Stories of s/v Valkier, DE38: All the shit that accumulates #2 by Scott Carle

Last week we got a lot done on the boat but also ran into some issues with the plumbing which led to engine issues that led to anchoring issues.  See <a for all the details.

Today I worked up my courage and headed back to the boat to deal once and for all with the malodorous mess that Valkyr’s head system had become. The first thing on was the respirator (this respirator worked great. No odor got through it and when I got to the clorox phase it totally filtered the chlorine out also). After the respirator came the industrial rubber chemical gloves and a dozen 3 mil contractor garbage bags. The next three tools that  I used removing everything were one largish flat bladed screwdriver, one set of vise grips and a pair of straight edged shears. The screw driver for hose clamps and prying, the vise grips for holding the nuts on the screws that the pump was mounted with while I unscrewed them, and the shears for cutting through hoses if needed.

I promised pictures in my last post but we forgot the cameras when we went to the boat today and I wasn’t willing to put the job off now that I had nerved myself up to actually doing it so I’m afraid there will be no nasty disgusting before pictures. However I should be able to graphically paint a really disgusting picture of it in your minds, so listen up and read on.

First let me paint the picture again of what we found last week. In the small bilge space just aft of the v-berth area that the holding tank lies in was where most of the plumbing for the holding tank system came together.  To port up through the closet and into the small compartment above it an anti siphon loop ran. Kinda disgusting really.. 20+ year old.. maybe 30  year old hoses rubbing up against clothes in the closet if you dared put them there. Some of the hoses were original and had crystallized stuff on the outer surface of them. You didn’t want to do the sniff test on them to see if they were permeated through with “stuff”.. just take it as given that they reeked. In the little compartment aft of the big v-berth bilge space was a large manual whale/gusher pump.  This was for pumping the system overboard. The handle had broken at the pivot and the diaphragm had a 2 to 3 mm hole in it that every time you pumped the head and some pressure was put on the system it ozed out a table spoon of liquid sewage. The compartment was about 6 inches deep in it with a lot of old junk sitting on top of it in the compartment. It looked as if it had been leaking for 6 months to a year.

The junk is all gone today as I look down at the same compartment and all the deep goo is gone. The plumbing is all still there. The holding tank is pumped out but there is stuff through all the hoses. I dread disconnecting the first hose and having a rush of goo come falling out. What I need is something to plug the hoses up as I disconnect them. I bought a 12 pack of bounty paper towels last week. I grab a couple rolls and pull off a handful. The first hose comes off the pump and immediately I stuff the end full of paper towels and use the big screwdriver to ram it up into the hose. It works great as a plug. I repeat this throughout the job and am very pleased. My imaginings of gallons of goo pouring out of hoses doesn’t come true. Less than a half cup of goo comes out of the entire rest of the project and that is pretty easily dealt with as I put huge wads of paper towels under the areas I am working in to catch it as it comes out. I found that some of the hoses don’t want to come off of fittings easily and I start using the shears to just cut through the hoses. By the end I wasn’t even bothering to remove the hose clamps, I  just cut the hoses off of the fittings and at the bulkheads to make it easier to pull the hoses out. 5 trash bags later of hoses, fittings, and pump and I had everything out but the holding tank.

The holding tank ended up being increadably easy. It had a 2×4 over the top holding it into the V of the bilge with cross pieces that kept it from moving fore or aft. I used the big screwdriver to just pry that off and then lifted the holding tank up by the stubs of hoses still attached to it. The pump out last week did a great job and there didn’t seem to be much left in it. It also helped that it was only 8 gallon or so capacity. I was able to just drop the whole tank into a 42 gallon garbage bag with a lot of room left over. We were rather amazed that the tank was that small. My 23.5 ft beneteau had a 13 gallon tank that was a lot larger than this one.

The one part of this job that gave me serious chills today was when I went to pull the hose off the 1 1/2″  through hull. I had closed the thru hull last week. The thru hull had not been used in so long that I had to put a small  cheater on it to get it moving to close it. Once I got it  working I opened and closed it a couple times to make sure it was  working. Today I  loosened up the hose clamps and grabbed the hose at the thru hull and went to pull it off the fitting. The hose ripped in two at the edge of the fitting leaving behind the hose on the fitting. The rest of the hose came with me. I didn’t have to pull hard. The thought of what could have happened to the boat if that rotten hose had given way with the thru hull open is very very scary. Vakyr would have sunk for sure if no one had known what was going on.

Only one rough rinsing was done last week, just a hose and some water. Today was the first serious cleaning. We pulled the hose down through the forward hatch above all this and first wet down the v-berth bilge area, the small area aft of it and the spaces on port that the plumbing went through on its way to the head and the through hull just aft of the head on port under the sink. Then a 5 gallon bucket of oxyclean and a stiff brush on a handle are used to give everything a stiff scrub. It has probably been 15 years since some of these areas have seen daylight much less a scrubbing. The v-berth compartment is just normal dirt and grime but it runs black as it is scrubbed.  I find a little mound of fur in the bottom forward part of the large bilge area under the v-berth.. It looks as if a large mouse fell into the goo and died. Thank you 3m for respirators and gloves. I scrub and scrub and scrub with oxyclean then take the hose and rinse and rinse and rinse. The bilge pump is running continuously with a steady stream of black soapy water shooting out of the transom. Next a couple of cups of clorox in a couple of gallons of water. I splash it on and spread it out with the brush on the handle. Scrub some more working the clorox in. I do this in all the compartments and bilge areas that the plumbing was in as well as the head compartment (the head was removed also). Another through rinse with the hose. I also fill the 5 gallon bucket with water a couple times and dump it in all at once to wash everything back to the bilge really well. Tomorrow we will continue the scrubbing and also work back in all the areas we can reach toward the aft bilge. One more time with a strong clorox solution I scrub the whole works. This time I don’t rinse I just leave it on and we seal the boat and head home.

As you read this it sounds like a couple hours work but in all it took about five hours. I found that wearing the respirator got old quick. As I started working hard and breathing heavier it got harder and harder to pull air in through the filters causing a constricted feeling. I found that slow and steady was the key with the air restriction it caused. I will say this though it cut the odor to nothing and even filtered out the brutally heavy chlorine fumes from the clorox. My eyes were burning it was so strong but the air I was breathing came through clean.

Tomorrow we go back and give it a really good detailed scrub, scuff it all up with sand paper, rinse it real good again and then let it dry. After all this a complete paint job with bilge coat epoxy is in order.

I can honestly say I hope to never have to deal with something like this again. I just pray that the composting head works as well as I have been told.

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