Sunday, July 8, 2012

Persistent Head Aches

Lightening our load 3 miles off New Jersey.
Several days ago, off the Jersey shore I had cut the wire tie that was looped around the handle of the Y valve, given it a careless twist from pump-out to overboard, and switched on the macerator pump. I intended to wave good bye to quite a load of crap we had accumulated over the last week or so. I try to keep Sweet Pea up on her lines and every little bit helps. 

Normally there is a loud blender sound followed by this satisfied slurp as it finishes up. This time there was only a sharp click as the macerator tripped its breaker. No whir, no slurp. This sound of silence was not good, given that I had counted on this opportunity to be a law abiding boater and hadn’t pumped out in Cape MayI must say, that click was as ominous as listening to someone struggling to pump the head, followed by hearing the phrase, “Something’s wrong with this thing . . .”  Both mean that the captain will be up shit creek before too long.

What I should have worn
Rebuilding a head after pumping twenty gallons of fresh sea water through it is one thing. By that point it’s not too much more disgusting than the typical men’s room in some rural Georgia gas station. Dissembling a broken macerator is quite different. There’s no way to flush it out prior to tugging off those hoses, which are full to bursting. A hazmat suit would have been appropriate for the troubleshooting step in which I was about to engage. However, given the sweaty heat I elected to join the fray dressed in a tee shirt rather than full body protection. Perhaps I should have donned my wetsuit instead.

I found that, like a dog chewing on its own tail, the macerator was trying to grind up part of its own impeller, which had broken off and jammed the mechanism. The impeller distress was, in turn, caused by a major hairball that it just couldn’t cough up. Where do these things come from? Ah, never mind, I really don’t want to know the details. Suffice it to say that unbelievably gross is faint description compared to the loathsome reality of what I found. The insides of a head are positively pristine in comparison.

It eats some
astounding things.
Before this surgery I had consulted the user guide to see what, if any, advice they gave about the pump making only clicks. There was nothing promising in their literature, but I did read that this marine equivalent of a blender is supposed to be able to grind up, and I quote here, “cigarettes, cigars, chunks of soft fruit or vegetables less than 1’ size, fish scales . . .” They mention all these ingredients, in addition to the stuff that I would normally think of as ending up in the holding tank.

I’m so relieved to know that someone can throw a cigar down Sweet Pea’s head without eating it first. I’m thinking that next time Anita smokes her cigar below I simply must remember to mention this. She so hates having to gulp down that cigar butt. Plus, it appears that I’m going about cleaning fish in entirely the wrong way. Rather than making a bloody mess in the galley I could scale them right in the toilet bowl. Now there’s an idea. Sushi anyone?

I was able to fix the macerator, though I had to put it back together twice. The first time it made the desired whirring noise but leaked like a sieve. Who would have thought a macerator would generate enough pressure to resemble to a fountain? I cured this by coating its ineffectual paper gaskets with magic gasket goop, all the while hoping this new stuff wouldn’t contribute to forming yet another hairball. Had I had thought to smear on cheater gasket before the the first test run, I wouldn’t have had to bail out that locker, yet again.

As for that dirty tee shirt, perhaps I’ll flush it down the head and let the macerator deal with it. It can’t be that much different that those other things they say it will eat.

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