15 October 2008 | Tonga
Sometime on the way to Niue we began to have a serious leak in our fresh water system. The starboard bilge pump was running pretty frequently any time we would leave the water pressure on. The culprit turned out to be a Whale type T fitting (a compression fitting that you just plug the pipe into with no crimps). This is a 15mm T fitting below the starboard aft cabin hanging locker. Not the easiest thing to get to. It has the main port water pump line coming in one side and the main starboard water pump line coming in the other. The T then feeds the hot water heater. It wasn't quite squirting but it was close. We went on a strict "turn off the water pressure" program as soon as we discovered the problem. I made a few half hearted attempts to remove the fitting but it was hard to get to and not budging. I didn't want to break it because I didn't have a replacement. As a stop gap I siliconed some duct tape (what else?) and taped it up to reduce the outflow.
The fitting is PVC and so are the two feed pipes. The hot water heater has a copper pipe however. I'm no expert but that copper pipe gets pretty hot and I doubt the PVC T is designed for metal pipe.
Dave from O'Vive came over to help me get a fix in place. Dave was not only wired in Neiafu but also traveling in company with a plumber! I had asked on the local cruisers net to see if anyone had what I needed. One boat set us up with some Ts. Cruisers are always ready to help and it is hard to believe the different spares you can come up with when tapping into a group of perhaps a hundred boats, such is the fleet in Vava'u this time of year.
Unfortunately the Ts were not the right type, although in a pinch we could have used them to make something work. After scouring the town to no avail, Jeramy on Thulani told us he had a T. We zipped over to Thulani, who was moored across the bay, and Jeramy had the exact part! After thanking him profusely we headed back to Swingin' on a Star.
I was expecting to work on the fix with Dave, but Dave does not mess around. He had the whole thing replaced before I could get him a screw driver. I think the solution is better than the original as well. Dave cut back the copper pipe and we now have a flexible hose connecting the copper to a PVC pipe stub fixed in the T. The other two PVC pipes were left unchanged. Now the PVC T has only PVC pipe in it and an isolator between it and the copper pipe as well. Hopefully this will last forever.
We re-pressurized the system and all was well. The old T has a nicked O Ring and may be reusable with a replacement O Ring. It was a long day and we really didn't do anything but bird dog the parts for the plumbing repair. It was well worth it to get the fix in though, many thanks to Dave and Jeramy! Not a moment too soon either because we are low on water and certainly aren't going to make water in the midst of 50 yachts...
During the day one of the local craftsmen stopped by the boat. He was a nice guy and had some pretty cool stuff. Hideko bought a nice basket that we are both pretty happy with.