• Patsy Clark Urschel

Hauling Out, Part Two (The good, the bad, and the septic)

A quick note: This post, more than others, will include a fair bit of technical detail, which may or may not be your thing. This is for the boat or liveaboard crowd and those curious about what the heck is involved and why it takes a bloody eternity. If nothing else, check out the pics!

How does that saying go? "If your septic tank ain't happy, nobody's happy?" Okay, maybe it's not an actual saying, but it should be. Before we left Seattle, there were a number of signs that our septic tank had come to the end of its long (and dare I say crappy?) life. It had started to corrode and leak, so it's easy to understand why remedying this issue was our very first task upon hauling out.

Corroded septic tank, lower right, on its last legs. #Craptacular

A little history might be helpful. When the Endeavour was converted from a prison launch to a working ship back in the early 80s, both the Detroit Diesel engine and the steel septic tank were dropped in the engine room before the salon above it was built out.

A former life of the Endeavour: The T-boat JP Madigan, dry docked during its stint at McNeil Island Prison, where it ferried prisoners and guards back and forth between the island and the mainland

Early eighties: the Detroit Diesel engine goes in through first the top deck via crane, down to the salon, where a hole was opened to descend down one more level to the engine room

As it stands today, there is no egress for either item without an alarming amount of dismantling. Fast forward to now. While we could use block and tackle to remove the tank from the bilge, we couldn't get it off the boat without some creative thinking. We elected to cut the damn tank in half and by turn, lift each half via block and tackle up and out through the wet locker door from the engine, because that's the most creative thing we could muster at 10:00 pm. It's difficult to describe what sawing a black water tank in half is like, as is the aftermath (may the blog gods get between me and every shit metaphor there is, for everyone's sake).

Bill used a Sawzall to execute the deed, and without going into a lot of unnecessary detail, let's just say the whole task was unsavory. At one point, as we were lifting one of the halves through the wet locker, Bill looked me in the eye and said, "This proves we're in love." While I don't recall our wedding vows being explicit in this matter, I readily agreed.

Hilariously, we decided to wait until dark to hurl each piece overboard onto the tarp spread beneath the boat. At a height of about 19 feet, each half made a satisfying/horrifying clunk on the ground and that sound alone made us feel both giddy and deranged. Boat people are weird.

Entertaining as that was, we needed to turn to finding a good replacement - something that would last our lifetimes, had easier access, and was less likely to corrode. We landed on fiberglass and Bill found Larry, who came by, made the measurements, and went off to design and fabricate a custom replacement. Because the same egress limitations also pertained to ingress, we asked Larry if he could make the tank in two pieces that he could assemble and tape once inside the boat. He agreed, but at the end of the day, we realized without the risk of spillage, we could hoist the tank up and over the rail and carry it down our interior stairs, as is. Isn't she purty?

We wanted to make sure that we set the tank down in a clean bilge, so that became the next job: scraping, cleaning, rattle gunning rust spots followed by acid treatments and a double coat of two-part epoxy, followed by two-part polyurethane. We bought 1/8 inch rubber matting to cut into wide strips so the black water tank rested on them rather than steel. Dealing with the bilge was probably the hardest job of our entire month-long haul out. The spaces are small but incredibly hard to get to and we had to contort ourselves into these tiny, inhospitable spots while wearing respirators and gloves. I'd share a video that Bill took of me while I was doing this work, but it is riddled with profanity and overall, excessive pouting is not a good look for anyone. I was so fed up that day, I packed a bag and spent a solo night in the comfort of a hotel. Sometimes you just have to put a little space between yourself and a dirty bilge, you know?

Bill removed a redundant 80 lb raw water valve, also victoriously hurled overboard after the block and tackle lifted it out with 4 coaxing hands:

He also replaced the main raw water system and selected steel pipes for the outbound hot water and ABS pipe for inbound raw water.

The biggest task by far, however, was getting the hull in good shape. When we hauled out two years ago, we had an audio gauge (basically an ultrasound) hull inspection but the one small area that needed replacing that year was found via visual inspection not the audio gauge. We skipped the audio gauge this time and used a rock pick and 12" spike from the outside and from the inside to test for weakness. Steel boats actually rust from the inside out, usually where water collects at a blocked limber hole, so knowing where to test is obvious from the inside, if you have access.

Overall, we were delighted by the condition of the hull, but we found four small areas that were concerning. Bill cut these areas out and systematically tested the edges, making sure he was excising the thinning areas of steel completely. He prepped the corners for the welder (sharper corners increase the likelihood of cracks, so a more rounded corner is best), then made templates so the steel could be cut to the correct specs.

A note about welding steel hulls: there are two schools of thought on approaching a hull weld: one can either do an overlay, where you weld a larger plate directly over the impacted steel, sort of like a bandage on top of a wound, or you can inlay, where you're welding an impacted area fully, both inside and out, after excising it. While an overlay is quicker and eliminates the need for exact measurement or templates, detractors of this approach feel that while overlay welds are serviceable in a pinch, they open the possibility for corrosion between the plates. In other words, because you're welding over the plate, you no longer have access to ANY of the steel underneath and it's pretty important to be able to inspect every aspect of your vessel in order to ensure proper maintenance.

While we waited for Ray to get these pieces welded, we continued prepping the hull. Bill removed the old aluminum anodes, appropriate for brackish or mixed fresh/salt water and welded on zincs instead, since we'd be in mostly salt water for the foreseeable future. These anodes are typically referred to as "sacrificial" as they take the corrosion, sparing the hull, shaft, propeller, rudder, etc.

