Sunday, 13 April 2014

Splashdown with a Sticky Seacock

Spray was launched for the beginning of her 2014 adventures yesterday.  It’s impossible to be blasé about your boat going in the water when each launch has its own last-minute crisis.  This time:  a stuck seacock.

Just before heading home the night before the launch, I looked around the boat to make sure everything was ready to go.  Clever girl that I am (irony) I decided it would be a good idea to close all the seacocks.  All closed but one:  the toilet evacuation valve.

We tried WD-40. 

We tried gentle and then not-so-gentle tapping with a hammer. 

We tried cleaning with a long bottlebrush from the outside (note: wear eye protection for that one…).  

We gave it another big dose of WD-40 for the evening and went home, defeated, to think over our next move.

We believe that if something hasn’t gone through your body first, it has no place in a sea toilet, so we knew that paper or other “foreign matter” couldn’t be the culprit and reasoned that the blockage must be some sort of dried seawater scum.  Patrick and I both headed to our computers and checked out the various French and English blogs on the subject, then met back to compare notes. 

The winning solution seemed to be to plug the exit hole with a wooden through-hull plug and then fill the evacuation tube with vinegar to let it dissolve whatever is blocking the seacock valve. 

We also learned from these helpful internet sites that we should have been thinking of this LONG BEFORE launch-eve.  I was so pleased with our winterizing procedures and never read anything about sticky seacocks in other blogs or sites on winterizing.  I’m going back now and adding this one to our winterizing list !

The next morning, with only 45 minutes till launch time, we filled the evacuation tube with vinegar and waited.  After about 20 minutes, lots of bubbling and burping gave us hope that something was dissolving.  With 10 minutes to go, I tried the seacock valve again.  I could just begin rocking it back and forth.  I continued this rocking, with more liberal squirting of WD-40, and within a few minutes it gave way and I could close it ! (and open it ! …and close it ! …and open it ! …).  We were in euphoric disbelief.  

Plugging the evacuation tube.

Double, double, toil and trouble; vinegar burn, and toilet bubble.
After this incident, the launch went more or less without surprises, which is NOT to say that it went smoothly.  The motor coughed and petered out a couple of times before belching black smoke and finally kicking into gear.  The GPS, newly fixed on the balcony and working beautifully on dry land, decided to take more than 1 hour to get its first fix, which only lasted for about 5 minutes before the GPS declared that it had lost contact with the satellites and was unable to get a position.  We fixed the mainsail and had a devil of a time with one of the batten receptacles that came apart and didn’t want to go back together again, an already difficult task made worse by the fact that we were working with a flogging sail over our heads with a capricious wind changing directions every 15 minutes, all the while slipping and sliding on the newly polished roof.  The good news is that we’re less stupid than we were 24 hours ago.  The even better news is that the electrician is coming tomorrow to look at the auto-pilot and the GPS (except he doesn’t know about that one yet…).  

In the lift.

...and in the water.

Tomorrow: our first night on the boat, and then, if we have a GPS, off to start Shakedown 2014 !