The Good Life

Quiet waters lapping against the hull lulling us to sleep, swimming in a warm ocean, in Fiji, snorkeling to view brilliant wonders of nature, maybe catching a fish to filet and toss on the grill. My hopes for life on the water: idyllic, adventure, a time of writing my deepest thoughts, for myself if not for others .

But the inspection board was stuck. It was wedged tight in the main cabin sole (floor), over the macerator pump, which I wanted to be able to access in case there was a problem. It had possibly swollen due to the change in climate here in Foxy’s new home. I’d brought my little hand-held electric sander that would make short work of the problem.

How hard could it be?

I tried one more time to remove the board without unscrewing other parts of the floor for access to pry it off. Success! The board came up a quarter inch, enough so I could get a grip and ease it out of its confine. This was going to be much easier than I feared.

It was eight a.m., I’d be done at nine, maybe ten.

Oh, gross! There was water in the cavity under the macerator pump, an irregular puddle about the size of four hands side-by-side, and something that might have been a sponge at one time but was so covered in blue-green mold that it was unrecognizable. A gelatin-like substance ringed the uneven puddle so perfectly, I knew it had grown there.

Sanding the board and ignoring that mess wasn’t an option. What if the growth pushed the board up by itself late one night and crept into the stateroom (bedroom) to suck what’s left of my brains out one ear? Even if it didn’t, I’d know it was there. The little wet-and-dry vac was just waiting for its first use.

Though I missed her, I was glad Irish wasn’t here to see the mess. It would have left a lasting impression, and I wanted her to think highly of the boat. I was also glad this macerator only removed water collected from sinks and the shower.

I sucked up the puddle, used doubled plastic bags from grocery store turned inside out to pick up the sponge-like mass, whatever it was, then sprayed the cavity with bleach, dried it all out with paper towels. There! Problem solved!

It wasn’t that hard!

Except for one, very small, nearly inconsequential detail: When I turned on the pump, a few drops of water leaked out. Maybe it wasn’t enough to worry about! Just put the board back! It’ll be okay!

Not a chance. I’m not built that way. Tracing the drips to the pump itself was tricky, then it took a half hour to find a wrench that would fit the nut on the pump under the stuck floor board that started all this. I couldn’t get the wrench where the pump was wedged against the hull, so I had to take the pump all the way out. Four screws and two hose fittings. Maybe half a turn on the nut would fix it.

How hard could it be?

Before I could disconnect the hose fittings, I needed to turn off the line from the shower drains because I’d filled the shower pan with water trying to get the stateroom sink to drain.

Fortunately, I knew where that valve was, I’d found it  when I had to shut it off the night the washer overflowed two hours before guests arrived for the night.

When the nut wouldn’t tighten, I disassembled the pump. Good thing I did. After seeing a gap in a microscopically thin paper gasket, I pulled pump section off the motor and saw a ruined impeller, one vane completely missing and a second one torn nearly off.

Time for a trip to the store. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too many days for a replacement rebuild kit to arrive.

WestMarine not only had repair kits, they had whole new pumps on the shelf, for only twice the cost of the repair kit! A new pump would save me hours of assembly, and I’d have a new motor. That was an easy decision to make, so I dropped a couple of hundred dollars for pump and electrical connectors and a couple of other knick knacks. I was shopping, after all.

Back at the boat, I plumbed pump back together. It drained the bathroom sink and stayed dry. Success! Filled with a feeling of deep personal accomplishment, I went to turn on the valve from the shower stall. There I found out that turning off the valve had allowed water to sit in the shower, water that found some way to escape into another hole under the floor.

Not tonight! That had do be done when everything was dry, Foxy was a mess with tools scattered all about the salon (living room) and the galley (kitchen), water everywhere, and I was a sweaty, dirty mess to match. I sanded the boards, dropped them into place. They fit, to my relief.

Tools put away, everything cleaned up, I finally took a shower. It was six p.m., ten hours after I started a job I thought would take an hour, maybe two, and I was tired and sore from the contortions of working most of the day on my belly or on my knees.

But everything (almost) stayed dry, and there was some satisfaction in that.

Tomorrow I’ll tackle the shower drain with a little plumber’s putty or silicone, and might even tackle that seal beneath the toilet bowl. It’s held on with just four bolts. Maybe I can just tighten them up and that leak will be fixed, too.

How hard can it be?

About Erik Dolson

Erik Dolson is a writer living in Oregon
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