Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What's in the lowest part of the bilge?

What's in the lowest, most inaccessible part of your bilge?  Your bilge pump and switch, of course.  On December 13,  Jeff from s/v C'est la Vie penned this description of his journey into the nether regions of his boat.

While awaiting out the frontal passage we tackled projects… laundry, cleaning the bilge, servicing the lower bilge pump switch, and replacing a section of exhaust hose.

Issues with lower bilge pump switch first appeared during our Wilmington to Abacos crossing.  Due to a build up of bilge sludge the switch would not turn off once it was activated.  This resulted in some long run times for the pump.   Our shallow draft, full keel hull design makes it very difficult to access the lowest section of the bilge.  Wisely the last owner installed an excellent pump switch -the ultimate bilge switch - and located the filter and pump remotely.  This set up is ideal for servicing the pump and the filter, both located in the starboard cockpit locker.  During the six years we have owned C’est la Vie this is the second time I have pulled the lower bilge switch for cleaning.  The previous cleaning was done in conjunction with replacing the shaft so there were fewer obstacles in the way (i.e. the exhaust system, water lift muffler, and shaft were all out of the way.)  

I went into the project with some idea of the difficulties of reaching the switch.   Accessing the switch required removing a number of cooling hoses, the air filter, and the diesel fuel return line.  With these obstacles gone and after much squirming, cursing, pleading, and bruising of my upper torso; I was finally able to remove the switch.    Expecting to find a hearty coating of oily muck, even I was astounded at the degree of gunk built up on the switch. 

Based on the contents of the switch I became determined to dredge out the lowest reaches of our bilge.  Anne assisted me in creating a scoop out of a measuring cup and bamboo skewers.   The very same bamboo skewers that worked so well to clean out the tubes of our heat exchanger in summer 2008.  A hour of effort resulted in the collection of one handle of a screw driver the metal portion long ago succumb to rust, one wooden scoop, one zip tie, numerous washers, the stainless screen off our scrum box, and nearly a quart of oily muck.

Did we mention it is cold here in Miami?  Low temps in the 30’s with wind chill readings in the 20’s…  in Miami?  Cannot imagine what the rest of the country must be experiencing.
At least we are prepared for it here up north...

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