When I first bought Guiding Light almost 10 years ago, it was a 4 cabin/4 head Lagoon 410. In order to take a shower, you basically sat on the toilet and pulled the sink faucet out and used it as a shower head. As soon as I moved aboard, I decided that I did not want to sit on a toilet every time I wanted to take a shower and then deal with the floor being wet if I need to go the bathroom. So, I removed the toilet and sawzalled the sink away in the port aft cabin. This left me with a nice big space for a shower that already had a drain and sump pump. All I had to do was add a shower head and handles and then add a sheet of white plastic as a wall. It actually looked pretty good and worked well.
When I replaced my engines this off season, I chose to toss the old hot water heater. I did this because it was 21 years old, falling apart, hooked up to the old engine, and on the opposite side of the boat. I decided that I did not really like having the hot water run through the engine cooling system, because this meant I only had hot water when I ran the engine. Also, it took an entire shower before the hot water finally got to the shower (on charter I always told the moms to let the kids go first, hehe).
After much research and testing I chose to have a 160-watt 12-volt solar panel wired directly to a home hot water tank. The solar panel was able to power the heating element in the tank without a regulator, except for the thermostat in the hot water tank itself. For the hot water tank I chose a German made four gallon Stiebel Eltron I found at Home Depot due to the size and how well it looked. I also replaced my old two handle shower faucet with a new scald guard, mixing faucet required in new homes.
The first order of business was to tear out all the original improvements and get the shower back to the bare side wall. I then used 5/8-inch plastic boards I found at Home Depot, that measured two foot by four foot, to frame out where the hot water heater and faucet handle would
For the hot water heater, I built a shelf for it to sit on and then a backing board to mount it to. This way all the weight was on the platform and not the mounting board.
Once all this was in place, I used the two-foot by four-foot boards as wall paneling instead of one giant sheet like before. Oh, my goodness did this make a huge difference in the ease of getting it mounted. Where the joint between the boards would flex, I took a long piece of scrap board and screwed it onto the lower part of the back of one of the boards with some hangover. Once the next board was in place, I screwed it into this overlap and it pulled the joint tight. To finish the shower, I stained and sealed some small trim, put little plastic screw covers in place, caulked each joint, and then recaulked the shower pan.
Of course, as my best friend, who helped so much in the research stage, says “no job will be successful unless there is the letting of blood.” Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the shower is working great, because I had several decent cuts by the time I was done, Haha.
In the end the solar panel heats up the water even on cloudy days to a comfortable level and on sunny days you can only turn the hot water on a little bit. The best part is that the hot water is there within the time it takes you to wet your hair, due to the short distance it has to travel. As Hannibal Smith of the A-Team would say, “I love it when a plan comes together!”
Shane McClellan has lived aboard the Guiding Light for 10 years as a cruiser and charter boat captain. You can check out his website, www.svGuidingLight.com, to read blogs, hear podcast, and watch videos of anything travel and cruising related.