[C320-list] We nearly sank....

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Graeme Clark

Jun 12, 2021, 5:18:44 PMJun 12
to Catalina list
... well, not quite but it could have been

Long story shorter... at anchor for a while and went below to light gas stove. I then noticed the light indicating the bilge pump running, but it didn’t stop. I pulled up the bilge cover to find the water almost up to the cabin sole.

Shut off all the seacocks checked sterngland. Nothing obvious. I was fairly sure it wasnt engine related as the engine had been shut some time, but first issue was to pump out

A quick look over the stern showed a less than expected flow from the bilge outflow. I put my hand into the bilge ( I had fitted a Rule 700gph pump in place of original Catalina fit diaphragm pump) and found a lot of debris blocking the inlet. More about this later.

I decided to “help things along” with the manual bilge pump. That was a bad idea for two reasons. Firstly when the bilge pump handle is down it cuts off the outlet for the electric pump. Secondly - in my specific case, it simply didn’t work. I hate to confess this but I don’t think I have ever tested my manual bilge pump! I guess somewhere a diaphragm or hose is split. So we let the electric pump do the work.

Because of the way the bilge is shaped, spreading wider as it rises, the volume of water when up to the cabin sole is quite significant! It took a LONG time before we were sure that the pump was reducing the level (bearing in mind that at this point we still hadn’t identified the leak so weren’t sure it wasn’t still coming in)

And I kept pulling out crud from the pump inlet. I couldn’t understand where this was coming from as our bilge had been spotless at the start of the season. Then I realised. The bilge is contiguous with the area beneath the settees. As the boat rolled at anchor the water was sloshing from side to side and all the old bits of stuff I had dropped whilst wiring up stuff around the batteries or near the electrical panel was being washed out. Off cuts of cable ties, an old rubber glove (which really did a great job of blocking the pump!), a couple of leaves(!), bits of electrical tape and so on!

Eventually we could see that the pump was winning the battle. By this time I had started the engine to ensure the battery wasn’t depleted by continuous running of the pump and with a back up plan to adapt the raw water intake to extract bilge water if the electric pump wasn’t adequate.

With an empty bilge it was time to find the leak. Again a long story shorter we eventually discovered that the hose had pulled off the heads basin outflow. I guess this happened at some point during my spring refit when I was replacing the heads waste sanitation hose.

But because it hadn’t dropped very far below the bottom of the basin, it only leaked when the boat was heeled to starboard, putting the hose end below the water line! Immediately before we anchored we’d been slightly over canvassed on a port tack for about 15 minutes and I guess during this time the water had poured into the boat,

At anchor it was “pulsing” out the end of the hose every time we rolled!

It is interesting that while it is considered good practice to fit double hose clips whenever the hose attaches to a seacock nobody cares much about the other end of that hose? With just one clip under the basin, the danger was the same as if there had been a single clip on the seacock!

With all that water sloshing from side to side, I now have what I suspect is the cleanest bilge in the fleet!

Lessons learned:

1) keep your bilges clean - not just to the normal pump switch level but right up to floor level. Tidy up all dropped waste below settees, sink, etc.
2) check functioning of manual bilge pump
3) check all hose clips, and hose fastness, even those that you haven’t touched, on a regular basis
4)consider fitting double clips at BOTH ends of hoses that exit below the water line
5) consider bilge high level alarm

It doesn’t take much thinking to come up with variations of this scenario where the problem might not have been spotted and the boat sinking after everyone onboard had left!

Take care folks!

Poole, England

Sent from my iPad

Mark Cole

Jun 12, 2021, 6:11:08 PMJun 12
to C320...@catalina320.com
Wow! That was a close call. I’m glad you were onboard and acted with a cool head to take care of the situation. And, like you say, no matter how clean your bilge is, there is always stuff lurking under that hull liner…

Sent from my iPad

> On Jun 12, 2021, at 2:18 PM, Graeme Clark <c...@skyflyer.co.uk> wrote:
> ... well, not quite but it could have been

Jack Brennan

Jun 12, 2021, 6:27:45 PMJun 12
to C320...@catalina320.com
Hi Graeme:

Quite a story. And I’m glad you figured it out.

I think you might have floated for a while longer, though. 😊 Sailboats are much more difficult to sink than most people think. Storage areas sealed off from the bilge act as flotation. Still, you could have damaged the cabin floor with all of that water.

A couple of thoughts:

Much to my wife’s irritation, I close all through hulls except the one for engine water. She hates this because she always has to flip one open to drain a sink, but I think it’s a good, safe practice.

I also carry a 2,000 gph pump that has alligator clips to fasten directly to the battery bank and a flexible hose that leads to the cockpit. It can move a lot of water.

Jack Brennan
Sonas, 1998 Catalina 320
Tierra Verde, Fl.

Sent from Mail for Windows 10

From: Graeme Clark
Sent: Saturday, June 12, 2021 5:18 PM
To: Catalina list
Subject: [C320-list] We nearly sank....

... well, not quite but it could have been

Ian Neale

Jun 12, 2021, 6:40:50 PMJun 12
to C320...@catalina320.com
Wow! Quite the story, you were lucky Graeme I am going to check my sink and basin waters to make sure they are double clamped.

I have a portable wash down pump as a back up as well as another small pump to add to the bilge pump if needed.

Had never really thought about trash locking a pump inlet, quite difficult to clean out unless you go through Graeme’s saga though.

Cheers, Ian.

Solutions, # 1122.

Sent from. my iPhone

> On Jun 13, 2021, at 10:27 AM, Jack Brennan <jackb...@bellsouth.net> wrote:
> Hi Graeme:

Troy Dunn

Jun 12, 2021, 7:32:07 PMJun 12
to C320...@catalina320.com
Wow! Close call. I learned a lot from your story. Thanks for sharing.

