Sunday, February 26, 2012

Near Disaster!

I'm told every boater has their own personal story of a very near disastrous event.  This is mine.  January and early February turned out to be a very busy time for personal issues involving travel.  This is where my story begins.

As part of our procedure for securing the boat upon our departure, it was my responsibility to insure the shower sump was empty and dry.  In order to pump out the shower suump you have to open a valve allowing the pump to eject the water overboard.  When this is complete you must close the valve or it will siphon water back into the boat.  Albeit, slowly, but, the water will come.  Figure out where this is going yet?........I failed to close the valve upon completion of the job and we proceeded to leave the boat for two weeks.  You read it right.......two weeks! 

It was late and dark when we returned and as I entered the boat I immediately knew something was WRONG when I heard my shoes making a squish, squish sound.

This is the carpet in the galley swimming in river water.

We got the lights turned on to see the entire back section of the boat soaked in river water.  We knew immediately what had happened and set about to pull up the floor boards over the center bilge compartment where the battery bank is stored.  The floor panels had soaked up so much water, for such a long time, that they had swelled.  Also, the water level was up to the floor boards creating a suction so strong the we broke both of the existing pulls trying to open the compartment.  Carter was forced to bring out a power tool (picture Tim the Tool Man here) to drill a hole in one of the floor boards big enough for us to get a handhold to pull it up with.  {Sigh}  It was a terrible situation and I caused it.

This is the battery bank and the back section past the white door is the adjoining mechanical room.

Submerged Batteries
This made our hearts sink.

The shower sump is on the left.  We had an extra pump, pumping from the battery compartment/mechanical room into the shower sump so that it could be pumped out of the boat.

Sickening isn't it?

As it turns out, the water had siphoned back into the shower sump, spilled over the wall into the battery bank, into the mechanical room, then overflowed into the galley area (since it was lower towards the stern) finally rolling down into the engine room and into the bilge where it was pumped out of the boat by the boat saving bilge pump. 
I do anyway! Saved my bacon!
If the bilge pump had failed, the boat could have sunk and we arrived just as the engine 12V batteries that run the bilge pump died! The lights where very dim because the engine batteries had dropped to 8Volts as the pump had been pumping so much while we where gone.  Although the engine room sump had recently been pumped out, as soon as we started the generator it began to pump again so apparently the batteries had just given up the day before we got back. That was a close one.
We worked until 2 AM that night/morning pumping the water out, wet vacuuming the carpets and hauling the batteries outside.  Anyone know how heavy a single battery is?  Approximately 80 lbs. and Carter removed 7 batteries that night while I wet vac-ed all the carpet and tended the pumps.  We were tired puppies that night.

The next day I spent moving the box fan here, there and everywhere drying out the carpet.  Carter spent the next couple of days cleaning up the batteries and checking them out.  He immediately purchased four new batteries to get us somewhat back on line and then upon checking out the old batteries discovered only one of the 6Volt batteries was actually killed. All the other batteries miraculously took and seemed to hold a charge. We used two of the 6 Volts to replace one of the the engine battery banks and reinstalled the 3 8 Volt batteries for our second 24V house bank.  He then cleaned up the existing batteries to see if any could be salvaged and as it turned out all but the one were OK, but we'll see how long they last. 

Lesson learned: Pay close attention to all the little details. 

But on a side note...Carter has plans for redesigning the shower pumping system so this can't happen but he just hasn't got to it yet.  Needless to say, this has now moved up the on the 'to do' list.

The carpet is dry and 3 of the 4 new batteries are ready to be wired up in the now cleaned up space.

Let the wiring begin.

Cleaning the old batteries

Each battery is approximately 80 lbs. more or less and Carter carried them all out...and back in.
All 7 batteries are back in.  Four are new and 3 are originals that have been cleaned up. 
We will see how well they hold up.

We are now back where we started and forging ahead with our regularly scheduled chores!  Yesterday, Carter constructed a scaffold in preparation for mounting the remaining solar panels.  Panel installation will be the next blog page and will be coming soon!

Once the panels are up, it will finally be time to take the boat to the yard for a much needed bottom job!  This includes bottom paint, inspection of the driveshaft and replacement of the cutlass bearing.  If we can manage more, we will paint the freeboards, the deck, and install the rub rail.  Whoo Hoo!  We'll see how far we get.

Now that will be a milestone!