Features June 27, 2011

Install a Water Saver: A Galley Foot Pump

I’m very lackadaisical at home about water consumption, as I’m sure most people are. I’ve gotten into the habit of letting the water run while brushing teeth, washing hands, and shaving. On those rare occasions that I wash a dish or two, the tap is running at continuous full speed for rinsing. The funny thing is, I don’t know why I do it. I guess it’s just a combination of laziness and the erroneous notion that fresh water is an unlimted commodity, that we’ll never run out.

Each weekend at the boat I have to make an abrupt change from my land-based lifestyle, especially when away from the dock. Water becomes a precious commodity, in my case limited to a mere 65 gallons at each fill up. The bad habits from home have to cease immediately. The faucet is turned on and off more times during a boating weekend that during an entire month ashore. A shower that would normally consume 50 gallons, including an entire tank of hot water, is now limited to a one gallon wet-down and a one-gallon rinse-off. Even the icebox sump is scavenged for the precious fluid.

Modern boatbuilders, in their desire to make boats as appealing and comfortable as possible, have made it inherently difficult to conserve water. Plumbing fixtures work just the same as those at home. The demand pressure water pump is quick to maintain pressure and oh so quiet, almost as good as city water. Of course there’s hot water aboard, even though we have to sacrifice a quart of cold down the drain before we feel the warmth. The obvious solution to better onboard water management is a manual pump, either hand or foot operated. I recognized this face a while ago, but felt that manual water pumps were for day sailors, not for bona fide cruising sailboats. Pressure water is something you graduate to after paying your dues messing with plastic water jugs and on-deck sun showers. I for one certainly didn’t want to regress-even though it wouls be nice for once to have cruising agendas planned around something other than the size of the water tank.

I recently chartered a 32” boat for a one-week vacation cruise. The boat was equipped with pressure hot and cold water pumps, as well as foot pumps, in both head and galley. This was the perfect time to test their efficiency and the feasibility of installation on my boat.

The foot pumps worked well, delivering plenty of water (they pump on both the up and down strokes), and were easy to operate (especially with my size 13 foot). The best feature was being able to use the sink without using hands. No need to turn a faucet on or off; simply start or stop pumping with a foot. Pumping lightly would deliver a trickle, and more aggressive pumping would result in a major flood.

After having passed the charter test, I decided to install one foot pump in the galley of my boat – seemingly straightforward installation. Hand operated pumps were written off since counter space is at a premium on my boat. Out came the mail order catalogs. The Whale Gusher (the price $49.95, typically available for about $37 through catalogs) was the one I recognized. Cheaper imported pumps that looked the same were available, as well as the essentially similar Wilcox-Crittenden model 6500 at about the same list price, but I decided to go with the pump I was familiar with.

I also selected a Whale Telescopic Swivel Spout (model FT1102, list price $7.65). The spout tales up little space on the countertop, swivels from side to side, and telescopes up and down. The tip can be twisted to turn the spout itself on and off, but make sure that an overzealous visitor doesn’t try to get water from a turned –off spout. The ensuing explosion would no doubt damage something.

After ordering the pump from Defender Industries in New Rochelle, NY, I decided I needed a pump in the head as well as the galley. I envisioned the galley installation to be a snap, but the head unit would undoubtedly challenge my abilities.

The pumps arrived without instructions or installation templates. Presumably the manufacturer feels they’re simple to figure out.

I started with the galley pump. It was to go inside the sink cabinet directly beneath the cabinet door. As with any installation, I first thoroughly eyeballed the area to make sure I would have no problems before starting to cut and drill. I temporarily hooked up a water hose to the pump and positioned it as best I could to make sure there was adequate clearance.

The postion of the ½’ hose barbs on the pump can be adjusted and rotated to accommodate hose coming in at virtually any angle.

I next pulled the runner foot panel off the pump shaft arm and made a small template of the size slot needed in the cabinet base for the pumping arm. The slot was cut with a saber saw, and had to be expanded several times before the clearances were suitable.

