A Shower Keeps the Boat Clean

Posted: June 1, 2013

Installing a transom shower isn’t that difficult, and it can keep your boat clean and happy.

By: Capt. Frank Lanier

Despite that old saying about getting there being half the fun, when it comes to boating everyone knows the fun really begins once you arrive at a favorite anchorage. The kids want to go paddling, the dog wants to swim and hairy Uncle Joe visiting from Jersey wants to go snorkeling (while hopefully avoiding last year’s backward thong fiasco). The downside to all this fun can be the salt, sand and muck that gets tracked aboard at the end of the day — unless you have a transom shower.

Installing a transom shower is not only practical for comfort and maintenance (walking around the deck with sand or grit underfoot is murder on gelcoat and painted finishes), it’s also an upgrade easily within the ability of the average DIY warrior.

Transom showers can be plumbed to use salt water and/or fresh water, depending on your needs. An initial saltwater shower followed by a freshwater rinse is an excellent option for boats with limited freshwater reserves. The showers are typically plumbed directly into an existing freshwater system and can provide both hot and cold water (depending on the installation).

You can piece together a system, but the simplest way to install a transom shower is to purchase a kit. The parts provided in the kits may vary slightly but at a minimum will contain a recessed enclosure, a showerhead or a nozzle (fitted with a length of retractable hose) and valves for hot- and cold-water control.

The installation itself is pretty straightforward; however, as with any project, you’ll want to thoroughly plan and visualize it before beginning. Start by gathering a few basic tools, such as a tape measure, a pencil, a drill and bits, a jigsaw, wrenches, channel-lock pliers, screwdrivers and a hose cutter or a sharp knife. As for parts, you’ll need two barbed-hose “T” fittings and appropriate lengths of hot- and cold-water hose (assuming a hot and cold shower installation), stainless steel hose clamps and a tube of marine-grade silicone sealant.

The first decision is where to locate the shower. Look for a flat surface near the swim platform, transom or cockpit — one with enough depth behind it to accept the shower enclosure and enough room in front that the shower enclosure’s lid (if so equipped) can swing open. Double-check to make sure you won’t be cutting or drilling into anything unexpected (e.g., wiring and hoses).

Choose a location that allows the shower to reach a convenient height for ease of use — you can verify this by using a piece of line cut the same length as the shower hose — but avoid areas above electrical equipment or other such items that could be damaged by potential leaks or drips. Accessibility to the area, in order to run the hoses, is another consideration.

After finding a good spot, next up is mounting the enclosure. Most shower kits include a template to assist with cutting the hole; however, you can make your own by tracing the outline of the enclosure (noting the location of the mounting holes to assist with drilling). Place the template where you want to mount the enclosure, tape it in place and cut the hole. When cutting and mounting in solid fiberglass, you’ll simply apply a bead of sealant around the inside flange of the enclosure (where it meets the hull) to seal water out. If the area is cored (e.g., with balsa or plywood), you’ll want to seal the edges of the hole as well (thickened epoxy works well), to prevent water intrusion into the coring, which could lead to rot down the road. The same holds true for the mounting-screw holes, which should be sealed for the same reasons.

Once the hole is cut, dry fit the enclosure, drill the mounting holes and install the mounting hardware to ensure everything fits properly. Then remove the hardware. If you have adequate access behind the enclosure, you can mount it now and connect the water-system hoses afterward. If not, you’ll have to plumb the shower before mounting it.

Let’s assume you have plenty of access and want to mount the enclosure first. Start by applying a liberal bead of caulk along the mounting flange. Carefully install the enclosure, and tighten the mounting hardware until caulk begins to ooze out, then stop. Most folks want to crank down until whatever they are mounting is tight, but this approach squeezes most (if not all) of the caulk out. A better approach is to snug it and then let the caulk cure, allowing it to form a gasket, which provides a better seal. As a final touch, remove the mounting bolts or screws one at a time, and coat the threads liberally with sealant before a final tightening.

Once the enclosure is mounted and the shower assembled, which normally involves simply connecting the showerhead to the hose, which is then screwed into the enclosure, plumbing the system is next. Locate the nearest access to the vessel’s hot- and cold-water system, and plan the shortest, straightest run possible to the new shower.

Once you’ve located a promising spot, turn off and secure power to the water-pressure pump. Next, cut the hoses and install the “T” fittings (securing each with stainless steel clamps), and then run the respective hoses back to the shower, supporting each hose with wire ties and mounts or cushioned stainless steel clamps about every 12 to 16 inches.

Finally, once everything is connected, power up the water-pressure pump and inspect the system for leaks. Now you’re ready to hose down the kids, the dog and Uncle Joe.

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