Thursday, May 9, 2013

Poop hose

Just when I thought summer was here, another cold front came through. The north wind blew all week and did two things, it tore apart our ratty bimini that we had left up, and it blew all the water out of the marina. Everyone was trapped at the docks, so with no sailing to be done, we tackled the first project on our list.

I don't know if the hoses in the head were originals, but it is quite possible. Hoses that had started their service a pristine white had turned brown, were very sticky to the touch, and stank worse than one of Dixie's farts.

Just opening the closet or an access panels to the bilge released the stench, and it was causing a problem because we couldn't actually store anything in the closet or under the V berth for fear that our sheets and towels would forever be permeated with that odor.  I ended up hanging all my "just-in-case" sweaters up on hooks all around our bed.  The hanging closet was one of the big selling points for this boat, and to me it was a priority to get it working.  Not to mention that we have only been using a small percentage of our storage on the boat because of the general smell and dirtiness.   

We opened all the ports, tore apart the bed, and got started. The clutter of having things apart is always a pain for us, but Dixie didn't seem to mind having extra pillows and blankets for her afternoon nap.

I thought I'd be smart with the entire project to minimize any spillage of refuse. We had pumped out the holding tank, so it was already "empty," but I knew from experience when replacing hoses and the head in the Seahorse that there was always something in the lines. I thought I was quite clever when I put a siphon into the toilet and sucked out all the standing water in that line. Then I suggested we prepare plastic bags and rubber bands, so that as soon as I removed a line we could tip it up and get a bag rubber banded over the end to keep filth from dumping all over us (mostly me).

This procedure had some success with only minimum drippage as I started with the hose running from the toilet to the Y-Valve. I thought to myself, "This might not be so bad."

It was bad. I genuinely can't tell if Fred was doing that much more work that me, or if he was just being a baby. 

I yanked the next hose which ran from the Y-Valve to the top of the tank, and the brittle plastic of the aged valve snapped right off. I suddenly had pee water running out on me from that hose and from the line that ran from the Y-valve to the overboard. Things only got worse from there. Every hose got harder and harder to pull -- most of them having to be cut.

Mary didn't escape the shit shower either. That's disgusting. While I was up in the V berth, she had started disconnecting the vent line and pump-out line in the closet. As I mentioned, we had avoided putting anything in the closet because it smelled horrible. Well, it's lucky we hadn't because she discovered our pump-out fixture was leaking and had dripped down the wall. Many Clorox wipes were used once those lines were removed.  Thank God I didn't have any clothes in the closet.  I don't know how I didn't notice how gross it was in there before.  My secret to avoid gagging is to just not breathe and pretend you're cleaning up something else. I had totally convinced myself I was cleaning dirt and sand out of the closet. 

Of course, the worst part was when I finally had to pull the outlet hose from the bottom of the tank. I knew there would be something in it, and I was ready to catch the mess. However, I wasn't ready for all the little petrified toilet paper balls that flooded into the bilge around my feet. This was the only time my gag reflex really got the best of me.

We took a break to clorox and vacuum out the bilge, so that theoretically the rest of our work would be completed in sanitary conditions. By the time we had all of the old hose out of the boat to begin measuring, I was not happy.  This was when the grouchiness really started come through. You know that moment in a project where everyone stops pretending to put on a good face and everyone is ready to say aloud how unhappy they are? We had reached it.

We needed 25'4" of hose. I was estimating this project at $500 because we were planning on using the black waste hose that runs about $11 per foot. I have yet to decide if it was fortunate or unfortunate that West Marine only had the white hose in stock. It was only $4.90 per foot, but if I have to do this project again in three years, I might just scuttle the boat.  You will not!

Around $250 later we returned from West Marine with new waste hose, new vent hose, a new Y-valve, a new T connector, and a few new clamps.  We really felt victorious at this point, little did we know how much work was left..

We started the vent hose first because I had to unstrap the holding tank and move it around to get to the rear vent connection. I connected the two tank connections to a T and then shoved the vent hose through a hole to Mary in the closet -- didn't reach.

We re-checked our measurements we had made off the old hoses.

