Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dealing with all the sh!t

Saturday I had to get my first mate back to Asia which involved a 6:00 AM run from Delaware to JFK.  I stopped in Keyport on the way back.  Weather prediction was for storms later and the skies were already looking sketchy, so I decided to just do a quick run out to Seas The Day to make sure things were OK.

Since I was out there, I decided to grab some photos of the marine toilet on Seas The Day. (Some of our readers have asked about it.)  

Unlike in your house - where you can just flush the toilet and everything is taken care of - a marine "Head" (boat speak for "toilet") is a bit more complex.   The complexity starts right at the toilet.  If you look at the photo below, you see some things that are recognizable - the bowl - but also a lot of hoses and levers.  You'll also see a pumping handle (near the blue oval) and a lever just above that.  The lever switches between a wet flush and a dry flush.  On a wet flush, you pump the handle and water enters the bowl, as the waste is pumped out.  On a dry flush, it just pumps out the waste.  Why would you ever want a dry flush?  

Well, the water for the wet flush comes from the sea.  The thinking is that you really don't need pristine water to flush a toilet and since we only carry 27 gal of freshwater on board, flushing with seawater is fine.  And it is... except on a system that gets relatively little use (like ours... mostly day trips of 4 hours or so), the little marine critters can start growing and you can get some foul odors.  So we usually select a dry flush and do the rinsing with water from the sink (the "faucet" is actually a short hose - it also doubles as a shower). 

So the pump takes the waste from the bowl and moves it through the little pipes.  Yes, little pipes.  They can clog easily and the first rule of using a marine head is that NOTHING goes in the bowl that hasn't been eaten first.  The sole exception is a little bit of toilet paper.  We have been good... so far I have not had to unclog it (you have to take it apart... sh!t and all)... I hope that trend continues.

So the pipes go behind the toilet and into the salon where most of the waste holding and processing takes place under the U-shaped settee.

The main waste pipe basically comes into the holding tank.  (The little compartment that it passes through holds the freshwater pump.)

The holding tank has a vent that goes up the side of the boat and exits.  I've learned that noises coming from that vent are cause for concern.

At the lower right, you can just barely see the exit hose from the holding tank.  It connects to the larger hose from the lower right below.  That hose goes to a grey T and continues up to the waste port on deck (photo below).  Attached to the T is our macerator pump, which is kind of a sh!t blender that can pulverize the solid waste as it pumps it overboard through the "Through-Hull".  USCG states we have to be 3 miles offshore to do that so usually the through-hull is secured with a wire tie in the "closed" position.  (We typically don't get 3 miles offshore unless we're going out specifically to ensure the macerator is still working.)

The photo below shows the (new) waste deck plate on the port side.

Once you put the covers on it all, it's hard to believe that a sewage holding facility is just below the seats.

I wrote all this because a few people who are considering the purchase of this type of boat had some questions.  Here are some additional thoughts about this sh!tty subject.

First, the system seems to work well and be designed right for the type of sailing this boat is intended for.  A Catalina 315 like Seas The Day just isn't designed for long ocean-going voyages.  If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't bother with the macerator.  We used it on our delivery trip when we spent 2 days sailing on the ocean to get it home, but since then we've only been 3 miles offshore once each season to test it.  

So we mostly use the holding tank.  That means we have to have the tank pumped out which for us seems to be a once a month need.  We are lucky to have a nice pump out boat moored right in Keyport and a small tip ensures this task is completed when needed.  Our sailing also takes us to a land based pump out facility from time to time.  (We did learn the hard way that we can't let too much time pass before pumping out.)

Finally, although I'm talking a lot of sh!t... the real bad actor here is urine.  Urine has a high concentration of urea and salts, etc. which depending on conditions can crystallize in the hoses.  We have been following the advice of putting a cup full of white vinegar in the head, pumping a stroke or two and going for a sail.  After that we pour a 1/4 cup of vegetable oil and slowly pump that.  So far that seems to have kept the lines free and the various seals well lubricated.  By flushing with freshwater and doing that little bit of routine maintenance, Seas The Day has finished two seasons with only the one mishap.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sailing Topless

Now get your mind out of the gutter. I'm referring to the Bimini top.  For the past several weeks we were fighting a constant battle of the birds - they loved the Bimini cover (and loved to sh!t all over it).  So last week in a fit of desperation we removed the cover and stored it inside.  Vicky had spent hours scrubbing it clean and I wasn't about to risk yet another day of having to go to the dock and scrub for an hour or two before being able to sail. We still used the canvas over the helm and cockpit table, so I hung a couple of pieces of bungee cord so they dangled just above those and would sway at any birds trying to get too comfortable. Hopefully this had "rolled up the welcome mat" as far as birds are concerned. 

