Cleaning my fresh water tank was my final big project to finish before S/V Saoirse would feel more like a “home”.

What was the problem?  During the pre-purchase survey, a peek inside the water tank inspection port revealed a nice thick film of green goo coating the insides, and a few gallons of water that had probably been sitting in there for quite some time.  Nothing I was keen on drinking.  I’d really like to show you pictures of it, but some trigger-happy fool reformatted the memory card before ensuring that all photos had been downloaded to the computer.  It was really foul…take my word for it.

I really don’t know what took me so long to finish this project.  Wait…yeah, I think I can pinpoint it to my timidness about my first fiberglass project and the fact that there were other easier projects I could accomplish in the meantime, like varnishing and killing an old bottle of rum.

But it sure is nice to finally have running water and not relying on a six-gallon camping water bladder!  I’m now mesmerized by the water coming out of my faucet – like Man when he first discovered fire!

Goodbye Water Heater

The old companionway steps. The water heater hid under the box on the floor, rubbing against the engine, preventing bilge access, and just taking up a lot of room on the sole. It’s since been replaced with a new ladder.

This was the first thing on my list of plumbing fixes.  The water heater sat in an enclosed box on my cabin sole, at the bottom of the steps and in between the settee (couch) and navigation station.

It took up a little bit of room and made bilge access difficult, but I was more concerned about the fact that everything was so jam-packed that the high-pressure water hoses were rubbing against the engine flywheel.

I can get by just fine without on-demand hot water (though it’s not really on-demand because I had to use either my engine or AC electricity to heat it) and wanted easier access to my bilge.

My mantra so far has been “more systems & more complexity = more problems, more to break, and more maintenance nightmares”.

I uninstalled the heater, simplified the plumbing, and had some brand new steps manufactured by dockmaster & carpenter Rodney Hill.

The water heater and engine during the survey. The water heater sits on top of the bilge/fuel tank cover and when the engine cover is installed, it forces the hoses against the flywheels. Chafing was evident.

New Water Pump

The new 3.0gpm on-demand water pump in its new, easily accesible location, with filter added on the intake side. Under the port settee.

The water pump needed replacing too.  The pump that was in there was 30 years old and either “on” or “off”, meaning that I needed to flip the switch on before using the faucet, and turn the pump off when done with the water.

Newer pressure-on-demand pumps will only cycle on when a water valve is opened.  Yes, I have a foot pump also, but it’s a low-capacity spigot in one sink only.

This old water pump, located in my engine compartment, actually needed to be disassembled before I could remove it – servicing it would have been impossible.

I installed a new pressure-on-demand water pump underneath my port settee (next to the water tank), providing easier access and shortening the plumbing run.

I also installed a small in-line filter to the supply side of the pump.  These filters are a must-have for any pump, catching any foreign debris before it has a chance to ruin your pump.

Cleaning the Fresh Water Lines

Once the plumbing was sorted out, it was time to clean the lines…those same lines that held stagnant water for God knows how long.

To do this, I diluted two cups of chlorine bleach in five gallons of water, and then added it to my nearly-full 20-gallon tank.  After some agitation, I opened up all faucets – my galley sink, head sink, shower, and foot pump – until I could smell bleach for a few minutes.

Then I closed all faucets and let it sit for eight hours.  After that time elapsed, I again opened all the valves and flushed the bleach water completely through the system, and flushed again with 40 gallons of fresh water.

And Finally the Fresh Water Tank

The water tank lid after removal, when the barrier laminate layer had to be ripped off to remove the lid. Prior to glassing. I installed another inspection port to see in both sections of the tank.

Now time to tackle the fresh water tank.  A previous owner had removed the plywood/laminate lid for the water tank to install an inspection port, and then reinstalled it with adhesive worthy of securing Fort Knox.  This made removal of the lid difficult, and the barrier layer of laminate over the plywood was destroyed in the process.

The plywood was saved, so I cleaned that up, cut out a hole for another inspection port, and fiberglassed the underside of the lid with one layer of glass mat and a few layers of epoxy.

I followed that up with a coat of NSP120 epoxy made for potable water tanks and works with boat water tanks.  I also used this epoxy inside the tank, to remove any staleness that might be left and to cover up some minor cracking.  Some small blisters had started to form in the fiberglass walls, and this epoxy would also prevent further development.

Once these cured, I reinstalled the lid with a removable marine sealant just in case I need to get back in there at some point.

The lid after glassing, a coat of epoxy, and a second inspection port installed.


The water tank after a coat of potable-tank epoxy. The epoxy will protect the fiberglass from blistering, repaired some small cracks that had developed in the tank over the years, and got rid of the foul stains & taste in the tank.

I also got a nice little surprise when I finished.

As I was screwing on the bolts for the lid, I thought to myself “wait, this tank looks a little bigger than 20 gallons”.

Throughout the past few months, I’ve been receiving conflicting information about the capacity, but I never actually measured it.  Some Orions have different configurations.

So I took my six-gallon water bladder and poured it in the tank.  Refilled it and dumped it back in the tank.  And again.  18 gallons and it appears to be only half-full.  Is this an accurate way to measure boat fresh water tanks?  By this point I was tired of schlepping water (repair work on the dock had the water lines disconnected) but it’s nice to know I have about double the capacity I was led to believe…I’ll more accurately measure it when I can run a hose to the boat.


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