Let's begin with the assumption that the port-side water tank leaked. There was ample evidence to support that hypothesis. A leak means we have to replace the tank. (It's essentially impossible to make a repair through the tiny inspection ports.) Replacing the tank takes money and time.
And saw blades. Lots of saw blades. See "Water Tanks — Part III — The Wreckoning" for some sense of what's going to be involved.
But, the Red Ranger has her own ideas.
Today, I found this.
Here's what's in this picture.
There's a big white thing — the base of the sensor for depth of water. To the right is a thin gray line which is the top of the baffle to keep water from sloshing dangerously.
To the right of that is shadowy bottom of the tank. Mostly white, actually.
To the left are ripples. They're ripples in clear water surrounded by gray tank and some residue from an old gasket and screw holes.
The ripples are hard to see in a still picture.
"Ripple in still water/When there is no pebble tossed/Nor wind to blow."
In the tank which I was sure was empty.
When I saw this, I was shocked speechless. Almost speechless, really. I was able to "What the f-"? But beyond that, I was tangled up in a Lovecraftian scale of incomprehension, confronted with a new reality that flatly contradicted my previous reality. Can Red Ranger have her own agenda and new water tanks aren't part of it?
How did we get to this place? It's a long road.
Last year, we returned from Las Vegas, launched Red Ranger, and topped off the water tanks. We sailed a bit. Cleaned a lot. Weekended. Went to Cambridge.
The port tank went dry first, and we refilled it: there was still some weekends left in the year.
Because we were taking Hollywood showers, and using the boat water for everything, the starboard tank, eventually, went dry, also. Winter was coming: we left it empty, planning to clean it this year.
We were pretty sure we still had plenty of port-side water.
But then, something happened which I can only describe as "weird." Are boats really a living thing? We personify them with "her." They're designed to live in a world of wind and water which we're only passing through. Are they conscious of being tied to the dock?
The bilge-pump counter started showing that our pump had been running. This means water is getting down to the bilge. It doesn't tell us where the water comes from, only that it's arriving in the bilge. There aren't water stains on the furniture or cabin sole. That leaves the hawsepipe and mast as sources of ingress. We sealed up the space around the hawsepipe with excessive silicone goo.
That was weird, and it takes a while to be sure we've stopped the source.
Before winterizing, we pump the water out of the tanks. We were pretty sure the starboard tank was empty, since we'd pumped it dry. We were pretty sure the port tank was almost full.
Sometime in late December, I put the dipstick into the port tank.
It was dry. Empty. No water. That was weird.
I'm really sure it was dry. No water showing on the stick.
With me so far? Two weirdnesses:
Bilge pump counter is non-zero, has been non-zero each weekend for several weeks. Water is getting into the boat.
I sticked the port tank and it was empty. Empty.
Analysis? The port tank has been leaking into the bilge.
Synthesis? Since we need water, the tank needs to be replaced.
As long as we're going to tear apart the port tank, we may as well tear apart the tank under the V-berth, too. It never held water. The shape is an unholy truncated pyramid (or maybe a distorted triangular prism, something only an Elder God of boat fabrication would understand.)
Starting earlier this year, that's what we did. Step 1. We put in two Nauta bladders. (The job is almost done. I bought the wrong kind of hose. It leaks. We're fixing the hose choice ASAP.)
Step 2. CA washed the starboard tank. It looked good. It had almost no water, as expected. It was pretty clean, also as expected.
We do this every year. (1) Clean with a little bit of dish soap; much reaching around with the long-handled scrub brush to try and get as many surfaces as possible. (2) Rinse. (3) Vacuum up the rinse water with the ShopVac. (4) Fill. (5) Add 6 oz. of chlorine to 100 gallons.
Step 3. Port Tank. Next job on the list of things to do. Cut out the old lid, design four solid tanks to fit in the space.
Then. I opened the port-side tank.
Plenty of clean water. From last year. Still in the tank. Not pumped out of the bilge through a leak that — it appears — may never have existed.
This was a big "Wait, What?" moment. Followed by "No way" and "I was sure it was empty."
I was sure. Absolutely sure the port tank was empty. I was so sure, I bought more reciprocating saw blades.
Back in December, I must have dropped the stick into the tank in some awkward way that hit the interior baffle. I never noticed the stick hadn't gone all the way in. I focused on the "stick is bone dry" aspect of what I was seeing, and never asked if I'd used the thing correctly. It's a stick. It seems like it's hard to use incorrectly.
But. Here I am. Living proof that you can put a stick in a tank incorrectly.
The planned months of work to remove the old tanks and replace them? Gone.
The budget items? Gone.
The task on our Trello board? Gone.
The saw blades? Still here, other things might need to be cut to pieces.
Whoa. This discovery changes everything. Hello, solar panels.