I know a charter captain who is fond of saying, “From the minute you buy the boat, everything aboard is headed for the dumpster. It’s just a matter of how quickly.”
When your water heater is ready for the dumpster, you’ll have several choices. The current Tartan’s, according to Art Averell, get Force 10's. There are others, so shop around to see what you like. If you're like me and are attracted to things that are shiny and expensive, be sure to check out this one:
This is a six gallon heater by Torrid. It’s beautiful, well-built, and has a glass liner. It’s a little pricy, so find someone with a wholesale account at your local chandlery. (West Marine doesn't sell this brand.) The list price was $700. I saved $100 by calling in a favor.
The installation was a bit of work, but it would be with any new heater that is not exactly like the OEM. A pro could have installed this unit in two days. It took me three weeks. You know how it is--as soon as you need a tool that’s at home you’ve lost the rest of the day on the project.
No doubt you know the water heater in a 3500 sits under the nav station. This is a fun place to work--only slightly better than in the lazarette. You might be happiest hiring someone to install this heater. If you do it yourself, be careful. The tank will have to go in and out of the space more times than you would imagine while you figure out and fine-tune the installation. The tank fits beautifully in this space, but go slowly so you don’t trash your woodwork. And try not to break your nose in the process. Yes, I technically broke mine. I was tired and diving into the empty space yet one more time when I hit my head on the wood trim above the space. I rebounded down and hit my nose on the fiddle of the seat—it’s the lower piece of wood in the picture above. I heard a crack and started to bleed, inside and out. It smarted for a while. A friend called a colleague, an otolaryngologist, who said, “If it isn’t deformed and you can breathe through it, don’t worry about it.”
Above you see the Torrid heater has inlets and outlets that extend horizontally, so elbows were used to direct the flows down. That took some creativity due to the space limitations, but it was a fun puzzle to solve.
The water heater is so good-looking I considered replacing the cherry panel that covers it with a piece of Plexiglass. Wouldn't others want to admire it!
I changed my mind.