Sunday, March 16, 2014

Hippocratic Oath

I am not super handy. It's true. I can make due and I am getting better (out of necessity since moving aboard) and better equipped, but I'm no Mr. Fix It. Especially in comparison to others like my father, JP from Bin de Folie or many other yacht captains.

When I tackle a boat project on our (infinite) list I try to invest a lot of time up front studying the problem and potential solutions. Because I am not super handy, I am always conscious that by proceeding with a fix I risk actually make things worse. Do no harm.

One of our two water tanks has some sand in it. Not a lot, and usually it's settled on the bottom of the tank, but after a rough day at sea it gets stirred up and water out of the taps becomes somewhat cloudy. How did it end up there? I imagine that over the years, including before my ownership of Topanga contamination entered via the deck fill hole. As we only use this water for dishes, hand washing and showering, but do not drink it, there are no big health or safety risks.

Fresh water tanks are under the settees (couches) on each side. They have water level gauges (neither works) and access panels. The access panels are very poorly designed in that only half of the ten screws are actually accessible from the panel. The other half are stuck under the the settee support board leaving only an inch of space to work in. By just removing the few screws holding the level gauges I was able to peer into the tanks with a light and see the sand. Additionally I was able to see why the gauges were not working: because the floats had come off and were lose in the tank.

I proceeded to remove the thirteen panel screws, starting with the hardest ones to access. Using just the bit of a screwdriver and clamp pliers I was able to slowly remove them halfway. This is when I called the project off though. Removing them was hard enough but replacing them after would have been very difficult. Further more, even after if I got the access panel off, getting to the sand at the other end of the tank would be very difficult.
The risk benefit analysis just wasn't worth it.

I replaced and tightened all the screws and announced to the crew that we would be living with occasionally cloudy water.

A few days later I was filling up the water tanks at the dock. Sitting on the deck with the hose in the fill hole it seemed to be taking longer than usual to fill. Maybe this was normal though because I had drained the tank quite completely before attempting the work. Then I heard the bilge pump come on and start continually pumping water out of the back of the boat. While that in itself is normal the coincidence of it happening while I was filling the tanks begged investigation. I stopped filling and went below. Indeed there was some water leaking from the tank access panel. It seems I didn't re-tighten all the screws enough to make a water tight seal. Luckily only some water escaped and disaster was averted, but just goes to show that even minor meddling can have unintended consequences.

Access panel and broken level indicator

Can hardly see four of the screws let alone access them! Who designed this?!

Little but of sand... our daily dose of the silica food group

And there's the waterlogged and loose float (cork looking thing at the bottom)

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday John. Et non je ne me suis pas trompée de jour, on est le 17 mars en Pologne. xx