Sol Purpose has no Sole (part one)

Back in January we had tried to convert one of the water tanks to a diesel tank to increase our motoring range.  Leaks in the tanks put a stop to this project.  We knew that the issue would have to be addressed eventually and so we have used our 6 week stay in New Bern to remove the cabin sole, remove both the old water tanks, measure them and have new tanks made.  As we are leaving to go to the UK for 4 months over the summer, I wanted to get as much of the work completed before we left so that we could hopefully take no more than 2 or 3 weeks to get it all installed and the sole back down before heading South in the fall.

The project had many issues to face, not the least of which was that the sole is fixed in placed and tabbed to the hull.  The furniture sitting on the sole would also have to be removed first as this is also tabbed into the hull.

It took half a day to remove the port settee “uprights”.  I did not want to remove the seating surface as this is what is tabbed to the hull behind the seat backs.  As the seating surface was supported at the hull, galley bulkhead and forward cabin bulkhead I was not concerned about leaving the settee this way over the summer.

The removal of the sole took another two days.  Firstly I removed the trim around the inspection hatches and then took the sockets for the table legs out.

With this done it was time to remove all the fittings and hoses from the tanks to make sure that, while cutting out the sole, I did not damage any of them.  I then used a jigsaw to cut out the sole above the tanks, removing as little sole as possible.  I had to cut two inches off the jigsaw blade so it would not bottom out on the top of the tanks.

The cross members that border the fore and aft edges of the tanks were not where I expected to find them.  I thought the forward member would be directly under the bulkhead between the salon and forward cabin but it was about 4 inches aft of this.  I expected the aft member would be under the bulkhead between the galley and the salon.  It was about 3 inches aft of this.  This caused 2 sets of problems.  The first was that the removal of the aft water tank was difficult as I could not pull it directly upwards due to the galley bulkhead overhang.  The second was that the sole was 1 inch thick and was comprised of a 3/4″ marine plywood sub-floor and a 1/4″ teak and holly plywood glued on to the sub-floor.  When replacing the teak and holly part of the floor I would have to line it up with the teak and holly sole that was not removed.  The original join between the teak and holly in each area was the doorway through to the forward cabin and the bulkhead between the galley and the salon.  I would therefore have to route down all the teak and holly above sub-floor that was not being removed in the salon area to bring it level with the new sub-floor.

With the sole removed, I was able to see that the tanks were held in place with spray foam which held the tanks away from the walls and off the hull.  Both tanks had fill holes in the top of the starboard walls.  This caused an issue with the aft tank removal and so I had to cut the fill off.  I wanted to have the fill holes in the top of the new tanks so this would not prove an issue on reinstallation.

tanks 018

aft tank fill fitting removed

I now had to pry the old tanks out of the holes.  There was not enough room to get anything of any strength down the side of the tanks so I cut four slots in the top of each tank near the corners.  I was then able to insert a crowbar into these slots and pry the tanks out with the assistance of a car jack and fulcrum

tanks 014

crowbar and slots

tanks 016

technique to lift tanks out

With the tanks removed I could clean out the area beneath the tanks ready for the reinstallation of the new ones.  The space was surprisingly clean.  I had expected dead cockroaches and dust bunnies galore as the mast base drains through this area to the bilge but there was very little to clean up.

tanks 002

Now that the tanks were out I was able to clean up all the edges, route down the teak and holly where required and cut and fit sections of wood to screw the new sub-floor into around the perimeter of the holes.  With this done I bought 2 pieces of 3/4″ marine plywood and cut them to fit the hole.  This was problematic as the hole was not rectangular due to the inability to make cuts where desired.

The sub-floor was screwed down temporarily to allow us to move around the  boat till the new tanks arrived.

The second major issue regarding the project was that I was not able to find a manufacturer that would custom fabricate a plastic tank for both the water and fuel tanks.  I had to order the fuel tank in aluminum which is not an issue as our existing aluminum tank is 22 years old and has no signs of pitting whatsoever.  Boyd Welding in Ocala, Florida took the order for the fuel tank and was very helpful through all stages of the process.  I sent them the original design drawings that I was able to get from George McCreary at Caliber Yachts.  I tweaked the drawings to reflect the fittings required for a diesel tank as opposed to the original water tank.

