Skip to main content

Like many of you, the Prince family looks forward to an extended summer cruise aboard our convertible By Design. Each August we cast off across the bounding main of Lake Michigan and further afield to visit friends, clients, beaches and bum around in the sun. A fair amount of planning and provisioning precedes this, of course, but this year presented a crucial plot twist­—a last-minute maintenance issue at just the wrong moment. You’ve probably been there. We all hate these. But a little creative thinking, inspired by my job as a naval architect, saved the day.

My wife (aka the Admiral), our son, dog and I awoke on the morning of day one of our cruise, about to cast off from our home port. We’d be short-hopping it to tiny Fish Creek, Egg Harbor and Sister Bay on the scenic Door County peninsula. But sometime during the wee overnight hours, the Vacuflush in the master head developed a tiny, persistent freshwater leak from a 3-inch hose behind it. Of course, this hose is tucked hard against the shower partition, where there’s all the room in the world to conveniently and comfortably diagnose and effect a repair with a Coke and a smile. Riiiight.

Drip, drip, drip

Oh, good. A plumbing repair right at the G** D*** moment I want to take off for a couple of weeks. We look forward to this cruise all year. I want to be firing up engines right now, not dealing with a toilet leak.

Bill Prince

Worse, the drips were migrating forward and pooling up on the fiberglass sole right in front of the master head sink. Importantly, this is right where the Admiral’s toes go when she’s brushing her teeth. Suddenly this became a topic. A front-burner issue, you might say. One which needed to be dealt with or the Admiral would just keep talking about it.

Tightening the stainless steel clamps on the little hose didn’t do anything. Drip, drip, drip.

I can field strip a Vacuflush, a packing gland or a Glock as well as the next guy, but as they say timing is everything. Did I mention I want to be firing up engines right now, not dealing with a plumbing project?

Fortunately, because By Design was built by a quality production brand, I was reminded while on my hands and knees that there’s a stainless steel drain right behind the throne. This is in exactly the opposite direction from where the Admiral’s little piggies are positioned at the sink. Those are forward and to port. The drain is aft and to starboard. Suddenly I began evaluating the forensics of this situation.

Since I’m the naval architect in this family, I knew I could keep the Admiral’s toes dry by other means for the duration of our cruise, or at least until I felt like tearing the crapper apart in a few days. If I added the right amount of surplus fuel to the half-empty starboard tank under the cockpit it would subtly trim the boat enough to starboard and down by the stern that the drip, drip, drip would go right down the perfectly-positioned drain instead of wandering off to flood the sole by the sink.

A quick back-of-the-napkin calculation of my boat’s moment-to-trim one inch (MT1”) based on the fuel’s weight and distance from the boat’s center of gravity was all it took to figure out that 950 pounds of “go juice” would do the trick without unnecessary fanfare.

“Honey, I’m going to fix the leak while we’re at the fuel dock,” I said wryly. “Let’s go.”

$1,000 in fuel later, which I’d simply replenish with the other stores along the way, did the trick without any delay in our schedule or—crucially—actual labor on my part. Problem solved! I’m on vacation, after all.

Happily, Power & Motoryacht pays me to write about this. Your subscription paid for my easy plumbing fix and we’re having a great cruise as I write this. And the Admiral has long since forgotten about the little drip, drip, drip. Thanks for reading!

Follow me for more practical cruising tips.

This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.