Stories of s/v Valkier, DE38: All the shit that accumulates by Scott Carle

You know all the shit that accumulates in the corners of a boat? This story isn’t about that kind of shit. This story is about the kind that leaks through the ruptured diaphragm in a pump on a hose that terminates in a holding tank.

If that opening doesn’t grab attention, I’m not sure what will. Let me backtrack just a bit.

We actually spent three days working on the boat this week. The teak on deck is now at about 90% and in some area’s even has three coats of Tequa. We are really liking the Tequa, it goes on thin and penetrates on try teak for the first couple of coats and on the third coat gives the teak a soft luster that is just beautiful. So far we have used about one and a quarter quarts and it has covered 90% of the boat in two coats and some parts of the boat in three coats. I think we will stop at three coats and then see what durability is over time. Pictures of all this will be forthcoming in the next week or so.

Another little project that looks very promising is my bung replacement method I came up with for all the missing teak bungs in the screw holes of the cap rail. Many of the holes are now not deep enough to put new teak bungs in. I found some brown silicone at Lowes in a standard size caulking tube that I have experimented on. If you tape over the holes and then cut out the outline of the hole in the tape with a razor you then have a perfectly masked hole. You squeeze in some silicone, lightly squeegee the excess off and immediately pull up the tape. It leaves a very nice brown silicone bung in place.

Well we had intended to start the removal of the head and holding tank this week but because we were having such great progress on the teak we stayed focused on that. Last night though the odors from the head system were really bothering me sleeping in the v-berth. I kinda went OCD this morning and started pulling everything out of the v-berth and all the compartments around and under it as I traced out the plumping. I found compartments I didn’t know existed and plumbing systems that I hadn’t known about.. I also found a major failure in one of them. All the plumbing for the head and holding tank and discharges comes together in the little compartment under the head of the v-berth just aft of the compartment that holds the holding tank. Under a layer of the prior owners mystery possessions I found a whale/gusher type pump intended to pump the holding tank overboard. In that pump there is a big rubber diaphragm which had at some point in the past gotten a puncture from something on the inside. Now every time someone would pump the head it would put pressure on the system and a muddy brown goo would spray out. Maybe I should say that it had sprayed out onto everything in the compartment. Many inches deep.

It was horrifying. I had done this once before on my last boat where we had a holding tank incident that I had to clean up. I had sworn never again…. Having to deal with that was the reason I had bought a composting head to put on Valkyr. Little did I know that even before I bought her that stuff had gone wrong, very, very, wrong. When I showed it to Zsanic, she looked at me and just said, “ I will keep working on the teak on deck while you work down there.” I guess I can take heart that she didn’t run screaming.

Did I tell you that I have a weird connection between my nose and stomach… noisome stuff such as this tends to make the contents of my stomach come back out. I try to be a man about it and man up and deal, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Knowing this I decided to tackle it head on… Off to Lowes we went. One 3M respirator, a pair of industrial rubber gloves, a box of contractor grade 3 mil 42 gallon trash bags and lots of Clorox and Febreze later we were back on the boat. So I pulled out and put in the trash bag lots of ooze covered misc items… misc, because I still can’t figure out what they were. Then I scooped and scooped and wiped down with paper towels.. rinsed and wiped. (Zsanic who is sitting here proof reading this, commented that this is what I have to look forward to…. changing a baby’s diaper.)

I then decided that I was going to pull all the plumbing today. So, before any more cleaning we needed to pump out the holding tank so that I could get started. I knew that it would still be messy so we held off on the Clorox and serious scrubbing till all the nasty stuff was out of the boat.

To pump out the holding tank we had to leave the dock and go about 100 yards to the pump out station at the marina. No worries.. started the engine and let her run while we disconnected cable and power as well as cleaned up the decks where we needed to walk to get her over to the pump out station. (decks were covered in tools and misc stuff from doing the teak. As well as a couple tarps for shade while working.) It was beautiful, the first time me and zsanic have taken her out from the dock by ourselves. We slid away from the dock slowly …. slowly….. slowly… hmmm, maybe the prop is fouled with barnacles. I don’t think the prop has been cleaned since November. Slowly we start to make the turn to head to the pump out station.. The engine dies! Did I mention that we have a face dock on the Intracoastal Waterway. So sixty feet from our dock in the middle of a fairly busy day on the ICW the engine dies and we are drifting down the center of the ICW. “Zsanic, throw out the anchor” Then, I realize that since the engine isn’t running it doesn’t do much good for me to stay at the helm so I go forward after her and help throw the anchor out.. Not that she needed my help.

Thirty minutes of bleeding air bubbles out of the fuel line.. grrr grrrr grrrr, rumble… the diesel comes back on. “Zsanic, haul in the anchor.” She is a champ! She pulls it up and secures it as I ease up on it. Then, on to the pump out station..

Still slowly… maybe a ½ knot of head way… we are coming up on the dock with it on our starboard side but need to turn around and dock on port. I swing wide slowly and turn but between the wind and current can’t turn all the way with the prop fouled as bad as it is. Now I’m heading directly at the dock bow on and with the boat in full reverse it isn’t stopping.. reverse isn’t doing anything at all. Thankfully the marina staff were on hand to help us knowing that we were having problems and they were able to keep the boat from doing damage to the dock or us. We were moving slowly 🙂 We try again after they push us off. Pass number two… we slowly go even farther from the dock and make the turn this time and are now heading toward the dock on the right side.. The engine dies! During this the boat turns almost 180 degrees and Zsanic and I swap the dock lines from port to starboard. At this point we don’t care what side the boat is tied up on we just want it tied up. We do a slow drift down to the dock where the Staff catch our dock lines and walk the boat to the right place on the dock for the pumpout.

After we were tied up, everyone at the docks drifted by over the next little while to comment on our anchoring and docking adventures. It’s amazing how many people notice little stuff like that!! lol

After a thankfully successful pump out I dealt with the fouled prop by jumping in the water with a scraper.. thank God it is mostly summer and the water is only cool not cold. I tied a line along the dock that I could hold on to and another from port to starboard under the boat that I could grab while scraping the prop. Actually I didn’t have a prop anymore just a sort of round object with oysters and barnacles on it. It took about thirty minutes of scraping to have a prop shaped object back on the end of the prop shaft. It took a while because I couldn’t find the mask or fins so was doing it blind while holding my breath under the boat as traffic bounced it up and down over me. Oh and the marina people warned me about the six foot alligator that had been hanging around the dock just a little bit earlier that morning. ( no stinking gator was going to stop me ) 🙂 The upside is that I got to feel my zinc and it was in really good shape. (that just sounds wrong)

We have a prop again and have again bled air out of the fuel system. We leave the dock and have lots of power. It felt great… the engine dies again… 40 ft from the dock back in the center of the ICW… Zsanic has the anchoring thing down pat now. Over it goes and down below I go… I bled the engine again. Power up… pull the anchor and off to our dock again…. and miracles of miracles we make it, the engine keeps running. We come in and just gently kiss the dock. Zsanic ties off the bow and I get the stern line. Finally, score one for the home team. The engine still running…. now it behaves…

I would like to report that we finished ripping out the holding tank and plumbing and got her all cleaned up and the composting head installed. However, by now it was 3:30 and we were dead tired. We straitened up and cleaned off the decks and put her to bed. We will hit it running next week as we continue the adventures.

I had to think really hard, about the old saying that any day on the water is better than a day at the office, over this one. But I have to admit that though we had a lot of shit go wrong (I know bad pun) it felt good that Zsanic and I were able to deal with it and overcome it together without anyone getting yelled at or tempers lost. We worked well as a team and “did good.”

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