Sinking on the Hard!
18 October 2011 | Beaufort, NC
Jenny / 72 degrees & sunny
Sometime last month, we had a bit of a water incident. (Actually, ever since Hurricane Irene, we’ve had some water issues . . . but we’ll get to some of those later). Anyway . . .
On this one particular day, Wil had gone to West Marine with a fellow cruiser, while I ran another errand with our kids & fellow cruiser kids in tow. When I returned to the boat, Justine was the first to go aboard. Suddenly, she ran back outside saying that there was an alarm going off. In that first second, I was puzzled as to what alarm it could be. We have smoke detectors onboard, so my heart started racing when I immediately started fearing the worst.
As soon as I reached the cockpit, I recognized the sound of the bilge alarm. Water in the bilge? How could water be in the bilge when Full Monty was sitting in a gravel yard out of the water and there wasn’t a drop of rain in sight? I raced to the navigation table to see which bilge alarm was causing the racket. The light flashed for the Forward Starboard Store. In other words, the bilge pump was on in our lazarette just forward of Justine’s cabin near the bow.
I rushed to the bow and opened the hatch. To my surprise there was water spraying from a temporary hose fitting that leads to Justine’s shower on the other side of the wall. Our water tank was emptying into the lazarette that stores our sails, lines, fenders, and other spare items. We carry 200 gallons of water, so that was going to be a whole lot of water where it didn’t belong if I had not shown up when I did!
After turning off the water pump, I returned to the bow in order to further assess the situation. The water had completely filled the bilge and had already gone higher than the floor board. Then I noticed that the bilge pump was on, but the water wasn’t going down. Upon looking at the thru-hull from the outside, there was nothing but a trickle of water dripping down the side of the hull. Not a good sign!
In the meantime, I was hearing little voices crying out “we’re sinking on land!” or “are we going to sink?” Colin wanted to know if this were to happen in the ocean, would we sink? Thank goodness my answer was able to be “No, we wouldn’t sink.” I explained to him that in a catamaran, you can fill the hulls entirely with water, and we’d still float. Something referred to as positive flotation.
Since I was the only adult onboard, I had to struggle to get a HUGE sail bag out of the lazarette in order to allow room for myself to get down the ladder to the flooded area and assess the bilge pump. Not knowing where to start, I began with the float switch, turning the pump off & back on. Suddenly, I was in luck! Water immediately starting gushing out of the thru-hull, and the pump was finally doing its proper job. Whew! Thank goodness we didn’t need a new pump.
As to the cause of everything . . . It all leads back to last winter when we neglected to empty water hoses (or turn on heaters) before some subfreezing temperatures arrived. The shower fixture cracked under those conditions, so Wil placed a temporary fitting behind Justine’s shower. This allows us to use the water system and fix the problem at a later date. Then, about a month ago, we started working on some gel coat repair to the bows. Gaining access to this part of the boat meant emptying the contents of the forward lazarette. With all of the work going on in this area, the hose fitting must have been bumped by some of the really big sail bags that had to squeeze past. It was only a matter of time before the water started spraying. And as for the bilge pump, we suspect that mud daubers must have had a nest in the thru-hull which clogged the out flow of water. Eventually, the water pushed through, and the bilge was able to empty.
For me, this was sort of like a practice drill . . . hearing the sound of the bilge alarm, having to trace to the source, and correct the problem. Thank goodness it all happened on dry land!