Thursday, October 8, 2009

With apologies to John Steinbeck, I would have to say that in many ways, this has been the 'Summer of my Discontent.' Seems that every time I headed down to the boat I came back with some kind of injury. If it wasn't a jellyfish sting it was some barnacle scrapes. If it wasn't a bonk on the head, it was a cut on the leg. Throw in various bruises and sprains and the list gets pretty long. This last trip added to that list and as usual, the injury was self inflicted.

As you may remember from reading about our pump out experience, the boat owner is responsible for dumping the sanitary holding tanks on his boat. The procedure is not for the faint of heart as you have to handle the nasty stuff we rarely discuss.

The last time we finished pumping out, I noticed that the gauge that measures the level of our holding tank still read half full. Hmmm. That was odd. We were quite sure the tank was empty. Why didn't the gauge agree? For most people, a discrepancy like that would be meaningless. In their minds, the gauge read wrong and all that was needed was to make the mental adjustment that a 'half full' indication really mean 'empty'. No big deal.

Well, whoever said that 'idle hands are the devil's playthings,' was thinking of me. I just can't sleep at night knowing that we have a bad gauge. So one quiet Tuesday afternoon, I decided to investigate this phenomenon. My first thought was just to look around the tank for loose wires or anything else that was an easy fix. Everything looked good however and I wasn't going to get off that easily. My second thought was to simply tighten up all the clamps and hoses thinking that it could be a vacuum issue. It wasn't. Finally, the least desirable option was to open up the tank and remove and clean the gauge sensor itself. That wasn't going to be fun.

Now I have never owned a septic tank and no nothing about them except that I am glad we have a city sewer system at our house. Without going into a lot of detail, its just plain nasty. The holding tank is a substantial unit and it is closed up pretty tight. There are all kinds of seals and rubber rings that keep the bad stuff locked up tight. In order to get to the sensor however, I had to break open one of those seals.

After removing the last of several screws that held the inspection plate in place, I took a deep breath, held my nose and lifted the cover. I was expecting to be hit with the foul stench of human byproducts but instead was sprayed with a voluminous amount of 'effluence' (that is the scientific word for potty water). I still don't know how or why this happened but in a nanosecond I was covered with this smelly green fluid.

I immediately started spitting profusely while keeping my eyes tightly shut. Feeling my way back to the galley, I found the sink and got to scrubbing the junk off of my face. Oh, the humanity! I sincerely hope that those antibacterial soaps really do work. I think I used a whole bottle. Anyway, it was off to the shower after that for a Phisohex rinse, a hydrogen peroxide gargle and a clorox spritz.

Being sanitized on the outside, I began to wonder what my insides were like. I am sure I got my mouth closed in time but I wasn't so sure about my eyes. You really can't close your nose, but I don't think the stuff got that far up there to do any damage. But for sure I thought, I should get some answers. A quick call to my doc back in Cincinnati confirmed that I should run, not walk to the nearest ER or urgent care center to get a Hep B and tetanus shot along with antibiotics for my eyes.

The girls at the Urgent Care center had a lot of fun with me that afternoon. They kept calling me 'potty mouth' and the 'creature from the green lagoon'. The doc said it was a good thing I came in because if I had waited until morning, my eyes would have been swollen shut with infection. All in all, it was an interesting way to spend an afternoon.

The good news is that I fixed the gauge. It reads empty like it should. Now I can get some sleep.


  1. Steve - Just finished reading about your summer on Maya, and have enjoyed every post. Youare really a very good writer, and I am learning a lot about a subject I never really thought about - boating. Mostly it sounds like a lot of work, but I know the glorious moments must be well worth it. Also, it was great to hear about the ICW - This country is just so large, there are "hidden" treasures everywhere.

    Happy boating.

    Peggy aka Al's sister

  2. Steve - Read all of your blogs about your adventures on Maya. Really enjoyed reading about something that I know nothing about!! You do have quite a talent for writing and story-telling! Thank you for sharing!!
    Sharon Kitzmiller