Troy Dunn
Hull #514

Dennis Cookson

Jun 13, 2021, 8:18:53 AMJun 13
to C320...@catalina320.com
Hi Graeme,

A salutary tale - well done for responding quickly and identifying the source of the leak. Must confess I haven’t tested my manual bilge pump either…..will remedy that on the next visit. And have a look under the basin. I do turn off those seacocks every time I leave the boat though, plus the raw water intake and the one under the galley sink.

#577 “Catalina"

John Morrison

Jun 13, 2021, 8:25:13 AMJun 13
to C320...@catalina320.com
I close all thru hulls whenever off the boat cheap insurance! Always close the propane tank valve, same reason. There are safely systems yes, but even space vehicles fail and they’re super engineered!!

Sent from my iPhone

> On Jun 13, 2021, at 8:18 AM, Dennis Cookson <den...@cooksons.net> wrote:
> eacocks every time I leave the boat though, plus the raw water intake and the one under the galley sink.

Graeme Clark

Jun 13, 2021, 8:36:17 AMJun 13
to C320...@catalina320.com
Yes I also close everything whilst leaving the boat but in this case, as we were onboard they were open so had we been on (say) a 40 minute long port tack in a strong wind the first we would have known about it would be once the water was above the cabin sole and then only if someone looked below!

That was one (the only?) advantage of the old diaphragm pump. You knew when it was running!

It would be simple to fit a standard 12v alarm buzzer into the bulge pump circuit so that it made a good noise when running - maybe incorporating an isolation switch to ensure a good nights sleep?


Sent from my phone. Excuse typos!

> On 13 Jun 2021, at 13:25, John Morrison <sail-a...@sympatico.ca> wrote:
> I close all thru hulls whenever off the boat cheap insurance! Always close the propane tank valve, same reason. There are safely systems yes, but even space vehicles fail and they’re super engineered!!

Bill Culbertson

Jun 15, 2021, 9:27:17 AMJun 15
to c320...@catalina320.com, C320...@catalina320.com
This is pretty long but hopefully worth the read.==========
We had a similar experience way back in 2002 crossing Lake Michigan aboard Peg Klienert's boat Pegasus overnight in a thunderstorm on our way from her home port of Muskegon MI to Chicago for the 2002 C320 Regatta.
The plan was to leave Thursday evening and sail overnight to arrive in Chicago sometime Friday morning.  We left around 6:30 and the forecast was for possible thunderstorms.  Sure enough around midnight the storms came.  Wind clocked around to be on the nose so we fired up the engine and quickly doused the sails.  Waves kicked up and we were pounding.  They were pretty steep and I remember the nose burying into the water in each trough - sometimes up to the forward hatch.  Not fun.  We'd been doing this for I don't know how long but quite a while.  The storms were predicted to blow through eventually.  I went below to use the head and saw the bilge access floorboard FLOATING!  The pump was running.  We hadn't heard that on deck because of the engine noise and the noise of the storm.  I alerted the other two and went looking for the source of the water.  Meanwhile Peg reported that no discharge was coming out of the bilge output.  I realized the water level was rising and shut off the bilge pump.  Peg began pumping using the manual Whale pump.
At some point I noticed that the water was warm.  Warmer than Lake Michigan.  Very odd.  It is hard to think clearly in that situation but eventually it dawned on me that the only explanation was engine exhaust water.  I went to the aft berth and, sure enough, the water lift muffler was cracked and leaking.  I reported this to the others and our mutual angst abated some (finally!) knowing that we could stop the boat from flooding by shutting down the engine.  We needed the engine to avoid being kicked around by the storm but could throttle down to the point of maintaining steerage to reduce the flooding rate.
I came on deck to relieve Peg pumping.  From that point on we alternated 10 minute pumping shifts while her friend manned the helm.  I'd pump for 10 minutes while she huddled under the dodger to warm up and then we'd switch so I could huddle under the dodger to warm up.  We did that for about 2-3 hours and then finally the storm let up.  We raised sail about 3 in the morning and shut off the engine.
We had been roughly keeping up with the influx of water.  Once the engine was off, the pumping made headway and the water level dropped.  When I went below to check this, I saw that there was all kinds of crud floating in the bilge water - wood chips, spade terminals, electrical wire.  We later concluded that a piece of the crud must have blocked the pump diaphragm from closing preventing proper pumping.  We also concluded that the pounding on the waves likely cracked the muffler.  And we concluded that the crud must have been construction debris that went floating once the bilge water level was high enough to float it - just like Graeme concluded.
At some point while we were in Chicago, Peg's friend disassembled the diaphragm pump and sure enough the diaphragm was indeed blocked open by a piece of crud.  He removed that and reassembled.  Fortunately it was a great Regatta and the three of us had a wonderful time Friday and Saturday.  Peg decided to leave Sunday morning to give us plenty of time to get back to Muskegon. As it was I remember we got back about 1am.  Peg's daughter and friend joined us for the motor back across Lake Michigan (no wind).  At some point over the weekend, one of us made a trip to West Marine to buy a Beckson hand pump with a long hose.  Keeping the RPM moderate, a functioning electric bilge pump and now 4 crew instead of 2 to man the Whale and the Beckson, we kept up with the muffler flooding and only had to pump occasionally instead of continuously.
A lesson from all of this.  While you can't prevent your muffler from cracking in pounding seas, I recommend that sometime at the dock you purposely flood your bilge up the the floorboard to float your construction crud so you proactively can remove it all.
Thanks Graeme for sharing your story to prompt me to share mine.
Bill CulbertsonC320IA Secretary/TreasurerHarmony #859

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