Chapter 4- June 10, 2005

Aboard "Debryn Ruth", Sam Writing  


Crossing the English Channel

The plan was to spend a couple days in St. Malo resting, relaxing, sight seeing, etc.  As it turns out I spent portions of 2 days literally up to my wrists in excrement!  Our toilet had been acting up for days.  So, once we rolled into port I thought I’d use the time to tear it down.  I first shut off the sea water inlet valve to keep sea water from pouring in and sinking the boat once I had the pump apart.  I also shut off the sea water outlet valve to keep the water from backflushing and doing the same thing.  I then went to work with my mechanic-in-training (Kai) and dismantled the pump assembly.  I discovered that a moulding had been cracked at the top of one of the valve seats.  This would mean replacing the barrel housing for the whole pump.  Not to worry. I had one in my spare parts kit.  In my reading of cruising literature one of the things most prone to fail on a boat is its head (toilet).  Therefore, I was prepared for mischief in this department.


A short while later I had also removed the body of the pump and was working away as happily as can be expected when handling a toilet up close and personal.  Suddenly, a blend of all that goes into a toilet started pouring out of one of the large diameter hoses I had just disconnected.  It very quickly began to flood the floor of the head and was rising at such a rate that for a split second I thought “I’m going to sink our new boat – not with seawater but with crap.”  Of course this was irrational as it would take literally tons of crap to actually sink the boat.  However, had you been there and seen the rate the stuff was pouring out and filling up our bathroom compartment, you would forgive me for my momentary panic. 


As my eyes were watching something they were never meant to see my brain was racing to figure out why this unspeakable thing was happening.   I mentally ran through the checklist of valves and very quickly came to the holding tank valve.  For those not of the yachting ilk, many long distance boats have something called a holding tank.  This clever device is literally a tank that holds your poop – something like the septic tank in some houses, but 1/1000 the size.  The idea is that while in port boats should not be discharging their indelicacies overboard for everyone else to see.  These items are held in the holding tank until the boat returns to sea and can discharge its indelicacies for the fish to see.


At any rate, in my preoccupation with keeping sea water on the right side of the hull, I had forgotten completely that as we were in port our holding tank was well supplied.  So when I disconnected the holding tank hose from the toilet without turning the valve off the only thing between me and the unmentionables was a tenuous rubber valve which allowed things to flow one way and not the other.  As the tank was quite full this valve was under great pressure, and that’s when the fun began…


The rest of the story does not bear repeating.  However, suffice it to say that I turned off the holding tank stop-cock double quick then spent far too long wrist deep in excrement fishing around for the screws to the pump assembly which I’d left on the ground and cleaning the mess up. 


As a postscript, I must confess to a slight smirk on my face while all this was happening.  For in some twisted way poetic justice was being served.  While back in the USA I had stopped into a Barnes and Noble bookstore and was reading an account in National Geographic Traveler (or some magazine by national geographic about traveling…) about a young couple from New York who took 6 months off to go sailing.  In his account the husband told of a weekend when the in-laws had been visiting them. They had flushed the toilet improperly with the result that the holding tank built up pressure and began to back-flush.  In his haste to impress his father-in-law the fellow had jumped in with wrench and screwdriver only to have the whole thing explode all over him.  Of course, I found this riotously funny and burst out laughing in the middle of the bookstore.  What kind of an idiot forgets to turn off the holding tank when fixing the toilet!!



Assorted Pictures

Kaizen and  Instructor Captain Bryan standing watch.



A very fine merry-go-round,



Trip to Stonehenge.



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Map of Hamble to Lymington

Map of English Channel  Star is at Honfleur.  Fecamp is just north.  Map is interactive so you can move in, out and around.  

Map of Brittany   Centered on Saint Malo, France.  Map is interactive.


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