Sewage saga, part 3*

Previously on sewage saga: Katherine bruised her ribs removing the coverboard of the holding tank.  The leak was covered with silicone sealant, and Katherine went to bed optimistic normal toilet service had been resumed.

I woke to find the silicone sealant had not lived up to the promises on the tin.  The leak persisted.  I raided the cupboards to see what else I might have to plug the leak, and found a tube of super superglue.  ‘It might just work,’ I mused, probably stroking my chin.

It didn’t.  The bubbling continued.  The only way I had a hope of getting anything to successfully plug the leak and stop the bubbling was to empty the tank of anything that could leak out of it.  This thought process all took place whilst the boat was involuntarily rocking from side to side in particularly windy conditions.

Not being a patient soul (and more to the point, with people coming to stay in a couple of days), I decided to take the boat out in the gale to pump out the holding tank right then anyway.  I had mild palpitations as I backed out, and the hurricane took the back of the boat towards a delicate-looking plastic boat.  But I missed it, and made it out the marina without incident (my neighbour sighed with relief I imagine as she saw me pull clear of her boat).  Parking next to the pump out was an altogether trickier proposition.  With unhelpful onlookers (they appeared to be the kind of people who could navigate a narrowboat, but decided just to stare, and I imagine tut, at my attempts to get close to the jetty) and sweaty palms, I faffed about in the middle of the canal for what seemed like a couple of hours (it was probably 15 minutes), but finally tied up and got the tank emptied out.

I just couldn’t face trying to park the boat back in the marina, so I had two choices:  leave it where it was and potentially annoy passers-by who wanted to use the pump out facilities but couldn’t because of the 57ft lump of steel in the way.  Or play the helpless female card, and beg for help.  Whilst I have some issues with the latter option, and the stereotype it feeds into, it was the course I took, and the lovely Richard expertly navigated Double Fracture back to her mooring.  (And made it look effortless.  One day, that will not be me.)

Tank empty, I applied liberal amounts of super superglue around the plastic square.  It dried, and then I slathered on some silicone sealant.  And lastly I screwed the coverboard on and resolved never to use the pump out toilet ever again as it is just more hassle than it is worth.  That resolution will hold strong until my cassette toilet needs emptying, and I can’t be bothered to carry it across the road to the appropriate disposal facilities.

So I don’t actually know if I have actually fixed the leak.  I like to think so though.  And whilst there is no evidence to the contrary, that will be the official line.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Human‘ by the Killers.

*I really wanted to come up with a witty play on words, or failing that, a play on words involving the word ‘trilogy’ and something toilet-related.  Any suggestions would be gratefully received, and the best will receive a homemade Double Fracture sticker.  Quite the incentive, I know.

Sewage saga, part 2

Previously on sewage saga:  Katherine discovered two holes in her toilet system, and fixed one with self-sealing silicone tape, and the other by shoving Pipe A into Connector B a little more firmly.  She felt great about this.  And then discovered the holding tank was still leaking.

The latest hole gave away its position by the occasional bubble.  The holding tank has a gadget which is supposed to tell me when the tank is full, and there is a wire that runs from the tank to the warning light.  This wire passes through a square bit of plastic set into the top of the holding tank, and it was round the base of this plastic that the bubbles came from.  My first instinct was to remove the plastic, clean round it and then reattach it.  Luckily for me and my dining room, one of the screws simply wouldn’t budge, and potentially saved me from Shower of Shit II: Shit Happens Inside.  Even with only a couple of screws removed, effluent was streaming out on top of the tank, and took nearly my whole supply of nappies (bought for just such an occasion) to soak up. ‘At least the pressure has been released from the tank’ I told myself.

Only a portion of the top of the tank was exposed at that point – most of it was hidden by a large wooden coverboard (a technical term I have just made up).  To address this problem fully it needed to come off, I decided.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t a case of just lifting it up – it was nailed on, and a large pipe had been plumbed through it.  This called for impulse buying of power tools.  I am now the proud owner of a multi-tool, and I also decided to give angle grinders a second chance.