The slot size is critical: too short and you won’t get the full benefit of the stroke; too long and you’ll have a sloppy-looking installation.

With the slot cut, the nest step is to secure the pump to the cabin sole. The pump body has mounting tabs molded into the plastic casting, so mounting can be done two ways: either directly to a horizontal surface (in this case the cabin sole inside the locker), or to a vertical surface such as a bulkhead. Either way, the pump must be thoroughly secured with large self tapping screws to through bolts, since the pump spring is quite stiff and pumping legs are usually quite strong.

With the pump in place, I next snaked water hose from the water tank back to the pump. Since each of my water tanks has only one outlet, a plastic “T” feeds one foot pump. The hose is then connected to the suction side of the pump, and another length of hose is attached to the discharge side. The pump is not marked, so determine which is the inlet and which is the outlet before final installation of the hose.

I selected a spot for the swivel spout on the countertop, making sure clearances were ok. You should position the spout close enough to the sink so that water doesn’t spill onto the counter once you’re pumping. Be sure to check the area under the counter for clearance before drilling the 1” hole required for mounting the spout.

The pout was mounted and the discharge line from the pump attached to it using a hose clamp. All other connections should be clamped and the hose supported with nylon clips where necessary.

I then moved on to tackle the head pump. I initially planned to install the head pump in the fiberglass liner that forms both the sole for the head and the base for the head vanity. After a thorough investigation with a flashlight however, I had second thoughts. The pump was too large and the area too inaccessible. At this point I began to think about returning the second pump and forgetting about the head altogether, until I began poking around inside the vanity cabinet. This cabinet is a fiberglass molding that begins where the hull inner liner ends. Although mounting in this area would put the pump pedal higher than I preferred, I felt that reaching the pedal would not be a major inconvenience. Working through the tiny vanity door and underneath a non-removable shelf, I would be working totally by feel, since I couldn’t get my head in to see the area. In addition, the pump would need to be mounted vertically with all the holes for the through bolts drilled blindly.

The biggest problem was the pump shaft arm. There wasn’t enough clearance to simply cut a slot and pass the arm through. Due to the close quarters inside, the arm and pump would have to be manhandled into position once a more-or-less arbitrary slot was cut. I judged as best as I could, held my breath, and the cuts. After several attempts to insert the pump and several minor hand lacerations on the sharp fiberglass edges inside, the pump wouldn’t fit.

After a minor temper tantrum, it seemed that the only alternative was to trim the pump body. Indeed, the pump can be trimmed of several inches of superfluous material with a hacksaw. Just be extremely careful or you’ll end up with a leaking pump and the bill for replacement.

Trimming the pump was just what was needed to get adequate clearance. For good measure-and because it still took a major effort to trial-fit the pump-I shortened the pump arm by about ½”. This made subsequent fitting a veritable snap, and the rubber pedal still fit just as easily as before.

Next, I had to secure the pump to the vertical wall of the vanity surface. Since this is made of relatively thin fiberglass, I decided to use stainless steel machine screws with nuts and lock washers instead of wall tappers. The three mounting holes were drilled at their approximate places using a crude template. After test fitting the pump and attached, once again blindly, with copious quantities of cursing and hand gouging. The spout was mounted just like the one in the galley, again making sure the position was right for the sink top and clearance beneath the counter.

With the installation complete, the systems were pumped up and tested for leaks. Each performed as expected and all connections were tight and dry. I would recommend that the tips of each of these spouts be turned to the “off” position after each use, since the pressure water pump has a tendency to cycle when they’re left on.

The twin foot pumps stretch a full tank of water a long way, and yet they still allow you to use the existing pressure water system when conservation is not required. Thinking of putting in some additional water tankage? Go out and pick up a couple of these foot pumps and see for yourself. You’ll save plenty of both cash and water.

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