Life on the Gyrfalcon:  A Poop Story

Life is never dull on a boat.

Our friends Andy, Joellen and Katie Hathaway have been staying on the Gyr while their boat, Twin Isles is on the hard in Port Townsend.

Before they arrived, we arranged to have the holding tank for the guest head pumped. For those of you who live on the land, the waste from all three heads goes into holding tanks (also called black water tanks).When the levels of waste rise, we call Pump-Me-Out, and they come by and pump all the waste into the tanks on their boat, and then properly dispose of it. It is a floating sewage system, and part of living on the water.

The last time Pump-Me-Out had been by, they left us a note that the vent on the guest holding tank was blocked, and they were not able to pump it out. However, since there was an indicator in the guest head, and it indicated that the tank was almost empty, I put unclogging the vent low on my to-do list.

Of course, that was when the poop hit the fan.

First the head quit working. We have a vacuum system. There is an electric pump that pulls a vacuum in a large accumulator tank. When one flushes the head, the vacuum pulls the waste through the accumulator,  then through the pump, and then pushed it into the holding tank.

The pump was running, but was not pulling a vacuum in the accumulator. After discussions with the gang at LUBR, we determined the most likely culprit was the pump. So I crawled into the space next to the head, and pulled out the pump. I took it into LUBR and we tested it – it ran fine and pumped a strong stream of water.

Further discussions determined that if the pump was good, and there were no obvious leaks in the system, the accumulator must be plugged. Last night Andy and I removed the accumulator, and discovered that it was indeed plugged , but mostly with a small amount of toilet paper. Which seemed odd to us, since we thought that the vacuum and the pump were powerful enough that they should have pulled that amount through with no trouble.

In any case, we put everything back together, and the head flushed fine. We were pleased but still puzzled.

This morning, Chris M from LUBR was coming aboard to check several items on the Gyr. I asked him to check out our work on the accumulator. He discovered that although what we had done was fine, there was back pressure in the system originating in the holding tank. He went down to the tank itself, and discovered that it was totally full (so full that the plastic tank was bulging outwards).

Remember the light on the gauge that said the tank was empty?  – It lied.

At that point I got serious about unclogging the vent – which was the reason that the tank had not been pumped earlier. Where the vent line enters the boat, there was what looked like a spiders nest with organic material and eggs, which was totally blocking the vent line.

So to review: A spider blocked the vent line, which meant that the tank was not pumped, so the tank filled and filled, even though the indicator said it was empty, and the back pressure prevented the pump from pushing the waste into the tank, and the accumulator clogged and the head would not flush, and the tank got fuller and fuller.

Chris thought that either the indicator light or the float mechanism had failed. Which was OK with me, since he had installed them, and we could all blame him. After the tank was pumped – no problem once the vent line had been cleared of spider condos – Chris came back and discovered that the problem was that the float balls in the tank were gummed up – probably because that tank does not get used unless we have guests, so over time, things dried up and stuck the floats. So now I can’t blame Chris, so I guess it was entirely the fault of the Spider (It’s never the Engineer’s fault!)

I know that people like to see lots of photographs on the blog, but I thought that we would not include any for this blog entry – besides smell was the predominant sense here.



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4 Responses to Life on the Gyrfalcon:  A Poop Story

  1. Bob Wheeler says:

    Damn those spiders! Run a secondary vent.


  2. PW says:

    Informative & entertaining post. Appreciate the lack of pics 🙂

  3. The Author says:

    Peter – I knew you’d come into your own one fine day. Thanks for the chuckle 🙂

  4. Mike says:

    Peter–As much as I enjoy your blog and find it both interesting and educational, I must admit this entry was not one of my favorites. I won’t go so far to say that it stinks but I was grossly misled by your title, thinking this story would be about the nautical reference poop deck. Not the case here.

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