A few days ago I decided to deal with our dirty bilges. I followed some tubing from the cockpit to find a pump we never knew existed in the bilge furthest aft. Turns out the float switch was set way too high, so there was a decent amount of water built up. Being nearly under the engine, it was filled with years worth of oil drippings, so I got really gunked up reaching up to my elbow in the opaque black water to reposition the pump so I could short out the float to empty the bilge. Not pleasant.
The next bilge forward is where our holding tank is kept. Now, this tank is pretty small, and the last time we thought it was topped off, the “full of $#!+” light didn’t go on. We had since attempted to pump out some of the tank, so I thought I’d put on the respirator and check to see if the sensor was actually working. It definitely wasn’t.
I was about to learn that a valve was shut in our plumbing, making any previous pumping completely ineffective. The tank was still very… very full. While unscrewing the top, I heard a hissing sound as the compressed gases inside flowed out, and soon after, the 1/8” screw hole was spurting poo/pee 2 feet into the air. Anybody watching would have laughed for days as I did a backflip and cowered in the corner, but I was not laughing. Instead, I blurted out every profane word and phrase I had ever heard as I watched the mini-geyser in horror. But I didn’t want to watch. Motivated by a desire to look elsewhere, I ran to the head and pumped a bit of the tank out manually to relieve the pressure till Old Faithful had gone dormant. When it had quieted down, I opened up all the windows and hatches and went outside to the cockpit where I could take off the respirator and have a breather.
Laying down on the cockpit seats, I let out the remainder of the curse words I know. Trying to look on the bright side, I thanked the black clouds above for not dumping their load. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but storm clouds have some wild desire to be unpredictable; praise them for one thing and they go ahead and do the exact opposite. 10 seconds later it was pouring, and I’m not talking about the standard SF drizzle, but a god damn squall. At some point, I decided sitting in the freezing rain was actually worse than putting the respirator back on, so I got back below and sealed myself up in the putrid cabin. Using some spare tubing, I rigged up a siphon from our saltwater intake, and dumped it into the offending bilge. For almost two hours I sat there flooding the bilge with saltwater and pumping it overboard… over and over again. It still reeked. Finally, even the storm clouds realized they were being mean and replaced the rain with a strong, steady wind, designed to whisk away the godawful smell. I opened every possible hatch and passed responsibility off to the breeze. An hour later I took my respirator off. A day of wide open portholes later and half of a container of air freshener and you’d never know anything happened.