Aside from sanding the entire hull and identifying the problem spots, we acid-treated then applied one coat of two-part epoxy followed by a fairing compound to fill the rare, non-rusted surface pocks. We then painted three coats of two-part epoxy (Sea Hawk), followed by two coats of anti-fouling paint on the whole show. After Bill and I painted the first coat of epoxy, we found Steven, who has been painting in the shipyard for years. He finished the remaining coats, to our relief and gratitude, with precision and skill. This freed us up to get on with the very long list of tasks beyond the hull. For those interested, we used 10 gallons of both two-part epoxy and anti-fouling paint.

We removed the rubber bumper from the swim step to refurbish and clean (you can see the curved piece after it was removed in the pics above). With a little suspension help from the top deck, Bill removed the bolts first and then chiseled the bumper free. It was up to me to scrape and sand smooth before reattaching and caulking. Bill got the rattle gun out for the swim step itself, then applied acid followed by several coats of epoxy. Finally, we rolled on a coat of textured, anti-skid paint.

We also installed the bow thruster propellers and pins and re-threaded the shaft. Although we've been without for the past seven years and Bill truly believes he's a better captain not relying on one, I sure would appreciate having it for docking in tough spots or stiff winds.

If you look at the orange top of the jack stand above, you'll see a square next to it that's unpainted. Towards the end of the haul out, we wanted to move every jack stand to treat the area underneath. Bill and I systematically replaced them one by one to maintain the support and each square received the same treatment: sanding, epoxy, and anti-fouling paint. As one might imagine, this is not a task to approach lightly. It still boggles my mind that this support system actually works and messing with it in any way certainly creates a lump in my throat, even as I write.

As you can see in the pic above, I taped the boot stripe and prepped that for several coats of Interlux polyurethane. Once completed, I could move on to painting the vessel draft marks on the bow starboard and both sides of the stern.

Smaller tasks were tackled simultaneously with the big projects. One of them was refurbishing our paravanes or stabilizers. While modern yachts use gyro stabilizers or active fin to smooth out their ride in heavier seas, they are expensive and a little higher tech than the Endeavour's overall vibe (which might be described as "old school"). Paravanes are rigged to both port and starboard, and are only deployed when the seas get gnarly. When they're in use, the booms (each one typically longer than the boat’s beam) are lowered nearly to horizontal.

What's on the end of the booms are fish, or delta-shaped sections of heavy wood or metal, that when immersed, balance a rolling boat. Paravanes are relatively inexpensive, simple, reliable, and effective and used to be the norm among long-distance powerboat cruisers until a couple of decades ago. I will say they are a pain in the ass to to haul in when you're ready to bring them up, especially if you're coming in to port and the seas around it are still rough. They're heavy, unwieldy, and another moving part that can break under strain, but when you're traversing the Washington or Oregon coast, even in the summer, they are enormously appreciated.

There were a large handful of interior projects, too. Before we left Seattle, we had a carpenter (who, along with Bill, ably installed our hardwood floors) construct about a dozen pieces that matched the mahogany and white cedar we have throughout the boat. Every room on the boat has beautiful cabinetry with this combination of wood. We had louvered doors made for the bunk room, doors for the stereo cabinet, doors for the new linen cupboard where the old washer/dryer were, and shelves for Bill's onboard office. Each piece had to be sanded and varnished (for interior wood we used Interlux's Compass Gold) and fitted with the appropriate hardware before it could be installed. I did this project in between others when I needed a break from gross tasks. I've been upping my vanish game and this was a great practice ground.

In addition, I also rehabbed our banquette seating in the salon. This might be a good moment to take an historical look at the salon over the years...

The salon interior tear down, before the two left-most windows were swapped out for a wider one.

Post rehab - early 80s, baby. Brown shag and all.


Our old washer and dryer was a combined unit made by Splendide in Italy. I never liked it as it forced smaller loads and it took between 3-4 hours to wash and dry without actually drying completely. It was quicker to go to the laundromat, do three loads, fold all the clothes, and put them away in the time it took to do one small load with the Splendide. So we elected to replace it with a Samsung compact washer and vented dryer. We also chose to relocate their operations to the engine room rather than the hallway head. Bill welded a frame for the set to perch side by side, which was in turn, welded to the interior hull. That freed up badly needed space for storage in the head.

Bill fabricates a frame for the washer and dryer

We ordered the appliances in March but because of the pandemic, they were unable to fulfill the order until May. Lowe's was kind enough to deliver to us at the shipyard and we once again used block and tackle to lift them to the fore deck until we were ready to bring them in and install. These pieces had to be dropped from the large fore deck hatch on the doghouse, so it's not uncomplicated. More block and tackle and a lot of strain on our muscles, but it was worth it.

Doghouse hatch closed and open. While we were at it, I dug out the old rubber gasket and replaced it.

I'd be remiss if I didn't provide an update on the Bella/Dusty romance (Besty? Dulla?). It was enough to know that her suitor could climb a ladder, but ride on a forklift, too? Be still her beating heart. He still eats all her food, drinks all her water and bogarts all her best dog bones, but love prevails.

After 28 days on the hard, we returned to the water and immediately moored on the linear dock. We would spent an additional three weeks there to complete the finishing touches. We'll be heading to Alaska next, via the San Juan Islands, so stay tuned for updates from the sea.

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