Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Things happen. We wound up testing the bilge pumps heavily. And one of them wasn’t keeping up and needed to be replaced.

CA cleaned the nav station. This leads to something you don’t see every day.

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The Nav station.

With no stuff.

The stuff was all on the bar, getting picked over with much tongue clucking and tsk-tsk-ing.

CA: “What’s this screw?” 

ME: “The bent one?”

CA: “No, the totally stripped one.”

ME: “Stripped? Phillips stripped or square drive stripped?” 

CA: “It used to be Phillips. Maybe ½″.”

ME: “Oh. Right. That screw. I’m saving that because —”

CA: “Yes…?”

ME: “Because…. I forgot. It’s to something.”

CA: “Clearly, it’s to something. If you can’t remember, and nothing’s falling apart, then it’s trash.”

I guess that’s a good rule. If you don’t know what it’s for and nothing’s falling apart, then, you don’t really need it.

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My nemesis — the deep bilge pump — is on it’s fourth incarnation. Red Ranger had a a big old Jabsco PAR 36600-series pump. External motor. Drive belt. Box with the diaphragm and valves in it. Super high volume (8 gpm.) Super high price. ($450.)

The diaphragm itself was shot, as were the valves. And it’s big. So I replaced it with a lower volume, “simpler”, PAR-MAX pump. That lasted about a year.

The West Marine folks suggested that the one I had was only for fresh water. I replaced it with another, similar pump that’s described as a “wash down” pump. 

It started out great. But, starting with the trip North in the spring, it’s been working intermittently at best. The pump runs, but it doesn’t reliably develop enough suction to lift water from the bilge. When it does (finally) get primed, it seems to work nicely. But if it would pull from the bilge, what’s the point?

Sigh.

Let’s try the Shurflo Pro Blaster pump.  It’s 5 gpm. But it’s still the smaller form factor than the giant Jabsco 36600-series.

What’s important about the Shurflo incarnation are the fittings. The Jabsco had clips. Goofy clips. They’re easy to snap shut, but are you sure they’re tight? I suspect they can leak air. The Shurflo has screws. These seem to provide a better seal. And I can add a little Teflon tape if I have doubts. The new pump pulled water from the bilge spectacularly.

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Money-wise, I could have replaced the original Jabsco with a new one. 

Why were we testing the bilge pumps?

Here’s the important safety tip.

This is the section of cabin sole between the saloon, the forward head, the V-berth and the hanging locker.

The finish is destroyed.

How did this happen?

Ammonia.

Here’s your Red Ranger safety tip of the day.

Store Ammonia In The Bilge.

If you store it on a shelf — e.g., in a hanging locker that has shelves — you might knock it over; the plastic bottle will crack, and it will peel the finish off the cabin sole faster than you can throw buckets of water onto it.

We know. 

CA was as close as she gets to shrieking as I ran for buckets and a hose. The huge piece of floor on the starboard side of the main saloon came flying up from below in a heartbeat so I could hose it down on the dock. 

When it came time to put it back, it wasn’t clear exactly how she was able to pick it up and throw it into the cockpit. It’s huge, very heavy, and awkwardly large.

The good news is that it’s mostly this one piece of the floor. There are some splashes in the saloon, but they’re smallish. This looks like a job for Epifanes rubbed-effect varnish. And some 220-grit. And a good brush. 

The best part is, it can be removed and worked on under the aft deck awning. A little sanding, a few coats of finish, and that may be the best-looking piece of interior wood on the boat!

The pump ran, but did nothing. It’s been replaced. 

  © Steven Lott 2017