Keep the bilges dry

I’m sure many of the sailboat owners who keep up on Satori can recall a moment with their own vessel when they realize that this big and beautiful yacht can sink. Not only can it sink, it can sink quickly if there isn’t a way to automatically pump water overboard fast enough to keep up with any water leaking into the boat. Fortunately when I first bought Satori there was  a 500 gallon per minute automatic bilge pump wired up to the 12 volt system. Unfortunately that is all that was available aside from a bucket to keep up with any potential issues with water in the bilge. I then realized that there was an actual manual bilge pump installed but after inspecting it, I also realized that is was not working and the bilge hose was full of calcification. About a year ago I replace the small bilge pump and let that be the one that cycles the most often. They are inexpensive and will probably last a couple of years before needing replacing. No problem since it isn’t intended to do more than remove water from the primary bilge. Even when it turns on, there is a back flow that does not allow the bilge to be totally emptied. That is because it cannot push all of the water out due to it’s design so about a half a gallon remains in the bilge no matter what. So I would also use my wet-dry vacuum to suck out the remaining water and then use a sponge to remove the remaining water to dry the bilge completely. Back in February I also installed a secondary high volume pump that switches on and sounds an alarm in the cockpit when the smaller pump could not keep up with the water entering the bilge. I unintentionally tested it’s worthiness once when I accidentally left the primary switch turned off. The big one was cycling on and off so the alarm would sound every thirty seconds. Fortunately someone called me from the marina office and I was able to run down and turn on the primary and fix the cycling issue.

Both bilge pumps installed. Total of 2800 gph (minus head)
Both bilge pumps installed. Total of 2800 gph (minus head)

The only thing left to do was to get a manual large volume pump installed. I debated about rebuilding the Whale 25 and eventually found the rebuild kit online and then added a Y-valve to the primary pump outlet hose, rebuilt the pump and installed it again. I then checked the output of the pump by turning off all of the automatic ones and then filled the bilge with five gallons of water and then pumped it out using the Whale pump in a matter of a handful of pumps once the pump primed. Unfortunately the pump tends to fill with water and not drain out so I ended up disconnecting the hose so the water would drain out and then reconnected it.  Unless for some reason I actually need to use the pump, it’s better to keep it ready and just make sure it works properly. Just like every system on the boat, regardless if it’s for emergency it needs to be dependable and tested to make sure it works in case one day Satori really is taking on water and the electric pumps fail. I’ve read over and over again about a boat taking on water and the electric pumps failed because either the batteries could not produce enough energy or because the pump finally failed. I’ve also heard of suggestions that you should have two manual pumps aboard; one down below and another in the cockpit so you can either steer the boat while pumping or if it’s too dangerous to be outside then you can continue pumping down below. I don’t plan on having two pumps but at the very least I have one dependable pump with brand new rubber components.

The old manual bilge pump in need of a rebuild.
The old manual bilge pump in need of a rebuild.

Okay now for some insight on the rebuild. First was using a half a gallon of distilled vinegar to clean the corrosion from all of the parts. Then I was able to remove all of the screws, which there are many. Once everything was apart, I scrubbed the pump and removed any paint that was flaking away due to the corrosion of alloy under the paint. I debated about completely removing the paint and then applying a new coat but then decided that it wasn’t worth it since there isn’t much actual rust showing on the pump body. Once I scrubbed everything, I began putting it back together with the new parts, with just the sealing gasket left. To make sure the gasket sealed properly I used a silicone caulking to hold the gasket inside the groove, then once the silicon dried I clamped down the pump plates and finally applied a liberal amount of silicon to seal the housing shut. I would normally not use silicon but this is one time where it makes perfect sense to assist in getting a proper seal. I couldn’t think of another option that would behave as well as silicon does. Finally I mounted the pump back where it came from.

