November 29, 2009.
To paraphrase our friend Mike on Sapphire….”We’re sinking”. Fortunately, like Mike's sinking it turned out to be a semi minor event. We were up and underway from Vero Beach. We were headed to the Fort Pierce inlet where we had absorbed a vicious ass kicking last year on our way north. We planned to sail south along the coast and turn east towards the Bahamas when we started to feel the effects of the Gulf Stream.
As soon as we left Vero Beach the recently installed bilge alarm started screaming. We had overfilled the water tank at the fuel dock in Vero so I figured it was the excess water being pumped from the bilge. After the pump had come on several times it was time to go below and check things out.
Both stuffing boxes and the engine room were all dry. I thought maybe it was a problem with the alarm so I pumped the big manual pump and sure enough there were a few gallons of water in the bilge. Crap. So I headed to the bow to start a systematic check of every thru hull in the boat.
As soon as I got to the forward head the problem was obvious. One of the new fresh water couplings that I had installed a week ago under the sink was leaking. Christy was doing dishes and had the fresh water pump on, the elbow failed and we were filling our bilge with our drinking water. Underneath the sink there was water spraying everywhere, it looked like a scene from a German submarine movie. Crap. I shut the pump off and that stopped the water for the time being.
Far Niente was having a problem with his autopilot so we stopped in Fort Pierce for 2 hours so Jay could run to West Marine for parts. While he was busy with that, I removed and reinstalled the coupling only to have it fail almost immediately. Crap.
Jay was done, the last of the ebb tide was running so we had to up anchor and go out the inlet. The inlet was much nicer to us than it had been last year and we were soon southbound in the ocean.
Almost immediately Far Niente called us on the VHF and said that their autopilot was again acting up and they would have to stop in Lake Worth rather than cross to the Bahamas. I had the water system to deal with so we opted for Lake Worth as well. Solitaire also changed plans and headed in as well. We all arrived just after dark and carefully threaded our way into the anchorage to drop our hooks for the night.
Since we couldn’t wash either the dishes or ourselves I had to jump right on the coupling repair. Once the coupling was properly installed the root cause of the problem became clear to me. The regulator on our fresh water pump had failed. It was allowing the system to over pressurize until the weakest link in the system failed. Now that the system was once again in good health the pressure built so much that it actually overpowered the pressure relief valve on the hot water tank. Crap.
The pressure regulator is not adjustable so that meant the entire pump must be replaced. It was too late, I was to tired, so it would have to wait. So, first thing in the morning we had to dig through the entire V berth to find the spare water pump. It was only 6 feet away, I knew exactly where it was but it still took a half an hour to lay my hands on it. The install was pretty much remove/ replace and all went well.
After that I spent a bit of time on Far Niente basically confirming Jay’s fears. Technically speaking, we think Jay’s course computer has “shit the bed”. Since its Sunday things get a little more complicated as Jay has to wait until tomorrow to get a call into Raymarine. Is there a new unit in town, can they ship one immediately, is there some other kind of troubleshooting that they might recommend? Far Niente could be here for a couple of days so it looks as if Solitaire and Veranda are going to head out tonight before this weather window closes.