The thing about boat projects is that every project, once underway, begets at least one more you had not counted on. I say at least one, because in our experience we usually discover a couple more projects that need done. We have a list of projects to accomplish before we will be ready to take the boat south. It is about a page long. I don’t think I can communicate the full frustration of having that list grow despite the amount of work we are doing, but at least we can laugh about it. Well, we only laugh about projects after they are done, while we are doing them its all seriousness digressing to growls and snarls.

Last week we decided we really needed to get down and clean out the bilge under the engine where all the coolant leaked. Then we would be able to change the oil and do other maintenance things to the engine and know if there were new leaks. Now for people unfamiliar with old sailboat bilges, its important for you to know that our bilge is not one big, long hole under the floors. Rather its divided into compartments, sort of like an ice tray, where one can spill into another if need be but local messes can be contained. We needed to use the wet vac to access the compartment directly under the engine and suck out coolant: Project #1.

We opened the engine room door in the walkthrough to discover water dripping down from the air conditioning unit, and the two bilge compartments between us and the engine compartment were full of water. Project #2. Usually the water should drip down a tube into a tray where a bilge pump periodically pumps it out. So we turned off the air conditioner and used the wet vac to suck out the water. This is a little vacuum so once it is full I have to carry it up the ladder, out of the cockpit, down the step ladder to the far side of our boat dock and dump it out, then reassemble it and bring it back. It took four trips. We decided to investigate this later and start sucking out the coolant. It meant another hot project day without the air conditioning on, but we are getting used to that.

The engine blocked access to the compartment with the coolant except by about 4 inches so we had to stick the hose down into the darkness and the vacuum filled quickly. I hopped-to my job of hauling the full vacuum out, this time using a funnel to pour the sludgy mess into a water jug since it’s nothing that should go into the waterway. On the second trip, as I stepped off the ladder into the cockpit, the bottom of the vacuum dropped out splashing repulsive coolant and oil all over the cockpit and myself. Project #3.

Now since coming to the boat, despite the stress of projects, I have enjoyed a stress-free calmness that I haven’t had since I was a teenager. Standing in the warm slippery sludge and seeing it all over my white cockpit my blood pressure sky rocketed so high I think steam actually came out of my ears. I am so happy that I changed my lifestyle such that this sensation is no longer a constant in my life, as it felt so horrible I was made aware of how long it had been since I’d felt like that. I wont go into details of what I said next or during the next HOUR it took to clean the oil off the cockpit, but let’s suffice it to say that as I slip-and-slid around my vocabulary was not ladylike. Not even remotely.

Finally back at the job at hand we sucked five gallons of coolant out, I made at least 10 trips out to the dock (carefully holding the bottom of the vacuum!) I also had the pleasure of reaching back into the darkness under the engine and pulling soggy, slimy, baby diapers out (apparently the previous owners go-to solution for the leak.) The diapers had dissolved to a level of gel gooeyness that was disgusting, but at last the project was done. Time to celebrate with a cold beer. Well, almost done. We had to clean up the mess we made, throw out the ruined shop vac, and we have yet to get to the recycle center with the containers of sludge. Matt also had a chance to figure out that the drain tube for the air conditioner was clogged and fixed that.

So one project begat multiple others, and involved a lot of work, sweat and swearing, which is par for the course around here. Happily we checked one project off the list. Next? Probably fixing the manual bilge pump. Or maybe ordering the solar stuff. Or maybe making that anchor snub line. Or maybe defrosting the fridge…

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3 thoughts on “Coolant and Boat Soap

  1. Bill and Beth Fehlmann

    I haven’t had a simple, one-step project in my entire life. And every one of mine strongly resembles Heather’s description above. However, I know from our RVing adventures that many of these projects are been-here-done-that-back-here-doing-that-again delights. And truly–in retrospect, of course–it’s all worth while. You’re going to giggle about it someday. Honest! Until that time just know that your talented retelling has entertained your readers and helped us take a break from our own struggles…or at least be able to look at what we’re in the middle of and decide it’s not nearly as bad as we thought. Big Whoopee, right? :)

  2. pat

    Yikes! I don’t know how you keep the steam from coming out those cute little ears of yours! Glad you are able to appreciate days like this through the lens of your new-found zen lifestyle! Cade looks perfectly calm, cool and collected…what could possible be a problem?? Hang in there…the day will come when all your hard work has produced a perfect, pristine boat for you to sail into the sunset!

  3. Heather

    You ruined the shop vac doing that!? Yikes! That sounds like an icky dirty job. But it sounds like the sorting and packing project I’ve got going on here–most of the time it seems like I’m just wandering, but one thing leads to another. I came back to a room today and found a sorting project in progress that I had abandoned hours earlier–taking something to another room.


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