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A Perilous Pump-out
January 27th, 2014 @ 12:31 PM EST by admin

Warning: not for the squeamish.

In Sept we were west of NYC with a 90% full holding tank and we planned to cross the lake in time for the Shaw Festival. So we went to Bristol Marine for a pump-out. A pleasant attendant advised us that this would be $ 18 and that he knew what to do and did not need help. I removed our port-side deck waste fitting plug. He then placed the fitting of the green pump-out hose into the waste outlet, opened the hose valve, turned on the pump, held the fitting to the waste outlet, and commenced pumping. All normal so far,…….. but after about a minute he said something like ‘this is not right’. I went below to find that the Jabsco pump handle was extended. On returning to the cockpit, the attendant had stopped the pump and said he had to remove the pump-out hose. ‘So?’

We did not grasp the significance of his comment.

He was still holding it quite securely, but as soon as he moved the hose fitting the slightest, a brown spray escaped! I grabbed paper towels and surrounded his hands and the fitting.  The attendant then eased the fitting open 3-4 more times until the pressure was gone. My paper towels were now soaked, and we were ‘misted’ to say the least. My wife, Patricia, was on the starboard side of the cockpit and the binnacle and I partially shielded her from this spray.

The attendant said he had to go and have a shower. He left quickly. We never saw him again. Our waste tank was now 100% full, right to the top of the fitting. It was quiet on the dock.

We started wiping up the cockpit and coaming. After about five min, ‘Vince’ came down the gangway, placed the pump-out hose in the water, and turned the pump on. The hose started bubbling rather than taking in water.  He turned the pump off and got on his cell phone for advice. Since he needed both hands to work, I helped Vince by holding his cell phone to his ear, holding the hinged plate open on the pump control box and a pile of screws in my hand. He removed and replaced fuses, checked wires, and closed the control box. He then turned the pump on and ‘voila’. Now the hose sucked up water instead of pushing out bubbles.

Vince pumped out our holding tank and said ‘No charge!’ What a nice guy. I hosed down our cockpit and deck, the surrounding dock, the pump-out hose, and myself several times. We washed, changed clothes, and then departed wetter and smarter, but later than expected to the Shaw Festival. After that, our joker valve never closed completely, and we finally changed the entire bottom unit.

Moral of the Story: Be careful with anything that has contents under pressure. Always dump the pump out hose in the water first, and run the pump for 4 seconds to see if it is sucking water. When finished, repeat this water flush so that the hose is clean for the next sailor.

All’s well that ends well.

Aaron and Patricia Fenton, F3532.