When we launched our gondola "Stella" in Newport,
just prior to Valentine's Day last year,
she had a small but persistent leak.
It wasn't a disaster, it was just the kind of leak that requires diligent attention.
Like most dry-launch leaks,
it eventually sealed up once the planks had saturated.
But in the mean time, with V-day fast-approaching,
I realized that I couldn't keep coming back again and again
with a shop-vac to keep the boat on top of the water.
Each year, John Kerschbaum comes from Minnesota to row with us for Valentine's Day.
A short conversation with John, and I had the answer.
When John launches his boats in St. Croix each Spring,
he pre-soaks them before launching, but it's common for a few
small leaks to endure afterwards.
The Minnesota gondola operator told me about how he'd had success
with bilge pumps during that final seal-up period.
I took an automatic bilge pump,
mounted it in the boat,
propped the discharge hose over the rail,
and hooked it up to a portable battery pack used for jump-starting cars.
The automatic pump functions until it no longer senses the
resistance of water and then shuts off.
two and a half minutes later it kicks on - if it senses water, it pumps.
If not, it shuts off again.
It's a wonderful device,
and so much better than the float-switch type pumps.
The power source is great too.
Joe Gibbons in Boston introduced me to these portable units many years ago. You can buy them at any auto parts store.
We call them "jump boxes" - they're great for powering running lights too.
Fast-forward to this week.
Unless you've been locked in a closet, if you live in California,
you've heard tons of media hype and warning (mostly hype)
about the coming onslaught of "El Niño".
Watch the weather report and you're likely to be told about how
we're all going to float away and die once the storms hit.
Hype equals ratings.
Although the fact is that we are getting some real rain here now.
We definitely need it, but it makes for more pumping on my part.
With the "Rain-Pocalypse" looming, I decided it was time to get serious.
I told my guys we needed to install a "Stella System" on each boat.
This week I ordered a bunch of automatic bilge pumps,
bought more jump-boxes,
and installed each one of them into a different boat.
I just go from boat to boat each day,
making sure my little Stella-systems are doing their jobs.
Product list"Jump Box" - Super Start Power Pack (model 55001)
I got mine at O'Reilly Auto Parts for under $60.
Bilge Pump - Rule Fully Automatic Bilge Pump - 500 gallons per hour
West Marine carries it, but it appears to be popular - I had to order
them to be delivered to the store. They retail at $72.99 each.
Hose - Shields Multiflex - 3/4"
I have a fifty-foot roll of it in my garage, so I can't give you an
exact cost on it.
TipsNo Drilling - if you don't want to sink a screw into your boat to hold the bilge pump in place, you can remain crouched in the boat all day...or you can put something on top of it to hold it in place.
Oh, hey, how about the "Jump Box"!
Well, yeah, but then it might get wet.
Unlesssss...we place it in a plastic bin, and put the bin on the pump!
(just make sure you put some of the boat canvas over the bin so it doesn't fill up with rain water)
One word: Ring Terminals (wait, I think that's two words)
When you pull the bilge pump out of the box, crimp a couple of ring terminals on the ends of the black and red wires.
This makes it easier to clamp onto them in low lighting with the jumper cable type clamps from the jump box.
The 25 piece box cost $15.49.
Stash the striped one -you'll notice that the bilge pump has three wires.
The red and black ones are positive and negative.
The third one (which has stripes) is for connecting to a manual switch so you can activate the pump if it's hard-wired into a boat.
If you're just gonna clamp on with a jump box,
coil that striped wire and tie it with a zip tie.
Secure the hose - The discharge hose is a wily sucker.
When the pump kicks on, it can writhe around a bit, so you've got to make sure it doesn't end up spitting water back into the boat.
In addition, Tim at Sunset Gondola tells me that sometimes a pump can do a funny thing if the end of the hose reaches into the water:
Once the pump shuts off, water from the bay can siphon back up and into the boat...continuously.
I think you can do that math on that scenario.
To keep the end of the hose in the right place,
try pinning it down with the trasto bagagli - the big removable
trastolini board that's immediately behind the seat. (see top photo)
I'm starting to like the idea of rain again,
but I hope it will take the week off around Valentine's Day.