I did not want to make the water tank out of aluminum as this is what led to pitting in the original tanks.  I was able to order one made from polypropylene from Dura Weld in Lake Worth Florida.  They were also very helpful through the whole process.

We intend to haul the boat just before we head to the UK to get the crack in the skeg repaired and also get a bottom job done.  We will leave the boat on the hard until we return at the start of November.  Luckily Tom at Wayfarers Marina and Boatyard agreed to accept delivery of the tanks and store them in his warehouse until we return.

I spent the next week ordering all the hoses required for the new fuel tank along with all fittings.  I will run all hoses that I can before we leave.  I plan to install two 3-way fuel valves.  One will be used to choose which tank supplies fuel to the engine.  The other will be used to ensure that the fuel return line goes back to the same tank.  These will be attached under the inspection hatch for the aft fuel tank.

Part two of this project will be completed when we return from the UK…


14 thoughts on “Sol Purpose has no Sole (part one)

  1. Joy Merritt

    Wow!!!!! You are one talented guy. I’m sure your helper, which wasn’t mentioned, did her share too. Tom and I could not of completed the physical part of the job. I was wondering how hot was this as you completed in the heat and humidity of North Carolina? It is really hot here and of course I wish we were in Maine. I too am surprised there wasn’t any dead bugs once you lifted it out. This only shows that Debbie does a hell of a job in cleaning the inside of the boat.
    I am so happy you two are going home for an extended visit. I am excited to see pictures of your visit. GOOD JOB !!!! I wonder how much money you saved by repairing yourself.

    1. solpurpose Post author

      Of course Debs helped out. It has been hard work but I think we will have saved several thousand by the time the project is over. I will employ the skills of a carpenter to help with the installation of the teak and Holly as my wood working skills lean more to the side of butchery than carpentry 😀

  2. Joy Merritt

    I am still amazed how far you were able to go with the 2 of you. How is the weather during all this hard work?

    1. solpurpose Post author

      hot, humid and wet. I had not expected it to be this hot this early in the year! Hopefully will get enough good days to finish off the outside projects before we leave in July

  3. susan Ray

    I hope y’all have a great time in the UK and some well deserved rest. We miss you terribly! I am glad that you are doing so well. We will be in St. John again at the end of November. Have a great visit with your family. Susan

  4. Linda Johnson

    You are a genius to even accept this challenge of the tanks ! Kudos to you both. Very interesting reading. Will miss the blogs while you are in the UK. take care. LJ

    1. solpurpose Post author

      It was a necessity. Trust me, we would not have attempted the project unless absolutely warranted. We will write a couple of blogs while we are in the UK as well so watch this space 😀

  5. Sandra nirton

    We are enjoying your journey with you!! We have since been to Croatia for two weeks and that was great. Keep posting even the U.K. Glad you are getting home for a bit.
    Sandra and Rick Norton

    1. solpurpose Post author

      Hey you guys. How was Croatia? I take it you chartered over there? I have been told it is some of the most beautiful scenery in the Med. We will try to do a couple of blogs whilst in the UK to keep everyone up to date.

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  7. Jeff Huntington

    I read with great interest your experience, thus far, with replacing your water tanks. I have been wondering for a long time what kind of job that would be. You are to be commended for tackling the job yourself; although I’m pretty handy, I would never have had the courage to undertake it myself.

    What is the hull number of your boat? I was the original owner of 4054, and when I discovered the corrosion in the water tanks (it was clogging up the input filter to my pressure water system) I knew that the tanks would eventually leak and need to be replaced. I devised an pretty ingenious (if I do say so myself) strainer system for the end of the pick-up tubes to keep the corrosion out of the water system. And the tanks had not started to leak by the time I parted with the boat.

    I have written a book about our five year cruising experience that you might find interesting.
    Check it out at my website.

    Jeff Huntington

    1. solpurpose Post author


      Our hull number is 4066 so only a little newer than yours. As we have yet to finish the tank project I will withhold on commenting on the ease or complexity of the job 🙂
      As I am sure you know, the demo part is always easier than the build.

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