Tuesday, July 05, 2005
As I could not work on the back deck, and because it looked like it might rain, I opted to get started on working on the hull from the inside, in the space which was the fish hold. It's hard to tell from the picture, but you can just see the sections I had been working on to the right of the picture.
By working, I mean I was beating back the rust with a chipping hammer, a slow, dirty, laborious job. It's quite rewarding work, as the results of my efforts are easy to see as work progresses.
Anyway, I cannot recall having a go at the rust on the bulkhead you can see at the top of the picture, however just as I was getting ready for lunch I was cleaning out some of the rubble I had generated when I noticed a small black patch on the bulkhead, right by the port, forward fuel tank. All I can think was the vibrations from the banging knocked off a final flake of rust, causing one of Lady Jane's main fuel tanks to be ruptured. This was the start of what turned out to be a long and messy day.
To explain, Lady Jane has four main fuel tanks, each capable of holding about eight thousand litres (2100 US gallons). I have about seven thousand litres (1850 US gallons) of fuel on board, divided roughly equally between the rear two fuel tanks. It's stored like that simply because that's where the fuel was when I bought the boat, and I've not really had any reason to change things. The point being, the two forward tanks were supposed to be empty. I know because I bolted the forward tank inspection covers in place myself.
I tried plugging the hole with the nearest, small, piece of wood, but that just made the hole bigger and the black patch was converted to a steady trickle of diesel. At this point I'm confused as the tank is supposed to be empty. Anyway I got a bigger piece of wood, no good. I then got the biggest piece I could manage and rammed that in and managed to stem, but not stop the flow.
With the flood of diesel slowed, I scrambled around and found just about every container I could and chucked them into the hold. By pulling the plug out and letting the diesel flow into my washing up bowl, I could then start filling the various containers, using the wood as a plug between fillings.
The picture was taken after the flow had ceased to a trickle and I had done a bit of siphoning (yuck) to ensure the fuel in the tank was below the level of the hole. All together I think I lost about twenty liters (5 US gallons), spilt inside the hull, and saved about eighty litres (20 US Gallons), which has been poured back into the rear tank through a makeshift filter. This does not sound much, but diesel works out at about US$ 6.00 per US Gallon here in the UK (90p per litre).
I took the inspection cover off the breached tank, about thirty big bolts, to see just how much fuel was left. I estimate there is still another two hundred liters in there, but it's in between spars that run inside the tank, and all under the level of the pipe where the diesel would normally be pumped out using the boat's fuel pumping system.
I knew the tanks had a bit of fuel in the bottom, but had not realized it was that much. Now I have several problems:
1) The remaining fuel must be pumped from the breached tank
2) There is still a big mess to clean up
3) The starboard forward tank will be in a similar state.
4) The tanks will need thorough cleaning before doing any welding
5) The bottom part of the whole bulkhead will need to be completely replaced
6) While I'm confident the rear tanks are ok, they will need careful checking.
7) The hold is not watertight so, although unlikely, a similar hole in the hull would be a disaster.
Under the circumstances, with the exception of fetching a fire extinguisher, I don't think I could have done any better. All in all you could say a bad day at the office.
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