Maleficent, leaden storm clouds rolled out of the west, swooping around to the north and south of our marina. Captivated, I thrust my iPhone into the sky, snapping pictures with oooohs and ahhhhs spilling from my mouth as the clouds quickly engulfed us. John, safely below, counted lightning distance as thunder roared, and our visiting friend, calmly took refuge in her latest book, ignoring me and my kid like behavior on deck. They relied on me, the crazy 70-year-old kid, for blow-by-blow reports. In less than an hour, touched only by a bit of rain, we were blessed with the arc of a rainbow and a clear sky.
A few days later, while others sweat in the heat at the dock, we sailed the Bay on a perfect tack — a starboard (meaning we had the right-of-way) beam reach (meaning we were going a fast 7 knots even in the light wind). We were caressed by cooling breezes as Dolce Vento sliced her way across the Bay. The quiet was broken when we found ourselves on a collision course with a sail boat coming down the Bay as we headed across the Bay to the east. We were surely going to cross paths in a most unpleasant manner if someone didn’t take action soon.
The United States Coast Guard Navigation Rule #15 is clear for two power (or sail) boats in a crossing situation –the vessel on the right (that’s us) has the right of way unless circumstances are such that a collision cannot be avoided because the give way vessel (the sailboat coming down the Bay) failed in its responsibility to take substantial and early action to avoid a collision.
So, here I was at the helm, having the right way, waiting for this other sailboat to go behind our stern. It was an ‘Oh, S–t’ kind of moment. The other skipper was not taking action. But, I calculated that we still had time to wake the dude up so I blasted the air horn. Luckily, he heard my blasting signal and decisively headed for our stern.
“I thought I heard your engines on,” he yelled arrogantly, as he slipped behind Dolce Vento, knowing that we had to give way, if we were under power.
“We’re sailing, man. Both sails up. No engines running,” I barked back at him, glaring in no uncertain terms what I thought of his glib excuse, then turned to my crew and said, “How stupid he was for not paying attention to what was under his sails. We stood our ground responsibly, ready to take evasive action if needed, but I will not be intimidated. Luckily, no one fainted or threw up during that short game of chicken.
We took it easy at the pool on Monday, July 3, then went to the marina sponsored fireworks. We plopped ourselves on the sand beachhead with several hundred others, tilted our heads back, and began the ooohs and ahhhhs as bursts of color and sparkling light were framed against the night sky.
After the fireworks, back at the boat, a suspicious aroma started to seep through the cabin. In the morning, the smell was stronger and could not be ignored. “Oh my god, it smells like pee,” I said. I was right.
One look under the sink where our aft toilet holding tank was located revealed a slow drip of old pee making its way down the curve of the hull as if the holding tank was over full. But we knew it wasn’t. We sopped up the mess, placed rags to catch the drips and called Cindy, our crew marine technician, for guidance. I got dizzy from visions of replacing an expensive holding tank. However, Cindy calmed us when she said, “I think it’s probably a simple problem that the holding tank vent filter, a contraption that collects odors from the holding tank and diverts them to a side vent on the hull, is clogged,” she counseled, then gave me the name of service who could replace it. But it was July 4th, so all we could do was shut down the toilet, leave a voice message and email, use the toilets at the marina, and pray for help to arrive soon. But, on Wednesday morning, even though they called early, the service could not help us for at least a week, because, I guess, the holiday was a heady one (Joke?).
There was nothing to do but wait–But Wait! John rallied! He decided to replace the vent filter himself. Had he ever done it before. “Why not give it a try,” he mused. Armed with latex gloves, goggles and pillows and my yoga mat to support his head and back, he was able, in a mere three hours, to make the complete the replacement. Our head was functioning like a good head should, once again. He was so pleased with this accomplishment that he tackled the forward head vent filter as well while I washed a week’s worth of dirty clothes, towels and sheets at the marina laundry. (Maybe he had the easier job?). His methodical, persistent ways paid off. He’s another step closer to being a real boat mechanic.
The lesson learned? Don’t forget to do your annual maintenance. Those vent filters were three years old and are supposed to be replaced annually. I’m surprised the heads didn’t leak sooner or explode from the methane gas that couldn’t escape from the holding tank. Just picture what that might look like. I put the information in my maintenance log. Next year this time, it will be vent filter replacement time.