Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fixing Your Boat in Exotic Locations

That is often the definition of "cruising." There is the daily, weekly, monthly and annual boat maintenance projects like checking the oil, changing filters, working the thru-hulls, looking for chafe on lines and sails, waterproofing the bimini, greasing bits and pieces, de-greasing bits and pieces, and any number of projects to keep you busy. Then there are the unexpected problems. Things break or stop working. Many times it is at an inconvenient time and place. It is never a welcome event.

Yesterday (Monday) was a boat project day. Michael was going to re-install the new pump for the water maker. We have been lucky with enough rain collection to not need it since we returned to the boat in August/September. But we are at anchor in Bocas and decided it was as good a time as any to get it done before we headed south towards Colon. The weather didn't look good for the next few days for an early departure, so we decided this would be a good day to get that done.

It went in with a few moans, groans, swear words and boat bites...but, not a big issue. We'll hope that's still the case when we actually try to run it. Then Michael went to use the foot water pump in the galley (this is not at all connected to the other water project) Oh no, it's leaking and not working. Another project for the day. He takes it apart and its broken so he decides to attempt a repair with epoxy. Now you have to understand, every project on a boat requires you to find tools, bits and pieces, cleaners, rags, glues etc. Nothing is never easy as it usually requires unloading huge areas to find one small bit. And often times it's not where you thought it was so that means unloading another area. Then the epoxy is old and doesn't work so you need to find another batch. Every project takes much, much longer than it should. But it gets done – or at least epoxied and we'll see if it holds.

Lunch time. A break and Michael asks for a glass of water. Nothing comes out of the faucet. Nothing. It seems that today, the water department has gone on strike! Another issue because this has absolutely nothing to do with the newly installed water maker pump nor the galley water foot pump. A whole new problem. Perhaps we are out of water – though the gauge tells us we still have two lights. Hmmmmm.

Now this problem is actually a more serious concern. There is a lot of water in the bilge – fresh water. We proceed to empty bilge lockers (remember storage is everywhere about a boat!) The wine locker (bottles stored in socks) is soaked – so we empty all the bottles out of their socks so we can dry everything. We track the problem to the pressure water pump which seems to run non-stop or until it overheats and shuts itself down. This causes an incredible amount of pressure to build which now has caused the water heater pressure relief valve to open and flow into the bilge. Michael tries everything to seal this valve – but unfortunately the pressure is so high – everything he uses to plug a water hose won't work. The pressure is so great it actually pushes water through a wood plug's grain, He finally installs a valve that seems to hold as long as we don't run the pump very long.

Of course all these emergency repairs mean we're late for an invite aboard Sapphire. Bummer. We get things back together enough to make a quick dinghy run over for a drink and sympathy and as always, advice from other boaters.

Michael sleeps on the problem. It rains most of the night so thinking about water and water issues isn't a problem. Plus, luckily we get lots of rain collected in case we can't use the pump for awhile. In the morning, Michael asks on the morning radio net if anyone has a spare re-build kit for the bad water pump. Luckily, a friend on a nearby boat has exactly what we need. He does take apart the broken pump in the hopes of seeing something obvious that can be fixed – perhaps a bit of grit has jammed into a diaphragm to hold the pressure switch open. He does find a problem but it is a spring that is very corroded and beyond repair. He has used the rebuild kit from Tom on "Liberty" and re-installs the pressure water pump. After much testing it seems to work – the hot water heater still has an issue, but at least we have running water again.

One success and then on to re-installing the glued together foot pump for the galley. Installation completed – now the test – will the epoxy hold? Nope! It breaks again in the same place and water gets everywhere. Luckily fresh water. So back to uninstalling and trying another type of glue. The offending part of the pump is now clamped and setting up, this time with super glue not epoxy .… will it hold tomorrow? Stay tuned.

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