A Bodge Too Far: Boatfixing with cheese, again.

Wed 3 May 2023 11:45

27:13W 52:34W at 1130 UTC. Motorsailing sog8kts cog80 in wind 8kts from Ssw. All fine.

The bilge alarm went off last night.  Rule One of Offshore Sailing = “Keep The Water Out”.  Defcon 1, action stations.

Fortunately I have lots of tools and stuff, so quick as a flash I try think of someone else to blame. Hah! Later. Best fix this first. 

There’s four bilge pumps, two each hull.  The port prop shaft seal was dripping and “fixed” before I left … and… there’s water in there.  Not loads, but some. Seems I caught the bilge alarm at first slosh to the trigger depth of a few inches. Water isn’t coming by the roomful.  Phew. Still, it’s gotta be fixed. 

Friend and electronics whiz Mike in St Martin helped me sort the bilge pump switches.  I can switch off the screaming alarm (NOT standard) and switch the pumps to “always on” instead “momentarily on” if needed. So no need for anyone to “stand here and hold that switch on”.  Mike was rightly wary of the alarm on/off switch too. But with a bunch of unwelcome seawater on board the diagnosis and fix can take a while. Like smoke alarms (yes, two) nobody needs the alarm screaming away after the first alert. I definitely know about it. 

Anyway, it’s not the shaft seal, but the rudder tube. Seawater coming in over the top of the port rudder tube.  Only a bit every now and again, and only in these bigger seas it seems. So it’s taken over 4 days to set off the bilge alarm. I could run the bilge pumps every so often but it’s not a fix.   I know the bilge pumps can empty water as fast as an open seacock can let it in, because I (carefully) tried it, ahem. Still, it needs fixing, really. I can sleep easily if the boat leaks PROVIDED that I don’t know about it, like, well, since Friday. Not now. 

The starboard rudder tube has a hose/gaiter sealing everything up to the upper bearing, possibly retro-fitted, but there’s no gaiter on this port side. None needed until now. 

Fitting a similar gaiter on port side would mean..  dropping the rudder a bit. Hmm. And I haven’t got a hose big enough to fit over  it unless (say)i  disconnect and saw a bit off the exhaust hose.   Hmm.  A Bodge Too Far, definitely.

I pumped out and dried the bilge and tried sealing the rudder tube top with “Stay Afloat” greasy gloop. I think I was lured into this purchase at a boat show. They had demo rig in which it stopped the water from a running tap (faucet). Wow!  It seemed to work ok … but not for long. Two minutes later it leaked as before. Thinking about it, those snake-grease vendors might have secretly turned the water off at the same time as using the gloop? What a swiz! 

I needed something more solid, like plasticine or  putty. Hmm.  Nearest option is gonna be ummm… cheese. Yes, cheese from the fridge. 

Last time I used cheese to fix a boat was to seal a raw water intake filter box on a rental yacht which was missing a 4inch O-ring. With cheese jammed into the empty groove it sealed beautifully and let me motor overnight from Cherbourg to Solent in flat calm across the Channel instead of drifting into Alderney with no wind and no motor. Maybe cheese will work again now? 

This time I have Gouda,  last time it was Emmental.  But any port in a storm, any cheese in a pickle, right? 

Boatfixing with cheese or anything vaguely edible is wonderfully Solzhenitsynesque. I ram in the strips of cheese and nibble the spare bits.  No problem eating off these nice clean bilges but it STILL leaked, dagnabit. Dagrarebit?

So next I have to try make a wrap-around gaiter.  With what? I have rubber dinghy-repair material but it’s flat and won’t wrap around to seal.  I need a tube-like thing to cannibalise.  I have a bit of 6-inch drainpipe for some reason, but it’s too rigid, not hose-clippable.  So I used a erm,  sawn-up plastic Coffee-Mate jar, hose clips top and bottom, with some silicon mastic to wipe into the overlap. Not bad! The leak slowed, almost stopped. The cheese and grease are still in there, probably making a nice lubricant. And a nasty fondue. 

With a triumphant fix/bodge, I decided to be Yorkshire, Downton and Boaty all at the same time with a cup of tea. But then another alarm went off!  Arg!  This time it was the electric kettle, which beeps loudly when it boils. Jeez. 

So who’s to blame? Hm? Well, maybe the original boatbuilder, or those guys who rebuilt the rudders a couple of years back. Or me, loading up with 1800kilos of fuel making the boat sit back and lower. But the boat is rated for 6900kilos, and charter versions carry lots of people, aircon, luggage, teak decks.  Mojo carried more weight on a recent transats with crew and slightly less fuel. Whatever. The Blame Game doesn’t fix anything out here. Or anywhere. 

This morning there’s only half a cup of water at the rudder stringer.   And I’m reducing weight by burning fuel ASAP in light/zero winds. 

Work in progress


Rudder with extra cheese