We re-checked our cuts to see if there had been an error.

No errors.

It still didn't fit.

Mary made the second trip to West Marine for another three feet of hose, a coupler, and more clamps. (We later discovered a different hole in the closet that would have shortened the vent line's run, which explained why we came up so short, but at that point we had already added the extra vent line and strapped the tank back into place, so c'est la vie.)  At least it wasn't my math...

I managed to run the hose from the toilet to the new Y-valve and the hose from the Y-valve to the tank before the sun started to set and my arm strength completely gave out. I didn't know the heat gun trick until after the fact, but I will definitely never do another project like this without a heat gun to assist with sliding the hoses onto the tank, etc.

I gave myself a sink bath and stepped outside to enjoy the sunset.

It only took a moderate amount of rum before we forgot all about the lingering poo problem and were enjoying the evening with our marina friends.  I should also add that we were treated to a great prime rib dinner by the crew of the Tina Marie, which also helped alleviate the grouchiness. 

It was also one of those rare evening with low humidity that was perfect for sleeping with the windows open. We tried out our screen-covered companionway board for the first time. I love this thing so much, I wish we lived in a place where we could use it all the time.

Because we had no working facilities on the boat, and I made the mistake of drinking heavily before going to bed, I spent most of the night dreaming about waterfalls, so the dogs and I were up very early to make a walk to the bathhouse. That translated to me starting work on the hoses very early. I probably should have waited until after some coffee.

By 8 a.m. I had broken the nozzle off of the manual pump that pumps the holding tank overboard. This was disheartening because I knew it just added another $100 to the project.  I woke up to some loud profanity.

While we had cleaned the bilge after removing the hoses the previous day, when I unscrewed the broken pump and began lifting it out of the bilge, it proceeded to dump what seemed like a gallon of filthy water out all over me, and I ran with it dripping through the boat to get it out into the cockpit.

Mary went with me on our third trip to West Marine. On our way up the car we spotted this crab greedily eating another crab. It has nothing to do with the story, but I just thought it was weird.

After much searching on several different aisles of West Marine, we found an almost identical pump to the "Guzzler", and it was an open box special for $69!

The only problem was that there was a well-worn, barbed T-connection at one end of the pump, and although it seemed in re-usable condition, I could not get our hose over the flanges no matter how much dish soap I used as lube. I even tried talking dirty to it -- no luck. That's when Mary suggested the grinding attachment on the Dremel. 

I spent the next 15 minutes making a huge mess of plastic shavings and pitting and destroying the T connector. Total fail. I might have hurled the T through the boat. At this point Fred was pretty grouchy, so I let him go to West Marine by himself. I went over to the Tina Marie to enjoy some breakfast, and swap stories about male temper tantrums during projects.

I made the fourth trip to West Marine.

When I got back to the boat, Dixie greeted me at the bottom of the stairs, but Tex was nowhere to be found. Then I heard some rustling noises in the bow.

I guess curiosity got the best of him. I mean I had spent two full days hanging down into the bilge. Apparently he decided to investigate and got himself stuck in there. It was a nice moment of comedy relief until I realized he was soaked up to his armpits in the pee water that had leaked out of the broken pump. I carried him to the cockpit and called Mary back to the boat to wash him.

Thankfully the rest of the hoses cooperated and within 20 minutes I finally had everything connected and clamped. Everything in the system except the toilet, the tank, and the through-hull was new. 

It was at this moment, when I was exhausted and at my crabbiest that Mary was at her best. She gave me a hug (without even mentioning that I smelled like pee) and sent me off to have a beer while she re-cleaned the bilge. It was really my only choice. Poor Fred was noticeably frustrated and definitely done with this project. When I see him like that the easy part is when I can take over or help him out. It's much harder when there is nothing you can do.

The project still came very close to our $500 estimate because of the unexpected valves and pumps, but the boat now smells like roses. Well, actually it smells like rubber or new tires or something, but it's much more pleasant than before. I'm also now confident that after surviving that project, we can survive about anything. Well I'm sure it won't be the hardest thing we do, but the harder the project the greater the sense of accomplishment. Maybe that's what has us hooked.