I noticed the other day my shower drain running a bit slow. This happens about once a year and is a reminder that it is time to clean out the shower sump. It did get me thinking about how, as a live aboard we have to deal with these things a bit different than the land dwellers. (I know I think about some weird shit while in the shower) As a matter of fact it seems we have to deal with a lot of clogging issues land dwellers have no clue about.


                After all, on land we just watch stuff swirl down the drain and never give it another thought. If shit does go wrong (and pun intended) you just call the “guy” and he sends the employee he is most pissed at to come along and clean things up for you. It’s not cheap but it is easy and let’s face it something nobody really wants to deal with, so well worth the cash. There is no 24 hour plumber to come bail us out (Yeah another bad pun.) And if you call the $125.00 per hour yard guy they will put it on the schedule and maybe, just maybe, get to it a week after hell freezes over. After all there is the shiny new million dollar yacht down the dock that is so much cleaner to work on and that guy tips as much as I make in a week.

                Anyone who lives on a boat knows nothing is simple, that’s part of the attraction (Please tell me that is really part of it!)  Most everything good and bad that we wish to flush down the drain has to first be pumped to a holding area and then pumped again to where it can run down a land drain. The rare exception might be a couple of sink drains. On my boat only the galley drain is free to run straight out to the water in which I float. The rest goes to a tank or sump where it gets pumped over the side or in the case of that really nasty stuff off to a sewage plant.


                All this flowing and pumping adds up to trouble sooner or later, trouble in the form of this nasty stuff not leaving us easily and putting up an ugly fight. Every now and then this waste gives us….well crap! It refuses to leave without getting us way too personally involved. Anyone who has dealt with this knows only too well there are a surprising amount of pumps and valves and shit needed to get our waste out of the boat. And when just one little bit of gear quits working the whole thing gets quite literally backed up.  Demanding that we get involved on a level I for one would rather not.

                In the case of my backed up shower the problem was not too bad, I just had to clean out the strainer in the sump. Now I will not post pictures of just what this looked like because some of you might be eating while reading this! I will say it looked like a big cat came in and coughed up the mother of all really nasty hair balls. (Graphic enough for you?) Anyway it was quick and although all the parts did not want to go back to exactly the same place they had been for the last 5 years it did fix the problem. At least for now. I know how important the drainage system is from my time working in asbestos testing Ottawa outfits, seriously water will damage any property almost as much as fire, but if you happen to have dangerous materials about, so much worse since it will appropriate in ways you can predict.

                In the last 4 weeks I have had to clean the shower sump, disassemble and clean the air intake of my heating/AC unit, and clean the water intake for said AC unit. Thank God, and I say this tapping wood for luck (as in head on wall, you decide which is wood,) the main waste system has been my friend for some time now. I loathe the day it gives up, but I am well armed with spares and have a respirator to ease some of the foul vapors that I know await me along with latex gloves to prevent direct contact with well, you know what. I do, being the only person aboard, have most of the control over what goes into that particular wonder of convoluted plumbing.  I think that it does help to make sure what ever goes into the porcelain throne has been well digested first. (Aren’t you glad you are reading this?) I suppose when the day comes to have to work on that tangle of hoses and fittings it will be my own crap after all that will be in there. Not that that makes it all that much better.

                So next time you are in the shower on your boat you can ponder all the technology, motors, switches, and valves it takes to get that bit of no longer pleasant water out of your boat. Should you take it for granted, for just a moment, you know it will begin to back up on you. Hopefully this will be just a subtle reminder that there are forces at work in those dark dank bilges that require your periodic attention. And while down there check your bilge pumps because, well you know, it really sucks to wake up in the morning and step into water!

Capt. Wayne


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