Wednesday, August 08, 2012


South Burlington, Vermont

Sometimes I wonder if age is catching up to us rapidly.   Yesterday I did something very stupid.  That adds to a long list of stupid things I've done recently.   Today I seemingly overcame that with a move rather brilliant, if I do say so myself.

Yesterday was my day to do the awaited toilet rebuild.  I've had the parts for two weeks, but the job needed to wait until we were anchored near a public toilet to use while ours was out of commission.  Burlington is that place.

We have a Wilcox and Crittendon head (toilet).  It is a massive, solid bronze item known as the Caddilac of marine heads.  New ones cost more than $1000 today.  However, parts do wear out and it needs service once every year or two.  I bought an overhaul kit with all the replaceable parts.   Yesterday I set out to install them.

The job is unpleasant and dirty.  Not only must one deal with potentially soiled parts, but the head is big, very heavy and awkward.  I'm forced to work with it in our small cabin, which means askiing Libby to leave the boat.  It is better than competing toilets though because I could flush it with clean water first, and I never have to work with black water.

Anyhow, I took everything apart. I took the parts out on deck and cleaned off the encrusted salt and rinsed stuff in buckets of water.  Replaced the old parts with new, and put it all back together.  Wait! When I put it together, I was missing a part.  The nut which seals the stuffing box was missing.  I looked all over and can't find it.   It baffles me how I can lose things so thoroughly on a boat, but I do.

Now what?  Without that part, the head might leak water all the time. I could order a replacement from Theoford (the new owners of Wilcox & Crittendon) but the last time I did that it cost a fortune.  They don't stock parts other than those in the overhaul kit.  If you need one, they find a craftsman.  Give him the original drawings and have him custom cast a new part from bronze.  You can guess how expensive that is.

Not the least of my worries was what to do without a head for the weeks it takes to get the new part.

This morning, I started fresh and I had  a g reat idea.   I would temporarily substutte for the missing nut with something extremely simple and inexpensive -- toilet bowl sealing ring wax.  See the picture.  A sealing ring costs only $1, and I needed only 5 cents worth.   Guess what.  It worked!!! Not only that, it seems to be completely drip free.  The old stuffing box with the (now missing) nut never sealed 100%, there was always a very slow drip of water.  I'm so pleased by myself.

But wait, now I had a leak from the toilet base place.  I had installed a new paper gasket from the overhaul kit, but it leaked around the base anyhow.   I retrieved the old home-made cork gasket that I was going to throw away.  I also wiped both sides of that gasket with more of the wax from the ring.  I worked perfectly.  I'm double pleased by myself.

So, what does it mean when one oscillates between exremes of stupidity, absent mindedness, and clarity and brilliance?   I'm afraid to ask.

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