Tag Archives: Boat Maintenance

Bevels can be like belly buttons – there are innies and outies

The old shower door, outside handle on the left, inside handle on the right and bevel in the middle

Each time I used to get into the shower and close the door, my heart would skip a beat, would the door open again? Something in the lock mechanism had worn out causing the bevel to get stuck . The bevel is the bit of metal that slides in and out when you turn the handle.

Riding the wave of confidence of replacing the shower bilge pump, I volunteered to replace the shower door handle. The conversation went something like this:

Me: think I might give replacing the shower door handle a go

The Skipper: goodo, all yours

Me (thinking): this is sounding like the shower bilge pump episode all over again

Me: ok, mum is looking after Orbit tomorrow, so I’ll remove the old one and take it to the chandlery, a replacement on will only cost $50, crossing fingers they’ll have one and the new one will be on tomorrow night, so it should only take 48 hours, tops

The Skipper: you sound like your on top of this one

Me (rather proudly): yep

The Skipper: ok, all yours 

After dropping Orbit at my mum’s, I was ready to tackle my task. No dramas with removing the handle so I was off to my favourite shop, the local chandlery. At the chandlery while waiting my turn to be served, I tried to avoid looking at the clothes and shoe section – one day I will indulge and buy my new Musto outfit and a new pair of Dubarry shoes, one day … but I digress, where was I? at the counter asking the helpful staff if they have a replacement for my door handle.

Yes they do, but none in stock, so I walk away job half done, waiting for a phone call for when my new handle would arrive.

A few days later the new handle has arrived. The Skipper has a few things on his shopping list, so he’s taken advantage of the situation to pick up my handle and while getting a few things he ‘needed’ from the chandlery.

The first words on his return were ‘don’t drop it in the water’. Why would I do that? The handle is on the boat, I don’t plan on taking it outside the boat, not even in the cockpit. Maybe he knows something that I don’t? Is he referring to the water in the shower bilge? After clarification, he just wanted me to be careful because the handle was in excess of $200! It turns out the handle I found in the catalogue was a different brand to our handle, which is why there was such a big price difference.

The new shower door handle

The new shower door handle

Five days since the handle came off and child free, it was time to put the new lock on, without dropping in the water. After reading the instructions and reviewing the photos I took removing the old handle, I was ready to go.

Ten minutes later the handle was on, all I had to do was test it. There was a heart starting moment when I couldn’t get the door open, the bevel got a little bit stuck in the recess. After a few deep breaths, a turn of the handle and a slight push, the shower door was open. I didn’t think this was a big thing because the bevel was only getting a little bit stuck. So I packed up all the bits and pieces, making sure I kept all the ‘spare’ screws, allen key and instructions, just in case.

Lucky I did …

That night I proudly displayed my work to the Skipper. While acknowledging what a fantastic job I had done he stepped into the shower and closed the door. The bevel got a little bit stuck again. Similar to me, the Skipper was able to get out of the shower by turning the handle and a gentle push. After inspecting my work more closely, he informed me that the bevel on the new handle was the opposite direction to the bevel on the old one. If you look closely at the photos you’ll see the different positions. This is why the handle would turn the bevel but not all the way out of the recess, making it get a ‘little bit stuck’. Thank goodness I kept all the bits and pieces!  It meant I could pack it up and take it back to the chandlery for a replacement (with the bevel the right way around).

Tips on replacing the shower door handle, i.e. things that the instructions won’t tell you:

  1. Bevels can be like belly buttons, some have innies and outies depending on whether the door opens in or out.
  2. Take a photo of each time a bit is removed, just in case the instructions don’t make sense.
  3. Have a cup of tea after removing the lock – for no other reason than its always nice to have a cup of tea.

Because the replacement handle will take about two weeks to come in, in total my quick project (i.e. 48 hours) will turn into one that will take about 4 weeks, . This means we don’t have a handle on the shower door. But that’s ok. We don’t really need it unless we want to have a shower when we are sailing (as the boat will be heeled over). And we’re not planning on having showers while sailing over the next two weeks. Lucky there are plenty of things on the To Do List to keep me busy while I wait for the replacement handle to arrive!

Replacing the shower bilge pump

A few weeks a go, after I put my hand up for taking on the job of getting us and Medina ready to go cruising, I spotted the first maintenance job to tackle on my own.

