There is no cold like the cold inside your boat in winter. I don’t know if it’s psychological or not, but I swear it’s 40 degrees colder in here than it is outside. My breath is great plumes of white steam. With shaking icicle fingers, I quickly fire up the alcohol heater, and within ten minutes I’m able to take off my heavy coat. Five minutes after that, I strip off my hoodie. It’s time to get busy. The new 49 gallon holding tank has arrived from California.
From the extensive Ronco Plastics online catalogue, I picked this tank out because it’s made to fit in the front vee section of a boat. For no extra charge, Ronco installed the inlet and outlet fittings to my specifications.
Let the fun begin! First I remove the vee-berth cushions, wood covers and supports, and expose the old barrel-shaped tank. Captain Skerry (the previous owner of Ginger Lee) tells me this tank was installed by the guy he bought the boat from. He also called him a hacker. The markings on the tank say it used to be a machine oil barrel. Obviously, the guy got it for free and converted it to a holding tank. Probably to save money. All I can say is that it worked well enough, it was just too darn small.
I cut the PVC tubing with a jig saw and quickly stuff rags into the openings. No sense in stinking up the place. Even though we pumped this thing out last fall, there is still some residual material. I yanked that sucker right outta there and tossed it outside. Now comes the big moment: seeing how well I measured the space for the new tank.
It’s perfect fit. Yay me! It would cost over a hundred bucks to ship that tank back to California.
Okay, back to work. I fabricate a support bed out of thick plywood, settle the new tank onto it, and plumb everything in with 1-1/2 septic tubing I bought from West Marine. The tubing was so stiff from the cold that I had to use a heat gun to make it pliable. Two ratcheting straps, the vee-berth support spar, and the sides of the boat hold everything firmly in place. Finally, I install a holding tank vent filter, it’s function is obvious.
It’s time to tackle the malfunctioning starboard fuel gauge. I’ll start with the part inside the fuel tank called the sending unit. Lucky me. It’s located on the end of the tank nearest the access hatch. After energizing the ignition, I remove the wire connected to the center of the old sender and touch it to the ground wire. The gauge moves from overfull to “empty”. This tells me three things: the wiring is good, the gauge works, and the sending unit is bad.
I can see that the five screws that hold the sender to the tank are going to be a problem. They’re kinda rusty, and none of them are budging. They’ve most likely been in there since 1974, the date stamped on the tank. The condition of the screws doesn’t surprise me. On a boat, fastener removal is nine-tenths of the job. In fact, I’m more surprised when stuff comes apart easy. Great care must be taken to not strip out the slots or break the screw heads, lest I’ll be drilling and tapping the afternoon away.
I consider my options: It’s a fuel tank so I probably shouldn’t use my blow torch, that leaves penetrating oil. I soak the tops of the screws and wait a few minutes. With a good Snap-On screwdriver, and a lot of muscle, I’m finally able to get one screw to move ever so slightly. Here’s the plan: turn the screw out a bit, spray with oil, screw it back in, then back out a little more, spray, etc., etc., repeat for all five screws. Not one of those little buggers gives me a friggen break, but after an hour of hand numbing work, they all came out unbroken. I WIN!.
I install the new sending unit, hook up the wires, and turn on the ignition, but the fuel gauge still moves to over-full. Why? Because the new sending unit is not speaking the language of the old gauge. In these modern times, pretty much all sending units and gauges adhere to industry standards, but in the stone age (early 70’s) who knows what heathen voodoo gods made these things work. That’s exactly why I bought a new gauge. Hey, I’m not as dumb as I look. Of course, it would have been peachy keen if didn’t have to change out the gauge, but that’s not the case, so I’d better get started.
I pour four jerry-jugs of diesel into the starboard tank to check my work and everything is working properly. I think that’s enough fun for today. On my way home I’m gonna pick up a large ham and provolone sub from my favorite shop. And a bag of chips too. Why not? I deserve it!