Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Working the Priority List

Every sailor knows the true story behind the Odyssey.  It didn't take Odysseus ten years to get home after the Trojan War because the gods were annoyed with him and he got blown off-course: he was late because his boat kept breaking and he had to fix it.  Heck, if I had ten years of repair delays to explain, I'd tell my spouse the same thing.  "Sorry, honey, I was fighting a cyclops."  It sounds so much cooler than, "Sorry, honey, that hole in the bilge just kept opening up."

There is no such thing as a boat in perfect condition.  There is always work to be done.  Always.  The goal is to make it just a little further down the priority list.  Our holy grail, like that of many sailors, is to redo the teak.  When we have fixed and maintained the boat to the point that teak makes it to the top of the list,I'll know that our boat is pretty mint.  (Either that, or we'll be trying to sell it.)

I've been doing my best to keep Papillon in good repair while the captain is away.  I run the engine, watch the battery bank like a hawk, and generally try to keep us above water while still making sure the young ladies are educated, fed, clothed and otherwise presentable.

Some weeks it is easier than others.

Number one on my list last week was to modify the beautiful splash guards Erik made for the dinghy.  Not a big project: some Sunbrella, some velcro, and we'd be in business.

And then the engine started to sputter.

I've been around long enough to know what air in the fuel lines sounds like.  Time to bleed the engine.  No problem: I have a handy 20-point list to remind me when to bleed which filter with what wrench, how not to destroy the fuel injectors, and so on.  And, to make a long story short, Stylish and I bled the engine.
A lovely meal and a sunset later, I decided to start my sewing project bright and early the next morning.  But as the girls were preparing for bed, all was quiet for just a moment.  And I heard A Noise.

No one ever wants to hear A Noise on a boat.  But even less do you want to ignore A Noise.  A Noise always means that you are about to be exhausted, dirty, and possibly a little freaked out, but you'd better track it down or Bad Things Will Happen.

This was a drip-drip-splash noise, which may be my least favorite of all the noises.  I opened the floorboards, and sure enough - the bilge was full almost to the brim.  On went the serious bilge pump.  And I started tracking.

When I found the source of the drippity-drip,I was not happy.  It was coming from the bottom of the sail locker.  Of course it was.  What, you thought I was going to have a leak in a convenient, accessible place?  Pfft.  No.  So, out came the sails.  All of the sails.  And because the sail locker is about five feet deep...

... now my cockpit looked like this:

And where, you ask, was that leak?  Down, down, way down in the starboard aft corner of the locker is a hose leading to a sea cock.  And just at the point the hose meets the floorboards, the hose failed.
Getting the seacock closed was another mighty task, because, despite regular care, it was stiff and salty and generally recalcitrant.  It required the attention of arms more burly than mine.  But there is nothing I like better early on a Sunday morning than to beg a favor from a neighbour, and so one duly arrived to help me out.  I modified the floorboard, washed everything and set it out to dry, and generally felt glad that we weren't sinking any longer.
And there was much rejoicing.
All the girls wanted to know was, when were the pancakes showing up? Because I had foolishly promised to make pancakes for breakfast the evening before.  They weren't interested in excuses such as, "the boat is sinking."  (I should have tried that cyclops thing; I'll have to remember that for next time.)  I could always sew the dinghy in the afternoon.

So I made pancakes.  We ate pancakes.  And then I turned on the tap to wash the dishes.


This is a time when you actually want A Noise.  Namely, the water pump.  But, no dice.

Up came the floorboards, out came the multimeter, and a lot of mucking around and more (different) neighbourly help later, it was determined that the pressure switch was shot.

A day and a half and three chandleries later, I found a new pressure switch. Amazingly enough, it was in stock, a situation I am not accustomed to any longer.  And now the water pump works again.

So today I am going to do my sewing project.  As soon as I am done this blog post.  And I make the kids lunch.  And I finish cleaning the cyclone lines and getting rid of the tire fenders we don't need anymore.  Yep, by the end of the day, that sucker will be sewn.

If not, I think I'll blame it on a witch named Circe...


Anonymous said...

Ha, ha! I love it! And of course these things pop up on the days when you aren't prepared for after you finally got yourself showered and in clean clothes. Power on!

Anonymous said...

& here all I have to do is once again put away Great Grandma's winter clothes & get out all of her summer ones.

Your skill set is amazing.
Love Mom

Anonymous said...

Great post . One of my favorites. I know that feeling and while my ship is not sinking between picking up from school and trying to getting the little one fed or asleep my days pass in a blur.

Love Kate

Paul in Iowa said...

WOW Amy! I had no idea you were so talented technically in addition to the other skills you have been sharing with us; I am duly impressed and compliment Erik on his teamwork with you. Sounds like you are eager to enlist the help of others too, which I suspect most are eager to lend a hand as I assume it is kind of like a small family. Keep up the faith and stamina.

Abraham Yates said...

Usually, the noise occurs when the engine oil is already dirty or the fuel tube is clogged. That’s why it’s important to check the oil tank regularly to make sure that the oil isn't contaminated or already due for an oil change. Also, make sure that the fuel filter is clean and grime-free, so that you can prevent it from clogging and causing further contamination.

Abraham Yates @ Apache Oil Company

Kevin Baerg said...

I am super impressed Amy! Your hubby has done well to teach and you have done extremely well to learn the systems on your boat! This post is a huge impetus to me to make sure my wife knows what to do in a similar situation - especially when she is alone on our boat. Thank you for writing and sharing it. Way to be such a great "boat partner" for your family!