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Plumbing Hell


If ever there was a hell, it surely is filled with mismatched leaking pipes, and blown hoses filled with nasty fluids leaking from every joint and fitting. Should you be sentenced to this hell it will be your task to repair the never ending leaks with a multitude of fittings and connections that do not match or fit together. No amount of Teflon tape or pipe goop will prevent the often foul and sometimes poisonous fluids from leaking out of all the mismatched joints and rotted hoses.

For anyone who has ever attempted their own plumbing repairs on a boat they will surely have tasted this hell on earth. Some may think grinding fiberglass in 102 degree heat in a Tyvex suit is bad but it is heaven compared to the frustration of trying to stop a minor leak from a deceptively simple looking fitting on our boats. That is the catch really this stuff looks easy but the devil is in the simplicity.

Plumbing fittings

The thing that makes plumbing so maddening is the sheer number and variety of plumbing fittings, types, and sizes. I mean it is bad enough that we have to fix this stuff but some evil engineer somewhere decided to make a game of it. The first thing one will discover when delving into the world of plumbing fittings is that size does matter but is subject to the rules of quantum physics where nothing is as it appears. A tape measure becomes useless in finding the size of a fitting and the only hope of getting the right sized fitting is to either take the old part to the store with you or buy several of varying sizes and hope one fits.

I am not sure what madman came up with the sizing of plumbing parts but they were either from an alien planet or were on some interesting drugs at the time. Of course I would not rule out that they were just screwing with people to mess with their minds. You would think when they came up with “standard” sizing they would have based it on something like…….well let’s say reality! A 1-1/2” pipe actually measures something like 2” and forget PVC pie it is all over the place with each color and type of pipe a different measurement even though they are sized the same. In the world of plumbing nothing measures what it says it is. Some pipe and tubing are measured from the inside while others are measured from the outside. Plastic tubing is not the same size as copper tubing which is not the same as hose. And to make matters worse they keep coming up with new products which of course does not match the size of the old stuff. It is enough to drive the sanest of sailors to the rum locker.

As if size alone were not enough to drive you as mad there are an equally baffling variety and type of fittings available, many for doing the same thing. Connecting two hoses or pipes together is never as easy as it would seem. Pipe thread, hose bards, push connectors, flare fittings, compression fittings and the list goes on. Nothing is ever as simple as just connect the hose to the pipe, that would be way too easy.

Part of this is due to the many types of fluids and gases that must be transported about in our boats. But surely there could be a simpler solution. Yes, I know we have to deal with different fluid pressures and sometimes even vacuums, as well as all types of fluids and gases from fuel and hot exhaust to what none of us like to deal with, our own waste. It is our job to hopefully keep all these different substances and pressures contained and not spewing all over the insides of our fine yachts.

As if all this was not enough to drive a sailor to insanity all the fittings and sizes are subject to change without notice. The type of plumbing used in a 1980 boat is nothing like what is used in a 20018 boat! The makers of this stuff seem to feel, in their infinite wisdom, that what worked perfectly well two years ago is now obsolete. This is all well and fine but the net result is it becomes an exercise in futility trying to match old to new, pipe to hose and tube to pipe, and so on. Numerous trips to the plumbing section of the hardware store will be required to complete even the seemingly simplest of repairs. When there you will not be alone, There will be others wandering the plumbing isles, broken fitting in hand. Each staring blankly like a zombie at the hundreds and thousands of parts that will do not match the one part that will keep them leak free. Add to this the shelves of parts appear to fit your need only to be miss labeled or filled with random parts not anything like the label would indicate. Yes my friend you have truly arrived in plumbing hell.

You may think I am being a bit extreme as the result of a few bad experiences. Those that have walked the path I have, will truly understand the despair and frustration I speak of. They too, know well how deceptively simple a small leak or a simple addition will look, only to be driven into madness by the depth of the plumbing rabbit hole. For the average home owner plumbing is pretty straight forward although still challenging. For the boat owner the plumbing puzzle is much more complicated. For those with older boats the plumbing can be a maze of original mixed with many owners’ changes and creative hose work.

Whenever I start a plumbing project I brace myself for the endless trips to the home improvement big box stores and the frustration of never being able to easily connect two parts together. I can always take heart in knowing I am not alone as I search the isles for that mystery part. As I search I see the other lost souls scanning the shelves sharing my quest to keep the flow moving. Hmmm maybe that should be our motto…..”May the Flow be with You”


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