Her Mysterious Ways

The boat is a demanding mistress. We’ve been taking a break from working hard on her, preferring to spend weekends sailing. Still, that list of boat chores isn’t getting shorter so we’ve started knocking a few small things out. Doing these kinds of things makes us feel like we’re really in charge around here. Then there’s the whole law of physics about an object at rest tending to stay at rest…well you get it I’m sure. If we totally stop all boat work, we might never get back to it.

All the rest of the photos are dead boring so I'm putting this mermaid here. She graces the salon.

All the rest of the photos are dead boring so I’m putting this mermaid here. I made her a couple of years ago. Now she graces the salon.

One of the little projects we’ve been involved with of late is chasing down small leaks that put water in our clean bilge. This drives me nuts. Our young friends down in Louisiana, Tate and Dani of Sundowner Sails Again, recently posted about their bone dry bilge. Now, to be fair, they have worked their hind ends off getting the bilge to be water free, but that little fact was lost on me as I read their post about dust bunnies in the bilge and felt a white hot rage of envy flood my being. I felt a little temper tantrum coming on motivated purely by petty jealousy. I really want a dry bilge like theirs. But whining won’t make it so. You have to earn it. So it begins. Time to chase down mysterious leaks.

As boats go, Galapagos is really pretty dry. But there are a few little ones here and there that keep me up at night. We had been hearing the bilge pump come on intermittently, and recently another sound had been added to Galapagos’ repertoire: the fresh water pump would come on for no apparent reason. Except there is always a reason. This one turned out to be easy once it was located: vibration had wiggled loose a hose clamp in the aft head and it was steadily dripping water. That was a dead easy fix but don’t get your hopes up about any of the others. This easy fix was created just to lead us on. We already know that game and we refuse to play it.

Another mermaid, because you need something to rest your eyes from these pictures of the engine room.

Locating leaks on Galapagos is not for the faint of heart. Under her sole are cavernous spaces that are dark and dank; medieval catacombs where water drips unseen and collects in small fetid pools. Each time I pull up the sole to look under it I expect to see the mummified remains of ancestors lurking in the corner. I know that rather than face the torture that is our bilge areas, many people would just shrug and wait for the leaks to get worse before bothering with them, not worrying about those little pools and what may be breeding in them.  But it just doesn’t seem right to ignore these seemingly insignificant leaks because who knows what havoc they are creating in the dark of night as I lay sleeping peacefully in the aft cabin, wrapped in a warm cocoon of denial?


In Hiram’s engine room, way in the forward recess to the left of the starting battery, there is such a pool of water. I needed to know this water better in order to make it disappear. It is too far to reach back there with my hand so, using a metal probe, I reached back with a paper towel to suck up this water and give it the ‘taste test’.

Way in the back, past the forest of hoses and wires, is a small pool of water.

Yes, that is right. To find a leak you have to know: do we have salt water or fresh water? Fresh water comes from our water tank and hoses, or from rain (this falls from the sky, but not lately). Salt water comes from the sea and is a more serious issue. The only way we know to get this information is to completely trust our immune systems, dip a finger in the water, and place it gently on the tongue. Then rinse vigorously with clean water. It is quite disgusting. Damn. This is salt water collecting quietly in the corner of Hiram’s room. So that means something is weeping somewhere, But where???

We go into Sherlock mode and I began emptying the compartment under the sole by the engine room. It’s filled with hoses of all shapes and sizes and is filthy underneath. I find water standing next to the drain from that compartment; the drain that flows water into the same area of the engine room where no hand can reach. You’d think that we would be getting closer to a solution but not so. We see no way for water to be collecting there, much less salt water. There is only one thru hull anywhere near this area and that thru hull has recently been tended to and is completely dry. Not even a tiny drip of seawater emerges from its freshly greased surfaces. Foiled again.

The adjacent compartment, which I am drying out with a fan. Yes, it’s ugly. No, I am not going to paint it right now. Maybe later. I believe this is number 104 on my list of priorities.

So I leave you with a cliff hanger. I wiped the compartment out, then we left a fan going so it would be really dry, allowing us to see any tiny trickle of water that might enter and give us a clue. Stay tuned for the solution, if we ever find it. Today I am down at the boat and that little compartment is still not dry. No standing water, but I’d think it would be bone dry by now. (You know, it occurs to me that I can ‘work’ on the boat all day long and never accomplish a thing.) We are one for two in the ‘solving of the waterworks mysteries’ department.

The better part of Hiram’s engine room. Water on the floor sort of in the middle of the photo.

There is other unsolved water on the other side of the engine room. We wipe it up, it comes back. This has been going on for months now. We’ve both stared at it for what seems like centuries, pleading for it to give up its secrets, shining lights at angles hoping for a glisten of moisture, running fingers and paper towels along hoses and connectors. I know astute readers see that thru hull in the photo and think ‘Aha!’ but don’t get too excited. This is fresh water and, anyway, that thru hull doesn’t leak a bit. Our staring and shining lights hither and yon turned up no clues. I stuck a few paper towels around to see if we could determine which direction the water was flowing from. Then I tightened all the connections in the fresh water line in that area just because why not? I have nothing to lose.  It’s all we could do. We are now one for three and the water is definitely in the lead. Recall I said this stuff makes us feel like we are really in charge, but I didn’t say we accomplished anything specifically.

