October 23, 2012 by Last Star blog
Zip Strip….more like Zip Nip
Ok, so if you Google zip strip without the proper filters you might get an unexpected surprise. Truth be told I think they are really called “Zip Tie” but made of a nylon “strip”. Where I’m from we called them zip-strips. Now if you ever used these you may know that it is customary to clip off the extra piece of nylon that you tug on to tighten the zip-tie. It removes the little tail, gives a neater appearance and leaves a short razor like barb to punish the next person who comes along to do work after you. It is a nice little feature and a sweet revenge to foist on someone who has to come along and correct your work. The zip-tie is a favorite of the marine industry. In fact I would venture to guess that there are about 10 zip-strips/foot on my boat–easily. They are everywhere. Some come with a built in fastener to screw to the wood, deck, fiberglass to help hold in place whatever you are “zipping”.
Here is a nice little pic of my arms after doing a little chore below the sole (floor of the boat inside) on the hot water heater. Good fun huh!? I don’t know the way to avoid this. I guess I could wear sleeves. Thing is when you are working and straining to work in these tight places the pain of the contorted position, the angles, the effort are much greater than the little “death of a 1,000 cuts” from the zip-strips.
So Thursday we are cleaning up to go visit some friends and I’m washing my hands and I notice the water is not very warm? Derp? I also recall Patricia calling the whaa-mbulance the night before about a cold shower or some such nonsense. I look at the AC panel and see that the hot-water heater is not registering its usual 9 amp draw so I know something ELSE is amiss now. Now we could be low on water so I surmise that maybe the system has a self protection mode to keep the element from melting if there is no water on it; maybe some float switch. I now have to fill the tank(s) so that process begins. Once the tanks are full (I’ve gone and used the marina shower in the interim) I try the heater switch again. Still nothing. Now we are getting a bit pressed for time. I pull the ladder,
lift the floor-boards and peek at the top of the Raritan heater….hmmm…nothing seems amiss? I find the main wire (looks like romex but a marine grade–read as 3 x the price) and give it a little wiggle. Oh neat! Fireworks! Sparks, a nice little burning insulation smell….me jumping across the open floor to reach the panel and gang-load the breakers to the off position. The sound of my heart beating, the sound of the Admiral saying “what’s that smell?”, the little voice in my head saying WTF now! Ok, well we’re done for today, we’ll fix this tomorrow.
The next day after spending the night at our friend’s house and then driving back to Havelock I’m ready to tackle this at the crack of 1100. Patricia has to take the cats for Rabies “titers” so she piles in the truck with the cats (that’s a whole other post on that blood bath) and I start peeling back the onion.
I pull off the cover to the thermostat and there is a few charred wires from the previous day’s light show. The thermostat looks ok; it was working the day before so should be ok. What worries me is the condition of the corroded fitting on the element where the wire broke and caused the short circuit. I get my PB blaster to start soaking the corrosion and maybe free the fitting and get a new wire on it. If I can’t get it all apart here’s the parts break down and my motivation. Thermostat-$86, element-$35, neither are in stock at West Marine (joke of a store, only good for Sperry Topsiders and $1500 inflatable dinghies–they’d sell you one of each a day if they could.). A new 6 Gal Raritan with heat exchanger for the engine water is $900! yep I’m motivated to fix this for sure. Now getting the screw off the element is gonna be tough–especially doing it without breaking off the fitting. I only get so far and then I need Patricia’s “third” hand as I cannot hold the flange, put pressure on the socket and turn it with only two hands. If I turn too forcefully without the third support the thing will break off and I will need a new element as a minimum. Not sure if I can remove the old element and then I’m staring at the new tank and 9 bills large. Patricia comes home from the abattoir (Vet’s office) and lends a hand with the vice-grip. After more PB Blaster (if you are using WD-40 for these types of things throw that away and buy PB) and the most gentle bits of “force” applied the screw begins to move. After another quarter hour it is nearly free and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and this might work. What I don’t see is the screw hanging by its last thread and when I adjust my grip to continue unscrewing it I do HEAR the sound of it falling into the bilge. Arrrggghhh!!!! Well how about a magnet? We try that for about 5 minutes with no assurance that the bolt is not Stainless steel or bronze–both not magnetic. So I look at Patricia and tell her she’s going fishing! Always the trooper she “strips” down to her underwear (she was wearing white and felt that she might get a bit dirty) and doing extra laundry on the boat is a huge pain. So now I’m getting a show (Sorry, no photos, this is a family blog, NSFW is not an option here) and some useful technical training at the same time. Patricia is rolling around on the floor in her skivvies, with her arm buried up to the shoulder reaching into the bilge looking for a tiny little screw. Eureka she finds it!! The next few minutes was spent putting on new connectors, stripping more wires and trying to work in the confined space between the water heater and the AC all the while fighting the nipping razor zip-strips. Once all the wires are stored and properly adjusted, the cover replaced and everything “triple checked” we throw the circuit breaker. SWEET! 9 amps, water heating! YES! fixed for nothing. Ok, maybe a little blood, sweat, and nearly tears.
Oh? what’s that dripping? Yes with all the effort and wrangling we “bumped” one of the hoses and a fitting is now leaking–oh for Pete’s sake. We fixed that the next day, six stores to find the right fitting. Remember my adage; “two things a day…” that’s about all you EVER get.