tear the boat apart to get the water tanks out and of then having them built and then not fitting correctly, leading to more work, time and money.


We pulled the tanks out about three weeks ago and took a full days work to get them both out. What we had to do was to pull up the teak and holly flooring to get to the furniture mold below and then we cut an access hole big enough to get both tanks out of. We were able to pull the bigger aft tank out first and then slide the forward tank back and bring it up and out of the same hole. The biggest problem we encountered is that that larger tank did not fit through the hatch to get it out of the boat, so we decided to cut the tank in two and have two tanks made instead joining them up once installed.


I got Phil and Unique welding, here in St. Pete Florida to do the tanks for me and have been really happy with the work he has done. He’s actually working on about another three projects for me at the moment as well. I decided, after talking to a few people, to make that new tanks out of 12 gauge stainless steel, and to use flair fit fittings for the hook up and plumbing, these are a compression type fitting and from all reports work really well. The fact that we had to cut the large tank in half turned out to be a good thing as I didn’t realize how much extra weight the 12guage stainless would be. If we had to try and maneuver the large tank it would have been an absolute mission.


Phil brought the tanks down to the boat before putting the lids on for a trial fitting and we discovered that the sheet metal guy, who had bent the steel for him was short and inch and a half, we had a chat and Phil was quite happy to make it right by welding a box section on top, but I decided against it as it was a lot of work and should not lose that much volume off the tanks. Also it gave a bit of room for error and ensured that the tanks would fit. Once the tops were on I headed up to Phil’s shop to witness the pressure test, pressing each tank to 3PSI, to check for leaks and have a final look over before the install. I ended up having to wait for a few days as the flair fit fitting were on back order and wanted to have everything good to go to knock off the install in one big day.


While the tanks were out I installed a flange of 1-inch aluminum to the existing flooring and drilled and tapped it to secure the cut out section too, and ground out the old fiberglass taping the held the old tanks in place, laying in the bilge grinding on fiberglass is not a job I particularly enjoy, was quite happy to finish that day. On a side note, if your covered in fiberglass, tired and hungry and you have a shower up at the shower block and forget to bring your towel, it takes about 12-15 paper hand towels to dry yourself off.


On the day of the install I got up early and had everything prepped for when Kev, who gave me a hand pulling out the tanks as well, arrived. We got stuck into it and had the first tank in pretty quickly, and the second not long after that. The third however, took some working. The floor below was not quite level and with the increased space of having the two tanks instead of one we had to do a bit of modification to sure up the tank and get it all secure. To join the two tanks we had a one-inch hose joining them and that way they would equalize through and essentially work as one. It was another long day and was around eight by the time we finished up and took me another couple of hours to get Kuhela back to normal. Still had a bit of work to do the following day, filling the tanks, checking for leaks and putting the teak and holly flooring back in, but this I could do on my own. I’ll tell you what though, I was sore after the install, wasn’t moving with the greatest of speed.


I filled the tanks and got a rough measurement of about seventy five gallons, a bit less than I would have liked, don’t think that the original tanks were the one hundred gallons listed on the brochure though, I seriously doubt I lost twenty five gallons with the tanks being and inch and a half shorter. Oh well I was happy, tanks fit, there were no leaks, and I had running water again. No more having to tote water to the boat. Ill put captions on the photos to show the sequence of events and give an idea of how we pulled it all off. With this job done, I shouldn’t have to worry about the water tanks for the next 30 years. Funnily enough, when we cut the old tank open, we found the inside to be in pretty good shape, but no way to know without opening it up.

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Water Tanks

One of the biggest, if not the biggest, project I decided to take on when I bought Kuhela was to replace the water tanks. The original tanks were still on board and although they weren’t leaking, the was some water seeping around one of the fittings and 35 years out of the original stainless tanks is pretty good. Didn’t want to be dealing with that in Cuba or Mexico, so bit the bullet and decided to do it here.  