There was a crack in the rubber of the shower bilge pump. On our boat, the water from the shower goes into a holding tank or bilge where it patiently waits to be pumped out after each shower. It looked like an easy enough job, I just needed to replace the rubber seal. It would only take me an hour or two (including a trip to the chandlery), surely …

shower bilge pump 1

The photo above is our shower, the shower bilge pump is the small black bit just under the ‘seat’

I announced my grand plan to the Skipper who’s response was, ‘yep, all yours’ with a knowing smile. I should have known, we have been together for nearly 10 years, the ‘yep, all yours’ and a knowing smile means trouble. Trouble for me.  It means the Skipper knows exactly what I am about to get myself into and he is sitting back, watching, waiting to see how I go, with two usual outcomes:

  • Outcome A – I manage to do it on my own, which he is proud of me for doing and a job off his to do list; or
  • Outcome B – I need to get him involved, which he loves because he is the hero and gets a job off his to do list.

So the ‘yep, all yours’ means trouble for me and a win:win situation for him.

I waited for a day when Orbit wasn’t on the boat. We have learnt not to tackle any maintenance tasks that involve time, contortions (from working in a small space), mess or tools that will be in his reach (i.e. most maintenance jobs).

Three weeks ago, the day arrived. While I was in the process of removing the pump, the Skipper passed on a handy tip that went along these lines –

Skipper – ‘you many want to use a hair dryer to heat and soften the flexible pipes to make it easier to remove the pump’.

Me – ‘you know I don’t own a hair dryer’

Skipper – ‘I do’ (the Skipper doesn’t have any hair’)

Me – ‘why?’

Skipper – ‘for work, its in the car if you need it’

Me – ‘nope, all good, I already have the pipes off’

Skipper – ‘oh, wasn’t expecting that, its cold’

Once I had the bilge pump in the sunlight and had a better look at it, I realised it wasn’t the rubber that was cracked, it was the plastic where the handle goes in.

old and new bilge shower bilge pump

The old pump is on the left (you can see the crack) and the new one is on the left.

I had to confess to the Skipper that the job was going to be bigger than just replacing the rubber. His response was ‘yep’ and sent me off the Chandlery with ‘my pump’ in pieces and instructions of what to ask for. It turns out that the part that needed replacing isn’t a spare part, so I had to order a new pump and came home with the old pump and a hose clamp as a temporary fix.

A few days later the pump arrived, all excited and child free I set about swapping the pumps over – easy I thought, the old one was easy enough to pull out so the new one should be able to go back in …

Three attempts and three weeks later I have completed my first maintenance task!

The silly pump (I assure you I was calling it other names) just would not fit back in! I tried fitting it in the opposite order to how I pulled out the old pump – no joy. I tried changing the order, trying to work out why the pump would not fit.

There was also the extra challenge of working in a small area. Most of the work was occurring behind the seat in the shower which meant I could not see most of what I was doing. Putting a torch in the area behind the seat did help a bit though. Also having only one access point meant I was working with one hand – luckily I am right handed.

working area for replacing shower bilge pump


The ‘working area’ is lit up by the torch and the only entry point is via the inspection port.

On the forth attempt I worked out that it was the flexible water pipes stopping the pump from laying flush. How do I fix it? A few swear words, coffee and a load of washing later I remembered the words of the Skipper ‘you many want to use a hair dryer to heat and soften the pipes to make it easier to remove the pump’. I also remembered that he has a hair dryer in his car, but he was at work, presumably melting flexible pipes with it. I considered tracking down another live aboard who may have a hairdryer but then I remembered out little heater – surely it could do the same thing? And it did.

new shower bilge pump in place

New shower bilge pump in place

Tips on replacing the shower bilge pump, i.e. things that the instructions won’t tell you:

  1. If your listening to a CD or playlist less than an hour – put it on repeat – for any inaugural maintenance job it will take longer than you think and just when your in a contorted position the music will stop.  But no prizes because you’re not playing twister
  2. Have a bucket ready – there will be water in the pump, it is only shower water but you may not want to wear it.
  3. Wear comfy clothes – you will be getting in contorted positions trying to either see what your doing or screw something together or both at the same time.
  4. Pop a towel over the shower grate – it will stop any dropped screws falling into the bilge (see the section on something things I learnt that I didn’t need to know).
  5. Have a hair dryer handy to realign the flexible pipes – they may not align with the new pump and heating them up makes them easier to manipulate. It is also handy to heat up the rubber seal – it’s the only way I could get it into position.

Things I learnt but didn’t necessarily need to know:

  1. What is at the bottom of the shower bilge (I found this out by searching for dropped screws a number of times).
  2. I now have to clean out the shower bilge as part of cleaning the shower, I can’t know about what is down there and not clean it.

I am not sure if you could use a heater for a hair dryer but I am sure that the Skipper will be proud of me and a job is off our to do list.