Water Water Everywhere

2013-10-13

Our travels have taken us to Watertown, Lake Ontario, Sackets Harbor, and Vermont, where a stiff rain caused Bernadette to take on some water weight.


We made our way to Watertown, New York after our stay in Poughkeepsie. Watertown lies in north-central New York State near Lake Ontario and the Canadian border. We knew we were going to be pushing our luck with the possibility of severe weather, but the wins included seeing friends, getting to yet another Great Lake, and experiencing more real-deal autumn.

Complete Set

Lake Ontario

Our campground was on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario. Jane and Tommy both got their splash on in the third Great Lake of our adventure. This was just the beginning, and the most enjoyable, of our water-oriented adventures. For the record, the Great Lakes are beautiful and restorative. They emanate peaceful calm. When combined with the rising and falling sun, it about forces you into a state of reflection -- like a very gentle half-nelson.

Gray #2

On our travel day to Watertown, we noticed that Bernadette's gray #2 was failing to drain. Bernadette has four water tanks: one "white" for holding fresh water, two "gray" tanks for kitchen and shower/sink drains, and one "black" tank for the commode. Suffice that all the water going down the kitchen sink was getting stuck somewhere in Bernadette's underbelly.

This triggered frantic research into possible causes of Bernadette's constipation. It boiled down to two possibilities.

  1. Broken release valve
  2. Severe clog at release valve

In order to inspect #1, I had to look at both ends of the release valve mechanism. The front-end of the mechanism is the handle that is pulled when it is time to send gray #2's contents out to the sewer. That end turned out to be relatively easy to inspect -- I found the magic access panel in Bernadette's garage. The front-end looked a-okay. To reach the back-end of the release valve, I had to create my own access panel. This involved cutting a flap out of the plastic underbody. I was pleased that my improvised access panel ended up providing access to the valve. I was even more pleased that there was nothing wrong with the valve.

With the release valve mechanism vindicated, confidence of a clog grew. There were two possible causes for this clog: bacon grease and coffee grounds, or plastic disc. Plastic disc, you ask? Here is where my rage boils over. Apparently it is quite common, if not universal, that at RV manufacture time when holes are drilled into gray tanks for input and output drains, the small plastic cut-out just drops into the tank and is left there. This cut-out happens to be the perfect size and shape to 100% clog the drain. Apparently it is common for drains to get clogged in this manner days, months, or even years later.

Regardless of the nature of the clog, my solution was the same: push water back up from the sewer until the clog gave way. Turns out there is an apparatus for doing just that. After 15 minutes of jamming water back up the drain, the clog was no longer.

Lesson learned: sacrifice a chicken weekly so that the plastic disc does not fall back into the drain hole.

Vermont

From Watertown, we charged east into Vermont. Upon arrival, we were greeted with copious rain. The excitement began with backing Bernadette uphill into her spot. With the truck wheels on grass, there was insufficient traction to push Bernadette's bloated self up hill. After several minutes of awkward restarts and divots out of the lawn, a kind stranger came to the rescue. With his help (driving the truck), we were able to finally maneuver Bernadette into place.

Complete Set

Slides

It rained all night. In the morning, we noticed wet carpet, then wet corners. My rage returned. Clearly water from the outside was getting on the inside. With some quick research on the Internet, I learned that this was Really Bad®.

I ascended to Bernadette's roof. Having clued-up on what to look for, I immediately found several problems that could lead to this type of leaking. Most notably, there was bad tape and bad caulk.

To make a long story short and to cut to the chase, my time in Vermont was spent on the roof of Bernadette, in Home Depot, and at an RV store that was not particularly close. New tape and new caulk later, I believe we have a prayer that outside water will stay outside. Fingers are crossed.

But wait, there's more!

One of Bernadette's features is a supplementary water inlet that routes the incoming city water hose into the black tank for the purpose of providing an extra clean-out/flush. I assume it is obvious why flushing out the black tank would be good.

We apply the black tank flush feature as part of our departure procedure. I shot straight past rage to sad defeat when we noticed the large pool of water forming on the living room floor in front of the electrical breaker box. Since the only water flowing was the black flush, the leak was obviously related to that. It was not at all obvious what kind of failure would cause the living room to flood. Jumping back on the Internet, I discovered that there is an anti-siphon valve built into the black flush system and that there was a secret access panel in the shower to get to this valve. Sure enough, when the black flush was going, this valve was dropping water into Bernadette's belly.

Another day, another repair. Sigh

Posted 2013-10-13 by Pete Grayson in misc.
pics travelog repair