It’s a hard thing cutting a big hole into the boat you just bought. We had to pull up the teak and holly sole, which we got out in one piece thankfully, to expose the fiberglass floor and then cut a 31” x 45” access hole into this to get the tanks out. (sorry for the imperial measurement, but If I've got to struggle, you get to as well). The good thing is that through this hole we could lift one tank out and then slide the other forward to lift it out the same hole.  I had to have a serious talk with Kuhela and promised I would put her back together as good as before, just to make sure she co-operated and didn’t throw any surprise’s our way.


Phil recommended a guy called Kevin to give me a hand and after we sat down and worked out a plan it was time to get into it. After hanging plastic from the walls and turning the interior into what looked like an industrial meat processing area of some sort, we got to it. I tell you what, that first cut, it’s a hard thing to watch. I’m glad Kevin was here, as I would have struggled with it. The teak and holly sole came out relatively easily and once that was cleared away and after a quick break for food, we got down to the real work. We cut away at the fiberglass floor and soon were both covered in fiberglass dust though I did do my best with the vacuum to contain what I could. This also went pretty much to plan and soon enough we had our access to the tanks below. Kuhela was on our side so far.


Then came the first snag, a fairly large one too. I was under the impression that both tanks were the same size of 50 Gal each, but on getting the floor up we could see that one was in fact quite a lot bigger than the other. The larger one came out first and that’s when things started to look a bit more complicated than we first thought. Physics will beat you every time and if your tank is 44” x 15.5” (largest dimensions) and your companion way is smaller than that, well it just won’t fit. We tried a few different ways of tackling it, but you cant argue with Einstein can you. That got us scratching out heads a bit. We decided to go ahead and get the other tank out too, so we knew what we were dealing with and delay making a decision on how to proceed. After a bit of pushing and pulling the smaller one was out and was a great relief to see it go up and out of the hatch. One down, one to go. We did funnily enough come across a few souvenirs from Kuhela’s last visit to Australia, in the early nineties,  hidden beneath the tanks as well. Seems that she had been hiding a stash of VB down in her bilge, took this as a good sign that she liked Australia and was looking forward to getting back there, though I’d like to think her tastes have matured a bit from VB.


At this point I very much doubted that we could get the job done in a day and the thought of spending the night covered in fiberglass and sleeping in a corner somewhere was not something that I was really into. All the cushions, carpet and anything else I could move was all up in the V berth and I wanted to stay out of there as much as possible as a bed full of fiberglass dust is less than fun. Phil was kind enough to come down and have a look, as sometimes you just need another pair of eyes, and after discussing a few things, decided that we would have to cut the tank in half and get two tanks made up in its place to go back in and joinh them together once on board.


In what could best be described as a bit short of the HSE standard of the oil and gas game I'm used to, I held a large piece of plastic over Kevin as he took a grinder and cutting disc to the tank and shortly we were able to get it out on deck. The process till that point took us about 7 hours and I was glad for the cooler weather of the day as doing that job in the heat would add a whole different, itchy, aspect to the job.


I’ll give it Kevin he put in a solid days work and I was stoked to have it done in a day and not have to spend an itchy night sleeping in a corner. In surprisingly little time I had Kuhela back to her pretty self and everything squared away so that you would hardly have known of the major operation that had taken place. By now it was about 10 O’clock and time for shower, dinner and bed. One important note for all those who have been wondering, if you should every forget to take your towel with you up to the shower block, it takes about two hand full of paper towels to dry yourself off, best done while laughing at yourself and hoping no one walks in.


That’s one half of a major job ticked off the list, and the replacement tanks are all ready in fabrication and should hopefully be ready in a couple weeks. Slowly, slowly I am working my way through the list of jobs.


Just want to say thanks to everyone too for all the messages wishing me well and offering support. It’s really great to get some encouragement when you’re tackling this stuff on your own. I continue to learn lots, about Kuhela and about myself and just keep on putting one foot in front of the other to see where I end up.


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