Moore 2 Life:Exploring the waterways

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Boat Systems:Plumbing

This is all about the waterworks, central heating, sinks, basins, baths and showers and toilets. All pipe work is usually made of plastic. Copper and solder joints are not suitable on boats due to the vibration when the engine is running.


This is usually up front under the deck. It contains about 150 to 200 gallons. (500 ltrs) Much more than this and the weight of water will lower the bow too far into the canal. Ideally you need the bow slightly higher than the stern. This amount of water can last up to two weeks for two people. Best practice is to top it up frequently with fresh water which usually takes less than half an hour.

Integral Tank

This is formed as part of the bow and made of steel. It needs to be painted inside so has an inspection hatch. You must use the correct fresh water grade potable bitumen paint.

Separate Tank

Usually made of stainless steel but slightly less capacity than the integral tank. Needs no painting inside.


A pump, with a pressure switch, produces the water pressure on the boat. It is usually installed near the water tank. An air filled accumulator is fitted to the water pipe near the pump to prevent the pump hammering. A filter on the pump stops debris from going through the pump. This needs cleaning occasionally. When you turn on a tap the pump will maintain the pressure while delivering the water.


Hot Tank, or Calorifier

This tank is usually under the bed near the back of the boat. The bed benefits from the warmth even though the tank is well insulated. It can also be fitted in a wardrobe but this would be a waste of accessible space. The tank has two heating coils inside, one fed from the engine and the other from another source of heat. It can also be fitted with an immersion heater for use when connected to a land line. It is fed from the cold water supply and delivers hot water to the taps. The usual 10 gallons should get very hot after running the engine for about half an hour.

Coal / Wood Fires

These are very effective at keeping the boat warm. The chimney provides ventilation and gets rid of condensation quickly. Coal is available from boaters or town suppliers. The best type of coal for your fire is discovered by trial and error. You do need a fair amount of storage space for the fuel. Wood can be 'found', sawn and chopped into logs. They do not normally provide hot running water. A kettle of water left on top can remain just off the boil.

Diesel Fires

These are similar to the coal fires in that they are in the saloon and have a chimney. Oil is drip fed into a pot and once ignited vaporizes and should produce a blue flame. The amount of fuel used is about 0.2 litre an hour. The design of the chimney has some effect on the way the oil burns. If too short, not enough air is drawn through to produce the blue flame. A double skinned outer chimney keeps the flue gasses warm and encourages the draw.

Back Boiler

The fires can be fitted with a back boiler to feed a few radiators to spread the heat to the other end of the boat. Large diameter pipe allows the heat to move by convection. Small pipe requires a reliable pump. There must be a safety pressure release valve near the fire. Unfortunately if the pump fails the boiler tank may explode without that safety valve.

Diesel Boilers

These are fitted in the engine bay and plumbed into the central heating system to heat water and radiators. They use a lot of battery power to startup and run. Once the temperature has reached a preset heat the boiler goes into lo heat mode. Best not to run for less than an hour otherwise the boiler may fail to startup. The usual failures are caused by a dirty glow plug, loose or broken fuses.

Gas Heater

These must all be room sealed. In other words they use air from outside the boat and vent the exhaust outside. They use a lot of gas. Some just heat water instantaneously while others can heat radiators and provide hot water.


These can be gravity fed or have a circulating pump. The gravity fed system should have large bore pipes at least 28 mm diameter pipe and the hot side should be as high as possible. The pumped system can have 22 mm pipes. Both systems will have a header tank. A pipe thermostat should be fitted to the outlet pipe of the boiler to turn on the pump. The system should be filled with a 50% antifreeze mixture. The radiators should be bled occasionally to expel air and if found to have brown water the system should be flushed out otherwise the pump will fail.


All these drain outside the boat of course. The outlets should be at least 6 inches above the waterline. The bath or shower will need a pump to lift the waste water out which is switched manually. An automatic system uses a small tank with a float switch to pump the water out when the plug is pulled. But these become unreliable as the tank gets dirty.


Cassette types

These can be portable with one cassette or fixed with exchangeable cassettes. Four cassettes would be plenty for two people. One cassette would last about a week. The fixed type will have a water feed and 'full' indicator. Disposal is usually free and facilities are frequent on the canal system.

Holding Tank (Pump Out)

The tank can be under the bed but will make the boat lean over when full. Would be better across the boat at the back. The toilet will have flushing water and a macerator pump. Disposal at pump out stations will be charged for but working facilities may be unreliable.

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