Whale Gusher 25 rebuild, parts removed
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild, parts removed
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild parts ready for assembly
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild parts ready for assembly
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild sealing gasket with silicon
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild sealing gasket with silicon

Now that Satori has her bilge pumps to keep dry, I now only need to deal with moisture from condensation, leaks and other reasons why there would be water flowing into the bilge. Currently the water pump leaks a little. Not enough to cause the pump to switch on. Also the refrigerator is dripping from melting and condensation and the excess flows into the center bilge. I keep towels down below to pick up whatever water they absorb and cycle them about once per week. The primary bilge stays dry if I do not use the motor and once it starts to get a few liters inside I will use a wet-dry vacuum to pick up the little bit and keep it dry. Keeping a bilge dry is important because it keeps the humidity down inside of the boat and also keeps odors away since there is less mildew accumulating. Finally it prevents the stainless water tanks from corroding as well as preserving the life of the little pump since it isn’t always immersed in water. I have been debating about getting a self-priming pump to do the work of the vacuum and towels, by sucking everything dry. Although that would be nice to have, I don’t think it’s really that important since the vacuum only comes out every few weeks. I don’t think I could eliminate towels though so I don’t see the point. Perhaps if I could circulate air down there with a fan and use a self-priming pump in combination that might solve it but personally I don’t think it’s worth the extra cost and that’s where I draw the line.

Since I bought Satori, I did have a goal to keep her much drier and eliminate all of her leaks and standing water. Mission accomplished so let’s move on to other more important things.

Winter Comforts

Our first snow in the city was this weekend. Satori’s cabin is as comfortable as a winter ski hut. It’s calm, the diesel stove is keeping the air dry and the cabin warm. The heat is transferred into the hot water tank, where right now the water is at a constant one hundred twenty degrees, just the same as the electric element heating the water. A low voltage computer fan sits above the stove and moves the warm air across into the settee. It’s wired to a switch and shares the same power as the bluetooth speaker, which is playing tunes from my iPhone. Tea is on top of the stove, keeping warm until I fill up another mug of Hojicha to sip while working on the canvas weather cloths. I will probably clean out the mildew in one of the unused lockers or apply some teak oil to another part of the boat. It’s winter now but projects have not slowed down. There is more time to dedicate to making the interior comfortable, organized and livable. That’s why I’m here instead of living in a house. It’s peaceful, I can focus and learn how to live on Sarori comfortably.

Computer fan circulates warm air from the Dickinson Stove
Computer fan circulates warm air from the Dickinson Stove

Some other things on the infinite list I was able to complete recently were to swap out the fluorescent bulbs in the bathroom for LED replacements. I was able to find a flourescent tube replacement that uses the same mounts but is powered using the ballast switch. I should be able to recoup the cost in about two years and should also last about ten years. The lights take about half of the energy as the bulbs and seem about twice as bright. This is a major improvement to having to stock ten years worth of bulbs.

Starlights T8-18 18-Inch Fluorescent Tube
Starlights T8-18 18-Inch Fluorescent Tube

I also bought a couple of sets of RGB LED strips to install into the forward berth and settee. The adhesive strips and adjustable range of lighting makes this application perfect for boats. Depending on the level of intensity and color you choose, you can draw as little as .3 amps or as much as one amp. The package comes with a remote with a bunch of different options like strobe, color fade, etc. but also allows you to choose white, red, green, blue and different color variances but also the brightness. The mounting is pretty easy since the system is 12 volt with a 110 volt adapter. You just need to cut the cable and wire it to a 12 volt lighting outlet, peel the adhesive backing and place the strip in a non-invasive location. Somewhere that provides ambient lighting is better than somewhere that causes you to stare straight at the lights. They can be intense so it’s better to place them facing downward and around a perimeter than say facing outward and at eye level. Once the strip is mounted, you can cut any remaining length off. The previous light in the forward berth side above the bed was another small fluorescent light and ballast, which was prone to being in the way and making contact with my head on occasion. Mounting something that cleared the area overhead is a major improvement on comfort since I not only no longer hit my head on a sharp corner due to confined spaces but also have some cool lights to create different effects inside the cabin. I will mount another strip inside of the settee once I decide how to wire from the light panel and make sure they create the proper effect. Each set cost me $30, which would be the cheapest I could get a new fixture at a marine hardware store, made of plastic and probably using xenon bulbs. I’m pretty happy with this improvement.

