Some things on boats are just disgusting. I have written about the Joker Valve – an essential piece of the sanitary plumbing which must be replaced periodically. But if you think the Joker Valve is disgusting – at least the old one gets thrown away (hopefully sealed in a plastic bag).
But what about the Outlet Hose? This is the bit that connects the Joker Valve to the outside world – which means that everything that passes through the one, also has to pass through the other.
However, a new Outlet Hose is a lot more expensive than a new Joker Valve. Moreover, it doesn’t wear out, so you can’t justify replacing it. Instead, it has to be cleaned.
Let me explain why (you’re going to enjoy this): The combination of human waste and salt water – as passes through the marine toilet – causes a built up of calcified “material” on the inside of the outlet hose. This is rather like domestic pipes getting furred-up or arteries being choked with cholesterol.
Domestic pipes get replaced. Clogged arteries involve surgical procedures which don’t bear thinking about.
Actually, clearing the deposit in an Outlet Hose doesn’t bear thinking about either. Here’s how you do it.
Remove the hose, take it ashore, find a nice open space with a good hard surface and swing the hose three time around your head before whacking it on the hard surface.
I should add that this is tremendously satisfying. It clears the hose in no time at all. However, the cleared “material” does come flying out of the end of the hose and shoots off in all directions. Fortunately, most passers-by have no idea just what that material is.
I used to think that the contents of the Outlet Hose and clearing them out was about the most disgusting aspect of boat-ownership.
But no, I have found something even more appalling.
Here’s what happens: The galley sink drains into a “grey water tank”. Grey water is that type of boat effluent which is one up from “black water” (I’ll let you use your imagination on that one).
Actually “grey water” sounds quite attractive – like something to do with interior décor and water features.
It’s not: Do you have a kitchen drain at home that sometimes gets blocked with grains of rice and slivers of onion and coffee grounds? How does that smell once you’ve neglected it for a few weeks.
Now imagine all of that in a plastic tank in the bilges. It should be emptied by a “gulper” pump – that is, one which is designed to cope with rice and onion and coffee grounds. What do you suppose happens if the gulper pump gets switched off accidentally. The Law of Gravity will still cause the sink to drain all that “grey water” into the tank and if it doesn’t get pumped out, it will overflow – escaping into the open bilges.
And since the bilges are down there somewhere (out of sight and out of mind), you won’t know anything has gone wrong until you smell it.
This is when you take off the top of the engine casing and shine a torch down through the pipes and wires into the bottom of the boat.
For a moment or two, I couldn’t understand why the usual puddle of seawater was orange. The last time I saw orange seawater was in Bilbao in the 1970s – before anyone got excited about pollution. But, when you think about it, I do use a lot of paprika. Paprika turns the washing-up water a brilliant orange, doesn’t it?
So the bilges – indeed, every part of the boat underfoot – is now coated with a sticky deposit of orange goo which smells, unmistakably, of drains.
I don’t even want to think about what I’m supposed to do about it.