Tuesday, May 27, 2008

“Just Fill it With Water--if Water’s Coming in, it Will Also Go Out…”

This was our friend Captain Paul’s advice when we told him about Sabine’s leak at a party on Saturday night. Monday we headed over to the marina to take Paul’s advice. Over the winter we had the full soda blasted so that the paint, the gel coat and all the stuff that makes fiberglass watertight was stripped away, so we hoped that the entry point of the leak would be more obvious.

The thing about boats like ours is that there are several points at which plumbing and other accessories penetrate the hull below the waterline—which means that at each point where these fittings go through the hull is also a point where there is potential for leak. We have through hull fittings to accommodate the fresh water intakes for the inboard diesel engine and the diesel generator. There are also through hulls for the sink drains, shower drain, and the keel mounted cooling plate for the refrigerator. Also, the depth sounder, and speedometer are mounted through the hull, below the waterline as well.

Over the course of trying to diagnose this leak, we never noticed any wetness near the through-hull fittings. We also never noticed any abnormal leaks near where the propeller shaft enters the boat on its way from the propeller to the engine. (Seeing a few drops there is normal.) We have long suspected that the water is entering the boat through the keel, which is the big heavy part under the boat that keeps the boat upright and helps the boat move forward even if the wind is coming from the side. We have never been able to be completely sure that the water is entering through some unseen crack or hole in the very bottom of the bilge. (The only way either of us has been able to actually touch the bottom of the bilge is if we do a handstand in it. And honestly, it’s such a stinky place who the hell would want to do a handstand in there, let alone put a face down there?)

We inspected the hull before we laid out the hoses to fill the water. We noticed that there are thousands of pin holes in the fiberglass which may or may not have contributed to the leak. We also noticed that there is a crack in the wooden mount for the depth sounder which also could have contributed to the leak. While these are certainly interesting observations the only way we’d know for sure is if we can get water to run out of the boat.

The next thing we did, before actually committing the counter intuitive act of filling the bilge in our boat with water, was to test the bilge pump to ensure that we could get the water out of the boat after we complete our experiment. We plugged an extension cord into the shore power inlet, and Todd fiddled about with the electric panel and discovered that we couldn’t get the bilge pump to run off of shore power, and we didn’t have enough battery power remaining to power the pump.

Before it ever got started, our experiment ended with an electrical issue that is now another item on the to-do list. And this, my friends, is the story of our lives with a boat restoration—you start one project just to unwrap the need to complete some other task that is peripherally related to the first project.

And now, on to repair the electrical mystery.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yikes. Makes motorcycle wrenching look like a walk in the park!

I think Dave Barry always used to say that it would be simpler just to go out to the driveway and throw a bucket of money at the boat every few months.

May 28, 2008 at 7:19 AM  

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