Water water everywhere, except in the water maker

Yesterday was good, after a lot of flapping around I got the two foot pumps at the galley sink working, the left one pumps sea water into the left sink, at quite a rate, the right one pumps fresh water, quite slowly, into the right sink. Perfect.  The seawater wasn’t coming in because the hole in the boat that it comes in form (thru hull) was blocked. I tried all sorts to unblock it, it was really solid whatever was in there. I eventually got water to come in after hammering a very thin tube down, but it wasn’t enough really, It’s a very thin thru hull so I didn’t have anything that long and thin to use, then I came across some chopsticks, perfect size, hammered one in, seemed to go a long way then jammed and snapped off. It was at that moment I remembered why we use wooden bungs in boat holes, the wood swells up when wet and makes a great seal. Bugger! It wouldn’t come out, and the hole was filled perfectly. Should it ever fail in the future, I need to have chopsticks handy to seal it. Anyway, I drilled the chopstick out through the through hull (and attached seacock). Then hammered out the chopstick, then found a rat tail file of exactly the right size, and with some mighty hammer blows managed to get the inlet cleared. The thing is it was only a few weeks ago I walked around under the hull with a screwdriver poking every hole to make sure it was completely clear, so how did this happen. I have a feeling something else is going on, and in fact this hole has been glassed over, but that can’t be right. We will see on the next haul out. It has to be understood, and checked properly as this sort of thing can sink the boat when you’re not looking, especially if I have hammered off the flange that holds the thru hull on

I have had a reasonable quote for a haulout just around the corner from here, unfortunately, the causeway that links Singapore to Malaysia is in the way, So I have to circumnavigate the island to get there, so thats a whole days trip. I’m just waiting to see when they are free. The bureaucracy around here is a bit mad, they have decided sailors can’t buy diesel fuel, as we are foreigners and the fuel is state subsidised for Malays. So a man comes around under the cover of night taking and returning Jerry Cans, crazy. I heard their is a fuel barge near Singapore I can use, but the ‘night diesel man’ here says the fuel is dodgey in the barge, but then he would say that. He marks up the fuel by 50%, nice work if you can get it.  Also the marina wants £5 to check me out with the harbour master, but the boatyard want £70 to check me in with the harbour master, even though they’re only a mile away. A little further north, the whole process is free. I believe I also have to do the whole customs clearance to go from the port to the boatyard! I’m fighting this one.

The Watermaker

I’ve been putting this job off for over a year, partly because once you start using a watermaker you cant stop, or it breaks. Let me explain. The picture above is the same as my watermaker, but new and shiny, and without the pipes that join it all up. Top right is the electric motor which drives a water pump attached to it, top middle. It pumps water into the long tube, which houses a membrane. So the principle is really simple. The membrane is like a filter, think of it like gauze, with holes so small the salt in the water can’t get through, but the water can, so you pump the water through the filter and hey presto, out the other side is fresh water. The problems are two fold, you need very very very small holes for this to work, and because the holes are so small you need a massive amount of pressure to get the water to go through them, hence a very high performance, energy sapping pump and motor drive is needed. Secondly, you’re pumping sea water into the membrane, the sea water is full of organic life and other matter, if you don’t keep flushing water through it to wash these little chappies along then they take up home in the little holes and block them and grow into surrounding holes. The manual says that if I don’t use the watermaker for three days in very hot tropical climates, then the membrane will be damaged by this growth, you can pump in growth inhibitors, and cleaners, but then you have to pump them out as they’re poisonous. A lot of flapping around. I believe a new membrane is about £500, but I need to check, I’m bound to need one.

So below is my actual pump,

and here is a pipe going to the membrane, a variation on the chopstick, me thinks. I have no idea what this might have been for.

So I spent a while understanding the hoses and where they all go, the manual says this system can make 13 litres an hour, in ideal conditions, but the previous owner (PO) has written 6 ltrs/hour on the manual, which doesn’t seem a lot, but its more than we need for a day, 3 ltrs each. I’m surprised it makes any, given that the hoses are connected all wrong, the waste excess sea water is being fed with the sea water in. I can’t believe the PO could make such a big mistake, but I have checked and checked and I’m sure it’s wrong.
So anyway with a good understanding of how it all works now, I fired up the motor from the switchboard, Nada, nowt, nothing, Oh well, out with the multimeter, yes 13V on the motor, but nothing, cut the cables back and measure the resistance, infinity, or ‘Open circuit’ to the motor. So the motor is stuffed.
I have done a bit of googling and it seems the motor replacement could be a few thousand US dollars, but here in Malaysia, most motors can be repaired for pennies. It has carbon brushes, so I could be lucky and it’s just these, whatever, I have to extract the motor from the pump, that’s bound to need some tool I haven’t got, and require some skin from my knuckles before it leaves the bilge. A job for tomorrow.
I’m happy that at least I understand the system now and it’s not a mystery anymore. I’m sure it can be repaired and I’m looking forward getting it running.

At lunchtime, I took a walk down to the ferry terminal to get some provisions from the shop there, I took some pictures on the way back, my cheap ‘genuine Apple iPhone replacement camera’ seems to have deteriorated even more, but hopefully Kathy brings me a new (to me) iPhone out on Saturday, so I can take some proper pics again.

This last one taken with the front facing camera, but I prefer the bleakness the other camera provides, seems more fitting. Such boring buildings, where’s Gaudi when you need him.
The hat’s on it’s last legs, did well for a paper hat, you can’t beat the genuine panama Kathy bought me, but that’s back home sadly.

Paul Collister

 

4 thoughts on “Water water everywhere, except in the water maker”

  1. Looks like Katadyn is located near our house here in Minneapolis. If you need me to do there and talk to them in person or pick up something, let me know.
    -Bruce

    1. Wow that’s quite a coincidence. Let me see how I get on tomorrow Bruce, I’m going to pull the motor out and see what’s up with it, but thanks for the offer

  2. Wonder if the motor took a swim at some time. In any case am sure it is repairable locally. I knew of a haul out place on the other side of the causeway, but couldn’t remember its name. Suggest you go and check them out. Mersing may have facilities, its up the coast a bit.

    1. I think it just got old, sorted now though. and I’m hauling out in 10 days at Dalac, just by senibong marina, past the causeway, 10 hours to get just a mile or so east!

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