More water problems!
Tuesday 22nd September 2015
The early night last night did not go quite as planned for one of us – me! Steve went off to bed early as he had been up the night before with an upset stomach, and within minutes was snoring like a freight train. No change there. I, however, wanted to get a couple of admin things sorted while I still had internet – pay the credit card bill, stuff like that – so I sat up a while. I heard the water pump come on a couple of times – this usually only happens when a tap is running – and thought it a bit odd, but when it did it again and stayed on for several seconds, I began to get suspicious.
I checked all the taps were off, then checked the pipes under each of them, just in case they had sprung a leak. Nothing. I checked around the pump itself – all fine. Finally I lifted the big floorboard in the saloon to check the accumulator tank, and there it was – a fine jet of water spraying horizontally from a rusty spot on the front of the accumulator tank. The bilge below the tank was filling with water, so the first step was to turn off the power to the pressure pump and turn on the kitchen tap to take the pressure off.
At first this made no difference, but as the level of water in the tank fell, the spray diminished, until it stopped altogether. Then it was out with the dinghy siphon and a bucket to remove the water from the bilge. Half an hour’s work saw the bilge clean and dry and the leak stopped. The downside was that I couldn’t turn the pump back on so could get no water from any tap, but it was time for bed now anyway. We’d deal with it in the morning.
This morning I broke the news to the skipper who inspected the hole in the tank and suggested we try plugging it with waterproof emergency putty. In order to help it stick, we would first have to clean the rust away from the hole. So having done this, and with plenty of putty stuck over the hole, we switched the water pump back on. Within seconds we had the most beautiful fountain shooting two feet up towards the saloon ceiling, and hastily turned the pump off again. It would appear that our efforts had made matters ten times worse. We spent the next hour adding more putty until we had used it all up, and although it slowed the gush down, it still leaked.
So now we had a double whammy: a leak in the fresh water system and no watermaker to make fresh water – with a four-day passage ahead. Time for a cup of tea and a think.
Steve decided we must take the tank out of the system altogether as it would still run fine without it – it would just mean the pump would run all the time a tap is on. We searched through all the boxes of bits and pieces until, by luck, we found a piece of metal just the right size to bung up the pipe connecting the tank to the system. We removed the tank, bunged up the pipe, turned on the pump – and all worked fine. Thank goodness for that. With hindsight we might have had more success with the putty if we had removed the tank before applying it. At the least we would have saved ourselves some time if we had simply taken the tank out of the system in the first place. Oh well, hindsight is wonderful.
Removing the accumulator tank. Even this much putty didn’t stop the leak!
The pipe was plugged with an old metal shaft from a winch.
We called Rod and Mary and told them we were good to go, just needed a tidy up. Much relief all round. We lifted the anchor at 1000 and by 1330 we were outside of the pass with sails up in a good wind, but lumpy seas. After three and a half wonderful months we were finally leaving Fiji. Next stop Aneityum, the most southerly of the islands of Vanuatu.