Boats have bilges: it's where water inside the boat collects to be pumped out. Modern "fin keel" boats barely have any bilge. Classic designs -- like Red Ranger -- have deep bilges.
We have a Manifold of Bilge Pumps to manage the bilge.
What's important is to try to keep the bilge dry and clean. Some folks will stuff a sponge down there to soak up the last quart that escapes the pump intakes. For this to work, there can't be any flow into the bilge. What we're finding is that it's hard to identify all the flows into the bilge.
Last night, sitting in the saloon, relaxing after dinner (fried rice), the bilge pump kicked on.
We have two pumps: one of them running shouldn't be a big deal, should it?
A clean, dry bilge is impossible if something's leaking in there. We'd just fired up the air conditioners. And we'd just topped up all three water tanks. And we'd had problems with the Galley Foot Pump. And that wasn't our only problem.
Last week, when we first turned on the pressure fresh water, we had bilge pump problems. The pipe for the deck shower was not connected. It ends with a valve. A valve that's closed, right?
Post Splash I topped off one fresh water tank and turned on the fresh water system; the fresh water pump started working. Good. Then the bilge pump started working. Bad. A bad mystery. Why is the bilge pump running?
After tearing up the floors we found that the deck shower pipe was open and running straight into the bilge.
Take a deep breath. (A) we're not sinking, (B) the automatic pumps work, (C) the freshwater pumps work. Close the deck shower valve, close the faucets in galley and heads, fresh water comes to pressure in the accumulator, the pumps stop. Mystery Solved. Fresh water system works.
Sadly, this was not the only mystery.
The tank mystery was the port-side tank. The center and starboard tanks took about 20 minutes to fill. I checked with the 5-gallon bucket just to be sure that the dock-side water is about 5 gallons per minute. 20 minutes for about 100 gallons is expected.
The port-side tank backed up the filler hose after two minutes. Is it a 10 gallon tank? Is the hose blocked? I tried forcing more water in, but it came out the vent hose -- the tank had to be full. I know it wasn't a blocked filler hose because the vent hose comes out a different part of the tank than the filler hose.
As part of cleaning, we decided to look under the port-side saloon floor. The tank filler hose was dripping -- slowly -- but dripping. How odd. I loosened the hose clamp to take a close look. The hose popped off and water started spraying out from the top of the port-side tank.
Out from the top. *The tank's somehow under pressure! *
That's a shocker. Jam the hose back together. Mop up the mess. Scratch head. Pull beard.
Tentatively, I unscrew the inspection plug. It hisses as it lets air pressure out. Then it fountains water inside the saloon. The tank's still under considerable pressure. Jam the plug back in. Mop up the mess.
What to do? And -- more importantly -- how did it get that way? Step one is to turn off the pressurizing pump. Then we can set the manifold to take water from the port tank. Finally, we can run the sink until the pressure is off.
Our theory is that the port tank was already full. I forced water into the filler hose and vent hose. Who knows how old that water is. I sanitized it with 64 oz. of Clorox. It will smell like a swimming pool for a month.
We've had our share of freshwater mysteries. But we're not done.
When the bilge pump kicks on, it means something's leaking into the bilge. Either it's the Chesapeake or it's the freshwater system. Either one is a Very Serious Situation. It ruins the after dinner relaxation to hear pumps running.
CA spent a fair amount of time peering into every corner, staring at each through-hull fitting to be sure that it wasn't the Chesapeake that was activating our bilge pump.
Sadly, it appeared that it was the Chesapeake. One of the through-hulls was not merely weeping, but dribbling a steady stream into the bilge. Bonus. It's the least accessible valve.
It's painful to get a wrench in there, but I can try to tighten it up. Also, I can try to inject more grease into the seacock to try and reduce the flow.
Then CA looks at it again. It's flowing from above the seacock. It looks a lot like a deck drain hose is leaking from above the seacock.
Arrrgh. Fixing a through-hull is painful. Fixing a hose will be much more painful. This will require closing the seacock, figuring how to disconnect the hose, buying replacement hose and -- worse -- figuring out how to force the hose solidly onto the fitting that we can barely reach. I can imagine paying someone to cut open the floor.
MIrrors and Flashlights
CA decided to take another good, long look. She spent some time with a mirror and enough light to really see what's going on.
It turns out that the air conditioner condensate drain is an open hose just above the through-hull. When the A/C is running, condensation dribbles onto the through-hull and into the bilge.
Mysteries appear to be solved. The A/C adds water to the bilge, causing the pump to run. Ahhhh. We can't have a totally clean, dry bilge. But -- at least -- we know where the water is coming from.