I had resolved to not start work on removing the coverboard, until the morning, but I just couldn’t wait.  So at the very social time of 10pm, I revved up the multi-tool and started cutting stuff.  Cutting through the nails was child’s play (NB to all those who have ever asked me to babysit, I very much mean this in the figurative sense.  Until they are about 8.)  Cutting the wood around the pipe so I could slide the coverboard off was altogether a more tricky proposition.

It was in an awkward place (the far corner) with awkward access (even after I dismantled the table).  The first gap I cut wasn’t wide enough, and the second cut came dangerously close to both water pipes and electrical wires.  (In an ideal world I would have turned off the electrics and wielded a cordless multi-tool.  This was not an ideal world, and my multi-tool was irrevocably corded.)  But I managed it, and seemingly without waking my neighbours.  (A friend recently asked me how sound-proof canalboats are – I suspect her question did not specifically relate to powertools, but I think this tale testifies to them being pretty soundproof.  Or my neighbours are deafer than I thought.  Or are secretly plotting their revenge for their sleepless night.)

Removing the coverboard was still not straightforward – angling, jostling and swearing were required to get it to move at all.  I gave up on the idea on getting it out of the underseat cupboard, and settled for popping it up at an angle inside the cupboard.  At last I could see most of the tank.  It wasn’t pretty.  Or fragrant.  A strong lavender candle has since become an essential part of narrowboating kit.

There was sanding and general cleaning and I finally got back to the original job of patching up the hole.  The tube of silicone sealant I had promised much in the way of strength and water-tightness, so I thought it deserved a shot.  Liberal amounts were applied around the plastic square and also to the tops of the screws, and I went to bed, hopeful but maybe not confident that the leak was fixed.  (The fact that there will be at least one more part to the saga suggests any confidence was misplaced.  Or the completion of the trilogy could be one long gloat about my brilliance in the face of adversity.  You’ll just have to tune in to find out.)

This blogpost was brought to you by  ‘Hollow Talk‘ by Choir of Young Believers.

New year, same problem

The worst kind of hole to get in a boat is in the hull.  Thankfully, this is not that blogpost.  The second worst kind of hole is probably one involving the toilet.  I could carry on with this list (ending with holes in the tea towel), but it wouldn’t add much to today’s story.

Just as I was about to leave for work, I noticed a damp patch around the base of the pump out.  I hadn’t been using the pump out toilet much as it wasn’t flushing properly, much in the same way it did in the days preceding the shower of shit, and so I wasn’t sure what had caused this particular leak.  6am in the morning was not the time to investigate,however, so I stuffed some toilet paper around the base and left for work, hoping I wouldn’t return to find my bath room two inches deep in sewage.

My luck was in, and the area surrounding the toilet was only a little damper than when I left.  In the absence of knowing the right thing to do (a phrase I could repeat a lot during this post/this blog), I decided to dismantle the box behind the toilet (which is under the seating in the dining room) to see if a leak was evident from there.  The box revealed the top of the holding tank, which was damp, a bit rusty and quite smelly. The pipe leading from the toilet to the tank was bubbling every now and then.  ‘Aha!’ I thought.  ‘The source of the problem.  And small holes in pipes is one of the short list of problems I know how to fix.’  And, feeling uncharacteristically thorough, I continued to look around.  The pipe connection to the toilet had come loose, and that was also leaking.  Another issue I could fix.

Feeling quite frankly euphoric, I reattached the loose pipe, and wrapped silicone tape around the bubbling section of pipe.  My sense of mild heroism was added too when I discovered the toilet had been rocking all this time as it had only been screwed in two out of three places.  An extra screw, and the toilet was once again secure.  Was there nothing I couldn’t do?

Yes.  I could not accurately identify all leaking points in a holding tank.  The next day, the top of the tank was damp and smelly again.  This has the makings of a boat saga.

This blogpost was brought to you by ‘Albert went out to see rock bands‘ by Gavin Osborn