Our marina is beautiful, but there is no denying that the water here in western Florida is just an icky shade of murky brown. There is a ridiculous amount of sea life and barnacles and when you combine that with the warmth you get a frequent need to inspect and clean everything that is exposed to the water. We left our dinghy in the water for just two days and it had a healthy coating of algae started on the bottom!
When sea life is left stagnant (for example in the plumbing lines to the heads before we arrived at the boat in late September) it can create an awful stink. We thought we did a pretty thorough job cleaning out the lines but the stink just never quite left all the way. Remembering the seastainers hadn’t been cleaned in a long time, they quickly became our prime suspects.
First step, close the thruhulls!! This was a no brainer but could have easily been forgotten as neither of us have much experience with maintenance on a boat. We were kind of prepared and had a huge wad of paper towels underneath each strainer before unscrewing the wingnuts on the strainer but neither of us were prepared for how gross the inside of it was going to smell.
Sure enough, they were totally gross!! After cleaning up the overflowing seawater mess in the bilge, we pulled the first strainer out and it was coated black. This one was for the main engine intake. We pulled out the second one, which filters water for the generator, air conditioning and aft head, and it wasn’t as black but it smelled 10 times worse!! We used a small hand pump from Wal-Mart to suck out the rest of the nasty stinky seawater from the glass cylinder and got it outside in a hurry.
Upon closer inspection on the dock, our two seastrainers had tiny little clusters of shells and barnacles growing inside them. Maybe a common occurrence for seasoned cruisers but it sure was fascinating to us!! A little scrubbing with a metal brush and some pressurized hose water did the trick. All shiny and new again! Well, not really new, they are starting to get holes in them so next time we clean them we will put in new ones. But for today, it’s good enough :)
Another first for us in learning how to keep our Mary Christine in ship-shape!!
Have you ever seen a really dirty bilge? Have you ever been inside a bilge?? Well, some of you have had the pleasure of partaking in bilge maintenance, but for those of you that haven’t, let me tell you…
Our boat was built in 1980 and it unfortunately needs a little more TLC than some of the newer boats out there. Since we have been running the air conditioning quite a bit lately, the condensation created is around three gallons per day and it all travels down into the bilge. We decided to clean the bilge for one of our first maintenance projects to get rid of some of the mildew and old ‘funk’ that has been in there for a while.
Peter wanted to get right down there and get the dirty deed over with, but alas, his muscles are just too big!! He can reach farther than I can but he just couldn’t reach all the way down to the lowest point of our bilge. We tried using gargantuan tweezers (one of those tools we kept for the one time we might really need them!) but just couldn’t get them to grasp the rags and sponges well enough. Kitchen tongs weren’t going to work either.
The best access panel for the lowest part of the bilge is in our aft head. I decided to see if I could somehow reach father than Peter, maybe just by flexibility, and it turns out I could actually fit my head AND shoulders all the way INSIDE! Getting in there was one thing, getting out was another. I discovered arm leg and back muscles that I didn’t know I had. While hanging into the opening in the head, my torso was twisted out into the aft cabin and I hooked my feet up into a cubby on the front of the bed for leverage. Peter was trying to be a good helper but with my whole body in the way he couldn’t shine the flashlight where I needed it to go. I couldn’t use a headlamp either because I could barely fit my head in there. Turns out headlamps can also be worn around your neck and angled upside down so when you are inverted into the abyss of your bilge with no room for a helping hand you can still see what you are doing.
Bilge Deep and upside down is just one of the new ways we are discovering to keep us flexible and burn some calories while living on the boat. It’s hard work, and it’s never done but the trade-off sure is worth the effort!!