So with a bit of trepidation, we caught the launch out to Seas The Day and found it in the same spotless condition we left it in. Yay!

Rather than take all the time to set up the Bimini, I decided to just sail without it.  I had a decent sun hat and today was just going to be a quick day sail anyway. 

It turned out to be quite pleasant.  I don't know how it would be on a hot day in July, but for a mid-80s late afternoon in early September it was actually quite pleasant. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2015 Statue of Liberty Run

So last weekend we decided to take another excursion into NYC to sail to the Statue of Liberty and an overnight stay at Liberty Landing Marina.  The day started out dead calm, but beautiful.  We got out to Seas The Day and found... her covered with Birdsh!t again.  I'll spare you the details on the cleaning and scrubbing.

Eventually, we loaded up and headed out.  Vicky's colleague, Andrew, and his husband, Rafael, joined us.  They live in Manhattan and took the train down to Keyport Saturday morning.  Vicky picked them (and some sushi) up while I finished cleaning up Seas The Day and we headed out.  Andrew and Raf had brought along a fine bottle of campaign and while I don't normally drink while underway, with the sushi it was one of the most incredible spreads we've had on board (so yes, I did sip a little).

We found some wind and hoisted the mainsail and guessing that our bottom was just cleaned, we made a nice 5 to 6 knots without even trying.  We headed out across Raritan Bay towards the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

Now the mast on Seas The Day is a bit over 50 ft, and the clearance under the bridge is about 250 ft, so there's plenty of space, but each time as we go under and I look up, well the perspective is a bit disturbing.  But we made it through and continued sailing into NY Harbor, looking at all the different ship traffic as we headed up along the belt parkway on the Brooklyn side.

The wind was behind us and about a mile or so past the bridge, I decided that rather than risking an uncontrolled jibe, we would do a jibe, sail across the harbor and continue on with the wind in a better position.  That was the plan.

It was not executed well.  For some reason... perhaps the fact that we were under mainsail alone, possibly because the current was behind us... I really don't know... but we ended up spinning around 180 degrees and suddenly in irons.  Not elegant and furthermore, we couldn't get out.  So drifting towards Brooklyn (and all the rocks along the parkway) we tried to get the mainsail in...

... and the winding rope came out of it's track.  (Sorry, I don't have photos of this.)  Fortunately, I had read that particular manual and took a winch handle forward and cranked the main back into the mast.  (Having a furling main is great most of the time... that was one time it wasn't.)  We then motored on the last mile or two to our marina.

I'm always amazed at the sheer volume and variety of boat traffic around the Statue of Liberty.

We arrived (helped by Liberty Landing's fabulous dock hand again), said goodbye to Andrew and Raf and got them headed to the water taxi back to Manhattan.  We then had a fabulous (if long) dinner at Maritime Parc (the restaurant attached to the marina office).  And we headed down to the end of the pier to photograph the city.

 It was a beautiful night.

The following morning (and late the night before) Vicky decided to tackle the remaining birds!t on the bimini cover, even at the risk of wearing away all the fabric.  She did a wonderful job and then decided to clean the boat as well.  I'll admit here that we had a bit of a disagreement.  Vicky can spend hours scrubbing a perfectly clean boat.  We don't see eye to eye on that, but it does sparkle when she is finished.  Our marina neighbors even noticed.

Finally, we headed out knowing that we had to get all the way back to Keyport, then to Delaware, so with the wind on our nose the whole time, we motored, taking a few min to grab a nice photo of the Statue in the morning light.

We then headed across the harbor, under the bridge and while heading back across the Raritan Bay even let Otto steer for a while.