Bilge Babe versus the Sanitation Hose…
Meet standard marine sanitation hose, my dreaded nemesis: At first glance, you don’t think much of it—it’s a blandly white, 1 ¾ inch-diameter plastic hose reinforced with wire. How evil could it be? It serves important plumbing functions, usually the dirtiest jobs aboard boats. But despite its beneficial qualities, the task of removing it or placing it onto plumbing fittings quickly makes one forget any of its charm. This is the most stubborn hose on earth! It’s like they intentionally make it just slightly too small for the fittings, maybe to weed out the weak…I don’t know?…But dealing with this hose is a task that makes me yearn for ‘Marine Man’ (my fantasy boat-fixing Superhero) to descend from a cloud to wrestle that dastardly hose while I make him a sandwich…
Excuses and grudges aside, my bilge pumps HAD to be fixed. There was corrosion in the wiring somewhere as well as a block in one of the hoses. My Dad and I had tried to fix them when he was here, but we didn’t have all the necessary parts for the job. I’d now rounded them up, and seeing as neither Dad nor ‘Mr. Right’ nor ‘Marine Man’ were anywhere in sight, I found myself alone to face off with my most detested foe.
The hose problem went back to the complication of the hull leak and the broken motor mounts. The details could be enough to make you click on an advertisement link, so in short, my engine now sits lower than before and was pinching one of the two bilge pump hoses that ran underneath it toward the exit points at the stern. Seeing as removing and replacing this crushed hose is an enormous job, I figured I’d wait until my next haulout (cringe at the thought…Please, ‘Marine Man’, I beg you to show up on that day!!). Instead, I’d devised an interim plan…
My idea was to use a Y-connector to link the pump that was connected to the crushed hose, into the freely flowing hose of the other pump and then they would both push water out of the same, open hose…simple, right?
NOT AT ALL…Hours later I’d dismantled half the boat and was caked in bilge slime. I’d managed to wrestle free only one of the hoses from one of the pumps, and sat amongst my filth and tools, staring at the wiring diagram for the automatic float switch. The instructions made it look like a kindergartener could do it, but nothing, I repeat NOTHING on a boat is simple (except for a maybe a bucket?)
But Bilge Babe kept at it–running, connecting, and testing the wiring configurations until the pumps whirled when the switches were flipped. I sealed the connections and all that remained was cut the hoses and force them onto the Y-fittings. Easier said than done…
It took all my strength and wit and determination…I willed their insubordinate, white plasticness onto each fitting, one-by one, using heat, dish soap, grease, mean words, my favorite music ‘Playlist’ on repeat, and force from my Mulabandha…(thanks Josh, your dad’s trick really works! J) I fought those hoses until they were all in their respective places and secured with double hose clamps!! Yeah!! I did it!! Muscle flexin’ and a victory dance to some M.I.A.!! Yow!
I shoved it all back down into the bilge for the final test…
“No, no…you’ve got to be kidding…” The auto switches worked, the pumps turned, but they just pushed the water out of the other pump and back into the bilge because there were no one-way valve in the pumps…So much for my brilliant idea…Deep breaths…”It’s just a little more manual labor,” I told myself. “Turn up the music and get back at it…”
I hauled the pumps back out…wrestled the hoses OFF again…I removed the Y-connector and put the good hose directly on the new pump with the new float switch–SIMPLE. So much for the redundancy of a backup pump, but one newly purchased, newly wired pump would have to do… Four more wrestling matches and it was nearly 8pm. By the time it was all installed, tools put away, and the cabin resituated, it was after 9…Black slime lining my limbs and my back ached–I wasn’t sure who’d won the battle.
On the dock I found a hose and rigged it to hang from the limb of a nearby tree. Sitting beneath it, I let the cool water fall over me in the darkness and scrubbed at myself with Monoi oil and Vaseline and soap. The bikini I had on officially Bilge Babe’s uniform, as there was grease all over it…
Nevermind that, I looked up to see the clouds parting on the eastern horizon and the full moon rising out of the sea! Nature rewards!!
…The trades sang through the masts and trees, not a soul was stirring on the other sailboats around, the cool fresh water restored me…”It’s lovely, it’s perfect, it’s absolutely spectacular,” I thought. Just me and this tree and the sea and the round, ginger moon. Those hoses are in still in the bilge–I win!! ‘Marine Man’ must have known I could do it…”:)
auntieFebruary 22, 2011
I LOVE YOU SOOOOOOOOO AWESOMENESS XXXOOO
SalFebruary 22, 2011
Had Marine Man shown up, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy yet another story of perseverance, creativity and adaptability. Though we may have gotten a recipe for an ahi club sandwich.
Mike BensonFebruary 22, 2011
Cruising, the art of performing boat maintainence in remote locations. Good job getting in there and getting the job done. I am always so impressed with what you write, and what you are doing out there. I know my day will come when I will find myself plying distant waters. Ever since a met a cruising couple while fishing in Alaska, the seed was planted. I grew up on the water and can’t wait to grow back to it.
Steven SeshunFebruary 22, 2011
You’re a SUPERSTAR Lizzy! Loved reading your wit and your grit about the bilge pump and the babe that conquered it, LOL. Be encouraged.
+Steven and family
John PhillipsFebruary 23, 2011
I loved this bilge babe post it was very funny. Thanks for it. Keep up the good work.
Old BoatFebruary 23, 2011
Somewhere Marine Man is sitting reading this post, and is entirely smitten; even now he is strategizing how to parachute down to your remote location, with a knapsack of parts, a head full of know-how, and a clean 6’6″ just in case there is a swell…
RicardoFebruary 26, 2011
This is one great story for the real cruisers. Working on a bilge and toilett tubings always made me sick (on sail) as few things could get me to feel bad those years..at anchor the thing was different. I had to (like you Lizzy) get my walkman headphones on with the best positive sound i had usually Path Metheny and Lyle Mays would do the trick..:) then prepare mentally for few minutes maybe hours..:) then get on with different perspectives as to diganose the approach to the messy problem etc. All mind games. In the end you just have to go for it like on a tricky take off on onshore wind wave..you never know if it will close up but only way to find out is go without much in mind but focus on whats ahead and thats all…then you discover that hand work will never be replaced by “mind” only…in simple mechanics is just doing more than thinking. The best of it is that you come all fixed up up your cockpit after many hours bended and with your knees all sored up and with marks from edges on your bilge frames etc. You breath and feel the brezze and see the blue tourquise waters. And is like your mind and your hands have become friends again…then you dip into the big blue and wash up and come refreshed inside and out!…ZEN AND THE ART OF SAILBOAT MAINTENANCE…
pabliniFebruary 26, 2011
first rule of being a mechanic is stick your hands in a pile of grease then hit them a couple of times with a hammer ….. then your ready to start … love ya darling lizzy
AndyhardcastleMarch 1, 2011
Liz I have been there many many times! Great artical thanks !