Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Cleaning the bilge and waiting for better weather.

It has been an unusually cold and wet December this year. This has caused some delay in my projects since it is either too humid or too cold to do any fiberglass work. With daytime temps below 60, fiberglass won't cure -- and then humidity and dew will ruin any fiberglass work. But there are enough interior projects to keep me busy... like cleaning out the bilge.

About 20 gallons of water had accumulated in the bilge during my 15-month absence. I believe this was due to the cockpit seat drains getting plugged-up, so one of my first projects was to enlarge and improve the drains -- more on that later.  I will have to thoroughly clean the bilge and prepare the surface for gel-coating, to protect the interior fiberglass from the water and also to be able to more easily spot any oil etc.- accumulating in the bilge. Keeping a clean bilge on a sailboat is important because that's where the bilge pump is located, and the bilge pump is what removes any water that manages to enter the boat. Bits of dirt or debris in the bilge can interfere with the proper functioning of the bilge pump and/or the bilge pump's automatic switch.

However this is a messy, dirty job, what with the dead frog and all, and it is really difficult to reach into the nether regions of Whimsy to give her a good scrub. Sanding down the surface is an important part in prepping for gelcoating but I can't really reach all the way to the back of the bilge and beneath the engine by hand.

Back when this vessel was designed, it was common to have the anchor locker drain into the bilge. Could you imagine the mess and the smell? But my bilge is pretty clean, compared to some others I've seen. The problem is really lack of access. As a centerboard vessel, the centerboard closet gets in the way quite a bit, and divides the bilge unto two parts along the fore-and-aft line. The connection between to two  bilge halves is way aft, under the engine, not reachable by hand. This is a bit of a problem and I'm seriously considering hoisting up the engine to improve access (I aslo plan to get one of those extendable grabber-thingies and an endoscope to help retrieve fallen tools and bolts etc out of the bilge.)

Bilge hose check valve, must go!
One of the interesting finds was the one-way check valve on the bilge pump hose. That's a no-no nowadays because should a piece of dirt get stuck in the valve, or if the valve just fails, seawater can potentially enter the boat through the bilge pump hose. I'm going to have to address this and the location of the fittings later. For now, I'm just cleaning the bilge in preparation for painting while the weather is bad. 

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