 TaoTronics TT-SL001 Waterproof RGB LED Strip
TaoTronics TT-SL001 Waterproof RGB LED Strip
Forward berth LED light strip on low setting
Forward berth LED light strip on low setting
Forward berth LED light strip on high setting
Forward berth LED light strip on high setting

From my last post on the hot water coil and stove rebuild, I wanted to follow up and post some useful information about how things are going. When I decided to rebuild the stove and install the hot water coil to heat the hot water tank I had no idea what the system would produce. Would the water temperature be too great or would it never reach a suitable temperature for showering, washing dishes and providing warm air for the forced air heater in the forward berth? Well so far it has proven to be just about perfect. This correlated to a setting of #4 on the fuel regulator and also turning the fan on the stove to #2 for the maximum temperature setting. I wouldn’t usually run it this hot but I needed to see the results of a lean system. The cabin temperature reached 84 degrees Fahrenheit, the hot water tank reached 160 degrees and the glycol in the loop to heat the hot water tank has reached 200 degrees. Last night I decided to tone it down a bit and set the stove to about twenty degrees cooler, which is still plenty warm. The cabin was 75 degrees when I woke up, with an outside temperature in the low 40’s. The glycol loop was 190 degrees and the hot water tank was 170 degrees. The great part of this system is how easy it is to cool down the tank and glycol, by simply turning on the circulation loop for the hot water and turning on the forced air heater in the forward berth. Within ten minutes the hot water temperature dropped to 140 degrees and warmed up the forward berth to dry it out from sleeping in it overnight. The humidity inside of the cabin averaged about 35%, which is plenty dry for a boat in the water moored in the Pacific Northwest. The stove seems to work much more efficiently and so far the only issue I need to resolve is when I shut down the stove, the fuel regulator will be shut off but will also allow some flow of fuel into the pot over several hours. It’s not really an issue because I have a ball valve in the fuel line that will prevent any flow from reaching the regulator but this also means having to shut off the supply instead of simply turning off the regulator. Otherwise, I am really pleased with how the rebuild has made life much more comfortable while living aboard during the winter.

A few weeks ago I had part of the settee table break on me so I decided to glue it back together and add some reinforcement using a chainplate. I suspect gluing it back together will only last so long until it breaks at the seam again and I love the table setup. It’s solid wood and when oiled is a great surface to work and eat on. Not only did I fix the support but I also fixed a hinge that will add more strength to the folding leaf and prevent any risk from accidentally breaking the table again. Just another thing to fix to prevent more wear and tear on the original components that were made to fit.

Table leaf support with reinforcement
Table leaf support with reinforcement

Beginning in a couple of weeks I will be removing the staysail boom and adding a roller furling system for the headsail and tracks for the staysail. A new staysail plan has been finalized and construction began today. The new foresail will start construction in January after the furling system is installed. I also hope to install a new battery bank and raw water pump for the engine so by March I can start sailing again. Until then Satori will stay at her dock and out of commission. These upgrades will be major improvements for cruising around the Salish and then the final projects will hopefully be completed in time to take Satori offshore in August. It’s a tentative plan and only budget and my available time will be the deciding factors of hitting the mark. The final offshore components are really expensive but also vital components that cannot be left behind. If I need to postpone another year then so be it. I don’t have a sufficient battery bank and renewable charging system, no liferaft, no storm equipment, no SSB, no radar and no cruising kitty yet. The mast should be taken down, rewired and new lights and wind anemometer installed before leaving land. I also need to do some hull repair and replace some seacocks so I have more access to strained raw water for spraying down the topsides, using it for doing dishes, for making freshwater once the water maker is installed and finally to ensure that the engine is getting enough flow to cool itself down. These are the major upgrades and once they are completed I can finally release the dock lines. Now that I’m looking at this list, it does not seem nearly as impossible as it did in December last year. Satori has already had some major upgrades and so there is an end in sight.