Life can be shit!

Thu 8 Sep 2016 16:27
Just when you think you can deal with any shit that life throws at
you...there's something that will come along to really challenge you!
The heads (toilets) on Sea Flute are a fairly sophisticated affair with a
vacuum flush system. Not quite your airline level of evacuation but pretty
respectable. The vacuum is generated by a pump driven by a windscreen wiper
motor. This motor runs until sufficient vacuum pressure is generated to
enable a full flush. As I reported in my last post, the forward heads had
failed, fortunately the last use had not been anything too serious! However
the system was clearly not happy and the electrical trip switch failed every
time we tried to operate it. My first thought was that the pump must be
blocked so Ian and I set about removing the system onto the dock and
dismantling it. It was clearly not in a good way and was heavily coated with
calcium carbonate. This is a substance similar to the coating you get in a
kettle when used in hard water areas. Interestingly though this has passed
through your body before depositing itself in the pump! It was a lovely day
so it wasn't too much of a hardship chiselling and chopping the concrete
hard substance off the pump and valves. As long as we remembered not to rub
our eyes or mop our brows whilst doing it the process wasn't too onerous.
Three hours later the vacuum generator system was reassembled and
reinstalled. Confident we had fixed the problem we "hopefully" switched the
loo back on. Nada! After further head scratching we concluded at this stage
that as it was an electrical trip, the windscreen wiper motor itself must be
at fault. We gingerly dissembled the motor. Anyone who has ever dissembled
an electric motor will know that there are strong magnets inside that pull
things in the opposite direction that you want them to go. Eventually and
after several hours of cussing and even despite the wretched motors best
efforts to prevent re-assembly...we succeeded in putting it back on. The
motor had actually looked to be in good condition so we were fairly certain
this wasn't the problem.
Time to try again..Nada!
The only other likely cause would be a blockage from the vacuum system to
the yachts holding tank. So the pipe was duly disconnected. As this pipe
runs uphill to the holding tank, it should be no surprise that the contents
of this pipe would run out fairly swiftly. The collecting receptacle and
paper towels I had ready for the collection were wholly inadequate so once
again, and not uncommonly for me ...I was in the shit. A length of heavy
duty cable was found to then poke up the pipe and see if we had a free run
to the tank. At a point judged to be half way there an immovable object was
encountered. A considerable amount of time was spent prodding this object to
no avail other than slightly increase the rate of ooze from the lower end of
the pipe. An attempt was made to pressurize the pipe to "blow" the
obstruction into the tank. Tom, having witnessed this go badly wrong
previously disappeared very quickly. Ian, held station in the doorway ready
to make a hasty departure at the first sign of a "blow Back". Anyway, no
amount of blowing, prodding or very profound verbal encouragement would
shift the blockage. It was now midnight, the boat was in a state of total
disarray and there was a very interesting odour pervading the whole vessel.
Time to take stock. Ian, a professional chemist had convinced me the
blockage was probably a serious build-up of more calcium carbonate and the
only thing to remove it would be hydrochloric acid. An internet search
yielded a Spanish product called Aqua Fuerte which is designed specifically
for the purpose. Next day, round two. Having purchased said acid and
prepared ourselves for the task, the first bottle of acid was poured into
the top of this tube, that had then been disconnected from the holding tank.
The lower end feeding into a suitable plastic container. Ian and I waited
patiently watching the lower end of the pipe for something to start
working... nothing. I then poked my head around the door into the forward
heads. The sight that met me was nothing short of horrifying. There was a
flow of brown froth oozing rapidly from the top of the pipe. I hesitated at
the door deciding whether to run for cover or confront this monstrous flow
of shitty acid froth coming towards me. Reminded of my duty as Skipper I
went in. The ooze was eventually overwhelmed, but continued to ooze
gradually like our own Mr Whippy shit machine. A cry of delight from the
forward cabin confirmed that Ian had the first signs of a flow at the lower
end of the pipe. At last and after probably eighteen hours the bog is back
together and functioning perfecty! A great meal and several large gin and
tonics later, this all seems like a bad dream. I must remember not to bight
my finger nails for the next few days!
Signing out for now.
Skipper Peds