Thursday, February 23, 2012

Killer drain

"It seemed to be such a nice drain", commented one neighbor. "The drain  kept to himself, it's always the quiet ones that seem to do these sort of things." warned another as the swat team surrounded the boat. "A plastic drain would have been a better neighbor," blurted the women across the street" "they drive down the property values, but at least you can tell if they are up to something."

All of this came about because of my aversion to WBS (Wet Butt Syndrome). I was going to spend a while squatting down in the bilge installing the huge inhull transducer, and didn't want to play the role of the human sponge in the process. No matter what I did, there would be a bit of water trickling in from a huge amount of ice in the fish box, but a rag would stem most of the icy water influx.
On goes the bilge pump. and it runs until diminishing returns has been achieved, and out comes the shop vac to get the rest. A couple of sucked gallons later, the bilge is dry, and the shop vac is set on the dock. I look down, and there is another gallon of water in the bilge. "Huh", I think, and get the shop vac again, and by the time I have dried the bilge again, I look again, and there is more water.

I climb down into the bilge, and the squeamish can close your eyes for a second. I stick the end of my finger into the water and touched it to the tip of my tongue. This was a pretty clean bilge, and it had been recently bleached, but this is the fastest way to separate salt water, from fresh water, and this is salt. Applying some basic logic, we now know this is water coming in from the outside of the boat, but from where? Both the owner and I take a couple of turns wriggling into the bilge to see where the water is coming from. It looks like a fitting at first, but it's really tea cupping down a hose that disappears over a ledge with other hoses into the "Land Of No Access."  

We both stared around the aft cockpit area and scratched our heads. On a whim, I looked at the starboard side drain a little more closely, and I can see a little bit of water dripping where I wasn't expecting to see any. I grab a screw driver and turn the bolt, and it not attached to anything. Its just sitting there looking perfect. I pry the drain up and look down, into empty space, and about 18" down is the rest of the drain fitting, and hose with water steadily pouring out of it. The hose was now low enough to let hydraulic pressure push seawater into the boat at the rate of about a gallon a minute.

Now that the problem is understood, a bent wire was used to hook the fitting and pull it up. Some additional gyrations gets a string tied to the fitting, and it's threaded through the drain cap. With prodigious quantities of appropriate goop applied, the string is pulled up, thread lock is applied to the bolt, and it's screwed back in place. The leaking has now stopped. You can still see a little bit of the string in the fitting.

This could have under the right circumstances sunk the boat. This fishing boat spends a lot of time way off shore in search of swordfish and the ilk. The owner is cautious about power usage when he is that far from shore, and closely monitors power consumption. There were strong batteries, and a good bilge pump in place. Because of melting ice from fish boxes draining into the bilge, nobody is surprised that the bilge pump kicks in with some frequency, and nobody knew how long this had been going on.

There is a moral to this story, and it is, "one loose bolt, or screw could sink your boat", and avoid WBS. They promised me glamour in the exciting world of yachting, and I now have a small black spot on the tip of my tongue I have to see the doctor about.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm, well that small black spot at the tip of your tongue is hopefully just a dab of engine grease from dipping your finger into bilge water... Or it is the entry wound from a pernicious fluke that you scooped up in that finger drop of water and it is now turning your liver into pate... Either way, you saved the boat and that is all that counts... Good job...

    dr. o

    Oh, and if you develop aching joints, abdominal distention, and a distinctly yellow cast to the whites of your eyes - it wasn't engine grease...

    cheers, eh wot.