Buy Boats, Sell Boats, Review Boats

Posted by on Mar 24, 2010 in Boat Equipment, Sailboat Racing, UK, US |

If My House Were My Boat…

I'd have sunk it the other night. Now I not only need a new pump, but new sailing boots, too.

I was standing for more than an hour in about a foot of cold water in my Sperry Top-Sider offshore boots, and it made me glad that I don’t go sailing in New England in the month of March. I had a lot of time to think  that morning, and my thoughts turned chiefly to warmer water and visions of summertime sailing.

New Englanders can be in a sailboat like this one in a few months instead of bailing their basements.

New Englanders can be in a sailboat like this one in a few months instead of bailing their basements.

I also got to thinking about college sailing regattas on Boston’s Charles River, which in the late ’70s had the same dirty brown appearance as the water in my basement (and a worse smell). Starting time used to be 9:30 a.m. for intercollegiate events, but a broken sump pump can now get me started much earlier; I think it was about 4:30 a.m. when I woke up and heard the hum of the pump that wouldn’t quit—and wasn’t working properly.

March in Newport, Rhode Island, brings its share of weather like this.

The price of a summer seabreeze is called March. In Newport, Rhode Island, a southeasterly blow looks like this.

Luckily for me, I’d just jury-rigged this pump and could quickly diagnose the problem: another screw had stripped its threads and the bottom of the pump was coming apart from the force of the water. I turned it off, went back upstairs and got another wood clamp to force the separating pieces back in place. (There was already one wood clamp holding top and bottom together, not to mention some Gorilla glue and duct tape holding the check valve in place.) Miraculously, when I plugged the pump back in (the outlet is in the ceiling), it hummed and the water began to make an exit.

Facebook friends have hear this already; the Gorilla Glue and duct tape repair of my sump pump held up but another wood clamp was needed to hold things together.

Facebook friends are tired of this story already; but you've gotta love the combination of Gorilla Glue and duct tape. The pump now has a second wood clamp installed opposite the one shown.

We have water problems sometimes on our wooden 33-foot International One-Design, usually on port tack in 10 knots of wind and above. Fortunately, that’s about the wind strength when the weight of the water in the boat’s deep bilge makes it sail faster, but only up to a point. (See Charlie Doane’s Crunching the Numbers for a discussion of increasing hull speed.)

In fact, I’m pretty sure that our boat would be hard to sail if it had 500 cubic feet of water in it, the approximate amount I calculated was in my basement as I watched the level slowly recede.

Do you know how many gallons there are in a cubic foot of water? I find it hard to believe that my online converter says there are almost 7.5 U.S. gallons, which means I had some amount north of 3,700 gallons in the basement. Even if my pre-dawn calculations are off by half, I’d have definitely sunk the house if it were the boat. Probably could’ve sunk all the boats I’ve ever owned.

Woodlouse, the most famous International One-Design in Sweden, sailed by world champion Urban Ristorp

Woodlouse, the most famous International One-Design in Sweden, sailed by Urban Ristorp as he left us in his wake last summer en route to winning the class championship. Hans Johansson photo

Aboard our IOD, a few years ago, we installed a new double-action Edson pump, which has really made a difference in expelling water quickly. Of course it’s manually powered, and I have to admit, as I stood there in the early morning, to having visions of electrically powered pumps. If BMW ORACLE’s USA could have an engine to trim its wingsail in the recent America’s Cup, why couldn’t we have an electric bilge pump? But that was about the time I realized one of my feet was getting colder than I expected; I wiggled my toes and had to acknowledge that the boot was leaking. The money might get spent there first.

Boats and boots. Both eventually leak. Houses, too. I accept that. And if I can endure another wet spring in the basement, sailing a wet boat and warming to the task of pumping it out will be my reward.

—John Burnham