Thursday, January 7, 2010

Boatload of Buttfunk

I take pride in my boat. I like to keep it neat and clean and make sure the rigging and running gear is in good order. Still, over the last year or two, the Heart of Gold has suffered the twin menaces of weather and neglect. Such is the life of a boat. Little nuisance leaks have become potential sources of dry rot, tiny imperfections in the brightwork have become disastrous eyesores of peeling varnish, and once-glimmering painted cabin sides have become drab and dingy.

With my job, there's not too much I can do about the neglect part. It's just a given that there will be months at a time where I won't be able to do much other than dread the to-do list I'll have when I get back from being out to sea. Meanwhile, there will be neglect.

The weather thing I can fix though. While I can't move to someplace without the damaging effects of rain or (oddly enough) sunshine, and I can't park the boat in a garage, I have gone ahead and done the third best thing. While I've been away, I've contracted a local canvas worker, Cary Otis of ZigZag Canvas, to build a custom cover that covers everything above the gunwale from bow to stern. Here's a shot of the cover in progress (before the stern section was done):
New Canvas
The little parts dangling from the bottom are sandbags. The idea is that the weight hanging from the bottom edge keeps everything tight so that water will run off of the sides even after the aging canvas has stretched a bit. The fabric used is Sunbrella canvas, which has an advertised service life of fifteen years worth of weather exposure.

With the cover in place while I'm not using the boat, UV rays from the sun won't eat up the varnish and paint above deck, rainwater won't creep under the fittings and trim, and birds won't sit on the lifelines and crap all over the deck. I'll get to spend less time and effort fixing and cleaning things and more time and effort playing with the boat. It's all good.

Well, almost all good, that is. There's one problem. I suppose it's really just part of the cost of making life easier. It's a tiny problem and it doesn't really need a solution because it's so small, but it's at least worth mentioning.

On board the Heart of Gold there are two heads.* Because there are laws against dumping sewage into inland waters, the aft head is blanked off and the forward head flushes into a holding tank under the bunk in the forward cabin. As it fills up, the black water** in the tank displaces the air in the tank. Rather than let the pressure in the tank build up, the system has a small vent so that the pressure bleeds out through a small hole in the side of the boat.

That hole is just under the gunwale, all the way forward on the port bow. The canvas cover hangs down over that hole. As a result, when you flush the toilet, the inside of the cover gets a little whiff of fart-smelling sewer gas puffed into it.

So the first time I woke up on board the boat with the cover in place I went forward to use the head. After I'd caught up on all of my reading, I flushed and went back into the main cabin. The only source of fresh air in the main cabin was the louvred vents in the companionway doors (inside the new canvas cover).

As luck would have it, my dog Kira sauntered into the main cabin at the same time as the months-old ass gas wafted its way from the holding tank vent, aft along the now-enclosed main deck, and into the cabin via the companionway doors. So just as she stepped in front of me I was assaulted by the nastiest fermented turd smell I've suffered through in recent memory.

It was only after several minutes of laughing at her through watering eyes that I finally realized that the smell wasn't her, it was me.

*"Head" is boat-speak for "toilet." Don't make me tell you again.
**"Black water" is the Marine Engineer's technical term for sewage. There is also "grey water" which is the sort that comes out of shower and sink drains and (hopefully) does not include human waste.

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