In other news, we’ve bought our mistress a few gifts lately.  Mike climbed the mast and gave Galapagos a new wind vane. The old one was frozen to itself and the metal was bonded to the mast, requiring a hack saw to remove it. But Mike made short work of it and now we have a wind vane that actually works. Small pleasures. Damn that’s a tall mast and we’re grateful there are mast steps to help.

Mike bought another little gift for Galapagos this week: a 12 volt battery charger. Boy howdy, we were excited about that! It matches his new little hand held vacuum for his man cave, and also will charge the flashlight and drill. This will be so useful when we are at anchor and he wants to whip out a boat project or two rather than relax. An inverter would not come amiss at this point.

Mike is so excited about this 12 volt charger and vacuum for the man cave.

Mike is so excited about this 12 volt charger and vacuum for the man cave.

The new stuff is by way of preparing for a 2 week cruise up north. We plan to leave next weekend, all other things being equal. Our plans are flexible because we don’t want to overtax the exhaust system, which is still holding. And as an aside, if you are looking for a second career, please consider being a diesel mechanic since they are always completely booked up and have no time for small things like exhaust systems. Mike will be emailing a photo to Broomfield’s in Ballard. If we can get anyone there interested in this we may take a couple of days from our busy vacation schedule to have them take a look at our exhaust system.

So we’ll be heading north. If you are up Seattle way keep a lookout for a big blue boat and give us a shout.




23 thoughts on “Her Mysterious Ways

  1. Can’t wait for the trip. Just to let you know, we have high expectations of spectacular photography.

    We have found that pet training pads (available at Wal-Mart: http://www.walmart.com/ip/Advocate-Disposable-Underpads-150ct/15734921 ) work well when trying to find a leak. We learned a lot from our Cheoy Leak. The best thing about the pads is when you have a bunch of hoses, you can lay a pad on top of some hoses to see which tier of hoses is the culprit. We also use them as diapers for the engine and genset. This way we can immediately spot a coolant, oil or water leak and know the general area of the leak.

    Regarding the exhaust, have you considered a flexible exhaust hose? In this pic you can see our 4″ exhaust house on the left side lashed to retain the required upright position:


    Or, you could reduce the stress on the weld by using a flexible hose coupling at that stress point. Just a thought.

    Best wishes,


    Mark and Cindy
    s/v Cream Puff

    • I will certainly do my best on the photos! I hope we get up to the Gulf Islands but at this point I will take whatever the Universe gives us. Yes, we are thinking a flexible ‘bellows’ type connector on the engine side of this set up is just what we need. I would love a set up like you have with the flexible exhaust hose but apparently we need a metal one. That’s one pretty engine you have there! Thanks for tip about the potty pads.

      • ( I don’t know what walmart sells, but as an alternative costco has a very good price on puppy pads-we’ve discovered they’re wonderfully useful for all sorts of messy things. $15/100, much better than the pet stores…)
        I don’t know this stuff, but it occurred to me that something that turned color when it got wet would be helpful, too-like koolaid or jello powder?

        We may be up in Seattle near Ballard over the weekend, will keep an eye out…otherwise, hope you have an awesome trip!

    • That would be me, Joanne. Those are our Goddesses of Protection. I made them a couple of years ago and now moved all my craft supplies onto the boat so i can start making them again. Maybe an Etsy store is in my future. Who knows?

  2. I suppose I was lucky in that I had resigned myself over to water in the bilge. Never would a day come when it wouldn’t be there. And so it snuck up on me. There was no time in which I had decided to have a dry bilge, it just sort of happened.

  3. I love your writing so much, you are truly gifted with words!

    I feel your pain on the leaks :(. At least your Gal is mostly dry, ours leaked so bad from the hull to deck joint it was pouring 1/2 a gallon onto the salon table during a heavy rain every so often. Good luck! By the way do you guys have a drip less shaft seal? That did wonders (obviously) for drying out our boat.

    Cute mermaids, where did you get them?

    A TRIP! YAY. Trips are so much fun and in fact we are planning an overnighter with some friends this Saturday :D. Looking forward to reading about your TWO WEEK ADVENTURE (I am dying with envy here). You know your Gal is plenty big enough for some company…need crew? Tate makes a mean margarita!

    • Dani, you guys can come crew for us anytime! That’s why we got a boat this big, so we can have other people come visit. Because God knows we don’t need the room for just us. I don’t think we have a dripless shaft seal, but it drips about 1 drop every 5 minutes or so, not enough to worry about. Yes, we are lucky that Galapagos is really mostly a dry boat up top. I remember your posts about chasing down leaks. You guys really rebuilt your boat extensively. Ah, youth, where you still have energy for that! Glad you like the mermaids. I make those myself. That’s going to be my ‘boat craft’ until I get tired of it.

  4. Okay! Here’s the deal. Hiram loved the commaraderie of sharing his space with Mike. Mike backed off, started playing Admiral Skipper and no longer spent hours with Hiram. Now he’s found a way to get Mike back and maybe even you too. Then it will be like a party. You need noisemakers, balloons, and crepe paper streamers and some sea-chanty music. And Hiram will dry up all leaks…but visit him often or the leaks will start again!

    • Hiram is like a child who demands too much attention. We don’t wish to encourage him. We keep him fed and dry, pat him on the head all the time, and his fluids are checked regularly. He needs to be satisfied with this.

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