Dealing with Flooded Compartments!


Last night was by far the coldest of the trip to date...  Burr...  It was so cold that when I went to bite into a mini mars bar I almost broke my teeth as it was rock solid. The honey is frozen and I managed to give myself brain freeze from drinking the water too quickly out of my water bottle...  When I went to go to bed after writing the blog I was so cold that I didn’t think I would be able to get warm even in bed, so I heated up another hot water bottle and added some extra layers.  I ended up sleeping in my Antarctica grade sleeping bag wearing my base layer, 2 sets of Marino wool thermals, a fleece vest and a set of the zhik midlayers which is a full body suit and a jacket. It almost makes me feel like I am walking around in a fitted sleeping bag, they are warm though.  On top of this I had a beanie on, neck warmer, fleece gloves and 2 pairs of socks.  Once the hot water bottle was ready I ended up unzipping my layers back until I could put the water bottle in between my thermals and my fleece vest under most of my layers.  Oh, is was so gloriously warm and after a few minutes I almost felt like I was cocooned in a heater...  I fell into a much-needed deep sleep for 3 hours...

When I woke up the winds had dropped out completely and I was no in a variable 5 knots of wind. The swell was still 3 meters from the SE so it would rock the boat and push the wind out of the sails...  I re-trimmed as much as I could. Once there was nothing else for me to do I went back to bed for another 3 hours.  When I got up the second time not much had changed. Climate Action Now was making the rapid speed of 1.5 knots but at least it was in the right direction. 
As I knew today was also my day to tackle the aft locker I got up and had a big serve of porridge to keep me going for a while.  I was still feeling tired and not looking forward to the hours of bailing and sorting the rubbish out of the back locker so I also had a pick me up. A Fizz stick made by Arrbone.  The Fizz sticks are a healthy booster to your day. This is the first one I have had all trip, mainly because they have a small amount of caffeine in them and I was unsure if this would prevent me from sleeping later on.  I have to say, they made such a difference.  Within 15 minutes I was perky and ready to tackle the day. My energy didn’t start lagging until hours later. I also didn’t experience the crash that I would normally get from something like a coffee or V drink.

So fortified, I gathered up my empty bin. This is a bucket that we used to cast the main sheet winch in, so it has a hole drilled in the bottom. I also gathered a pillow case, normal bailing bucket, my baler and an empty dry bag.  Given that the entire of the back compartment has flooded I will no longer be storing my rubbish there. I will keep it in the empty dry bags and put them in the sail locker instead.

So armed and ready, I was also now on the right tack, putting the access point on the high side.  I put the pillow case in the bucket and tied the top in so it won’t fall down when I am pouring water in.  I then opened the hatch to take a look at the challenge...  Yesterday when I looked the access hatch was on the low side so it looked like the compartment was about half full, not great, but when I opened that hatch this morning it was full to the brim...  That’s over 2 tons of water in one compartment. 

I was quite alarmed, because there was never that much in the steering compartment, so it couldn't have leaked through the bulkhead.  There was something else going on here to get that much water into the boat. The two things I could think of was that the overboard discharge line for the bilge system had come loose so instead of pumping all that water overboard it was pumping it into the boat. Or, the exhaust line for the engine was ruptured.  I had the main engine on last night out of gear to charge the batteries. I still haven’t had the chance to repair the generator so I have needed to use the main engine instead.  It was running all last night. It could easily have poured that much water into the compartment...  As it was I was staring into a brown soup filled with little bits of wrappers and plastic and no amount of looking at it was going to give me my answer.  I needed to bail out the compartment to see where the water came from.

As my 2 rubbish bags, that were stored in that compartment, were now shredded, I needed to strain all the water before it could go overboard.  I was in no way wanting to contribute to the pollution of our marine environment, especially when it is already under such huge threats.  Just look at the Great Barrier Reef and the mass coral bleaching that is occurring there at the moment...  The ocean did not need my rubbish in it so I worked very slowly and poured each bucket of water through the pillow case so that the pillow case could catch the plastic. 
At 1 bucket, every 2 minutes and 2 tons of water to go this was going to take some time.  Every time I got a new bucket of water I would run my fingers through it first to get the larger bits of plastic out first.  Remember its cold and this was a very painful method but one that sped things along a little bit.  My hands were on fire from the cold but it was a just tolerable pain until the sunset and the winds started blowing a little bit stronger.  I kept going as long as I could but eventually that pain got too much and I needed to get below to defrost my fingers and add some layers on. 

Leaving everything on deck I made my way below slowly. My hands no longer worked very well so I didn’t rely on them to hold on to the boat as I moved around.  As soon as I got into the shelter of the cuddy I stopped and shoved my hands into my armpits. A few tears had escaped by now. I wasn’t angry but it was just so painful.  It’s a type of pain that is hard to describe.  Its not the skin that hurts, the pain comes from in the bones of your fingers. There is nothing you can do about it until your hands have warmed up again...  After a few minutes, I climbed in the boat searching for warmth and stood in the galley for another 10 minutes with my hands up my armpits until the pain had receded enough.

I had so far been at it for 4 hours of sifting the rubbish out and bailing the water and there was still another 1/4 of the water remaining.  I took 20 minutes and had a protein shake and some muesli bars to keep me going. I also added some more layers until I was wearing everything that I went to bed in the night before as well as my foulies.  I also dug out my completely windproof Norwegian fishing gloves that have a Marino lining. They will slow me down a bit but now that it was dark it was a whole lot colder.  I didn’t think that my hands could take that kind of cold any more, so I put them on as well.  Warmed again I went back on deck to tackle the remaining job.  I tacked the boat to put the hatch at the lower end and continued to work.  Another hour and a half later and all the water I could reach was out. Now comes the hard part. I needed to climb into to the very small hatch and try to get to the rest of the water and the bits of plastic that were wedged in the locker. I also needed to try and identify the problem.

I tacked the boat back to course as the winds were now blowing 10-12 knots from the NE.  I was sailing close hauled with my No 1 jib out and the full main sail up.  I quickly realized that getting into the locker was the easy bit. Getting back out proved much harder, as the bolts around the hatch frame kept catching my clothing. I did think I was quite stuck once or twice.  Using my never before seen contortionist skills, I wriggled all the way to the far end of the locker to get the water and the last bits of plastic. 

I looked at the overboard discharge line for the bilge system but that looked all in order. I also checked the exhausts and they both looked fine from what I could tell.  I did notice 2 little clear hoses hanging down.  For some reason on this boat there is a secondary exhaust line. It’s a small clear line that puts out water when the engine is running.  There is one for both the genset and the main engine and both were hanging down. Given that the engine was on all night this would likely be the cause of the extra water.  I think it was a cause of the rudder compartment flooding and the exhaust pumping water into the locker...  I finally re-plumbed them both in and crawled out of the locker for the last time...  6 hours had now past and I was getting tired and cold.

Putting the kettle on down below I heated up my first real meal in 3 days.  Bare burrito. This is my favorited meal as its mostly beans and has lots of flavour. I also think it’s the most nutritious of all the meals and I needed as much energy as I could get.  I am going to aim for an early night and try to get up at a reasonable hour tomorrow to tackle the last jobs on my list, thankfully the weather has been kind with lighter winds for these jobs and anther good factor of today is that while there were some tears I didn’t have a hissy fit...


PS - Link for Sky News Interview for those who missed it.