September 8, 2013.
This week we had a call from a captain whose “bilge pump alarm went off every time he flushed the toilet”. Ut oh, crap.
I went down to the boat, a 44 foot catamaran, to check things out. I figured that if the bilge pump was going off every time the toilet flushed, then there had to be a fecal parade making its way into the bilge. Simple right? its not like it takes Columbo.
So I pulled up the portside floor boards and found the bilge full of poopy and a swarm of house flies. Great. Give me some latex gloves and I don't mind dealing with bilge crap. But the swarm of shit fed, free range house flies spinning around my head brought the crapiness up a level. Oh look, once your gloves are covered in shit you can't really swat the flies either. Great.
I figured that there must be a major plumbing leak so that when the captain flushed the head it flowed into the bilge rather than into the holding tank. Then the alarm would go off when the bilge pump was activated to pump the water overboard. So I flushed the toilet and watched as the water flowed into the bilge from someplace forward in the boat.
Then the alarm went off but the bilge pump didn't activate because the water wasn't high enough to lift the float switch. Huh? The plumbing all looked intact so I flushed it again and once again watched as water headed for the bilge. The alarm was already blaring when the float switch activated the pump and drained the bilge. With the bilge empty the float dropped and the pump stopped but the alarm continued to wail.....
It turned out that the “alarm” wasn't the bilge alarm but the holding tanks “high level alarm”. The holding tank was completely full, triggering the alarm and since the vent hose had popped off its fitting a quarter inch fecal water pistol was spraying against the inside of the hull every time the toilet flushed and shite was making its way to the bilge.
So it seemed that the good captain had neglected to pump out his holding tank for quite some time. So it wasn't a plumbing issue at all. I'm still astonished to find the answer to some issues is so simple. You fill the tank, you've got to empty it. At some point the captain has to be smarter than the boat.