27 October, 2004

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I am sitting by the fire, the fire! My boat is warm for a change. I got the heater going at long last. Everyday something new, something changes, I see something I didn’t see, I imagine something I hadn’t thought of. I’m still trying to re-imagine the cabin—how better to organize the space. But I get ahead of myself.

Problem solving has been my theme. It is me—there is no one else to fix my problems. For example: my sink started clogging and came eventually to a standstill. I wanted to get Jim over and say, Hey, Jim, whaddo I do about it. Jim is busy; I need it fixed; I decided to just tear it all open. If it makes a great mess—it had to be. I open it, pull the drain pipe off of the through-hull fitting in the process (if I could pull it off, it needed attention and tightening anyhow). Hey, a discovery!
After getting the pipe separated, I found that the clog was a result of particulates clogging up behind a one-way valve, a valve that keeps the water being sent from the bilge to the thru-hull from backing up into the sink. The divider had gotten clogged. I unclogged it and I didn’t even make a mess; a Tupperware beneath the pipe caught all the backed up filth. Grey water nothing, this was black.
Now, the pipes are cleaned out, I know I need strainers on my drains in the sink, I know exactly where the problem is if it happens again, I know what type of one-way valve I have so I can keep a spare, and I know that everything is tight and squared away under sink. Also I learned that that particular through-hull is not ideal and I may replace it in time. It has a spigot-type handle as opposed to a good 90 degree lever which is standard.

This all comes about because, since I quasi-finished the electrical work, I have been re-organizing the plumbing system. It used to involve a hot water heater, a head, two water tanks, a water pump. Water pumps and hot water heaters take electricity and are unnecessary. I decided to take out the head, the hot water, and the pump. Instead I would install two manual foot pumps, both for the sink. One pump would pump fresh water from the two fresh water tanks to the faucet. The other, to help further conserve fresh water, would pump salt water into the sink—this would be for things like washing dishes or the like—perhaps to be followed by a cleaning rinse of fresh water. This new system would be preserving both electricity by eliminating the electric water pump and hot water heater and water by bringing in salt water. It is economical and also systematically isolating: now, if the batteries die, we don’t loose water. It is also redundant. After staring at the sink for a long while (who needs a shrine for meditation when an engine or plumbing system are equally enigmatic), I realized that I could put a three way valve in to one of the pumps. This way, if one of the pumps were to break, which happens, I could swing a lever and switch the salt water to fresh. I am proud of this little bit of craftiness. But could I effect it?

I spent a whole day rerunning the water hoses, running to and from the marine supply store replacing joints and valves and such, finally got it all in. Now the pump. It needed a lot of support for all of the leverage it would endure and there wasn’t much beneath the sink that was up to the task. From my little garbage selection I found some old cabinet doors I had thrown out and took the jig saw and started cutting squares. I screwed the pump down securely onto two of these stacked upon each other. Then I cut another square with a v-shaped notch in it. This I screwed onto the face of the pump. In the front of the sink there is a cubby hole—there I cut a notch down to the floor big enough for the foot lever to fit through. The pump I put in the cubby hole and now, with the wooden front and base, I had plenty of material to screw into.

This isn’t how any professional would have done the job, but there wasn’t any professional around. A professional came aboard the other day and explained to me how “he” would have done it. The gist was the same, I think.

This is the good part.
So I hook it up; I screw it in, tightly. All done. I immediately start pumping……..nothing. Ah. I turn the sink on. Pump some more. Sputter…air….sputter. Nothing.
Nothing. How could this be?
Of course.
I did it. It is perfect, flawless. I think through the whole process. My mind goes to muddle. I start opening and closing valves, only vaguely aware of what I was doing or why. I was flailing. Was the through-hull fitting open or closed? I hadn’t thought about that. Did I just try it this way or that?
Damnit, the pump must be broken.
When I bought the pump, I had only bought one. I needed two, but I figured I would wait and see how the first one worked. I don’t understand the logic, they’re returnable. So now I didn’t have any way of testing the pump by plugging another one in. It was late and I was clearly not thinking clearly. In the morning I’d run to West Marine and buy another pump and tell them they sold me a bunk one.

So, in the morning, cold and cuddling my hot chocolate, I crouched down to look at my flawed masterpiece. I wanted help, but I built it—who could help me but me. I opened up the floor to look at the piping from the beginning, at the water tanks. They get hard to follow under there and I had to pull on each one to make sure of what went were.
And there I noticed. There was a twist under a shadow, a mirage for a blind man.
An Error!
A valve that was meant to divide between the two tanks and the pump, was misrun. The pump was where tank two was supposed to be—which I had off. The pump was sucking on a closed valve. Excitedly I unclamped, moved hose/pipe, reclamped, neglecting my now warm chocolate. I also now new that my previous notion of a mistake that I had redone yesterday, and was a hassle, was askew, and now would have to be redone for a second time. But now I knew I was on the right track.

Now bleeding and sore. The last corrections made—water, glorious water, flowed like glistening mercury from the palm of some Castalian nymph’s hand—oh. . . I waxed utterly poetic. I smiled in triumph. A good way to start a day. It seemed so easy.

It had to work: there is water, there is a pump, here is the faucet. We have suction, hose and valve—make the water move. It all seemed so simple, I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t worked the first time. I didn’t know what else to do; I had done it the first time.
I’ve already destroyed a fifty dollar solar regulator by short circuit and a forty dollar fuse by inadvertently drilling into the side of it. Oops. Live and learn. I’m sure worse lies ahead.

It is fun; it’s like solving riddles. You know there is a correct answer. So if it’s out there—find it. There is a way through the maze. Think of those little wrought-iron puzzlers, the ones with triangles and chains, and squares all tangled together, and you know they can be separated some how, but it looks and feels impossible. But it’s not—try until it happens. If someone can do it, than you can do it—it just might take a bit more time and effort.
That’s how I feel. I don’t particularly know what I’m doing. A little common sense and ingenuity get me going. When I hit a wall, I sit and stare at it until my gaze makes it crack and crumble, or until I notice a shadow, and a dip, and a cave, and a labyrinth under the wall and out the other side, then down the same road.
And again.


Oct 27

On the same note, yesterday I hooked up my other water pump – and again – Nothing! I couldn’t believe it. There wasn’t anything that could possibly go wrong, which made it all the more daunting. Everything worked right next door with the other pump – how could something get mucked up in three feet of pipe and one valve.
I sat baffled for some time, but having learned from the last fiasco, I decided to be systematic.
I won’t go into the details, again, but just before I tore it out of its little cubby hole, it occurred to me that perhaps THE SINK WASN’T ON (all the way. It was open, I thought, but only one turn, when it took two turns to open it.)
Holy cow! What a drama.

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