Bilge Alarmed

By Tom Neale, 10/21/2004


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I’ve got a sure way to be able to afford boating. I’m going to apply for a mining permit and buy a shovel with a long handle. Then I’m going to start mining my bilge. It’ll take some effort, but it’ll be worth it. There’s enough stuff in there to start a bank. My bilge is so deep that when I drop something in, I can count the seconds before the splash. I don’t need a bilge alarm. I know that the fewer the seconds before the splash, the closer I am to sinking. Probably for that very reason, people have been dropping stuff in my bilge for around 30 years.

I don’t understand why none of the previous owners of this boat have gone after all the wealth that’s down there. When I asked one of them, his eyes widened and he just stood there shaking his head, muttering something about wild life. I’ve got to admit he had a point. The ecosystem in my bilge would make Steven King cry with envy. There’s a lot going on down there, it’s just that I’m not sure exactly what. I can tell when things are getting out of hand when I drop a wrench in and something throws it back up.

Whatever’s down there, I’m sure it isn’t what you’d find in your typical zoo. Or aquarium either. The government is spending billions of dollars to send robots looking for life on Mars. I think they ought to spend a few bucks and send one down in my bilge. I could use a grant about now. It would be win/win because they’d be sure to find life, and it would definitely put anything they might find on Mars to shame. This boat has had hundreds of thousands of miles of semi solid stuffing box drippings from many parts of the world. Just think of the varied life that’s come in with it. My bilge has environmental characteristics unlike anything anywhere else on the planet. It’s very warm. It’s very dark. (And no, I never shine a flash light down there. You think I’m crazy?) It goes through times of high noise and it goes through times of absolute quiet. The atmosphere ranges from the randy breath of a renegade diesel, to the “citrus” aroma of the occasional short lived dose of bilge cleaner. Sometimes the water and mud is still as a mill pond. These times are when I’m sitting in a very quiet marina or very hard aground. But these still times, fortunately, seldom last long. Whenever I’m in high seas, the mud and water really get stirred up. This allows all the little creatures to go out and meet each other and mix it up in the primordial slime. It’s kind of like a high school dance in a bedroom instead of in the gym-- without the chaperones. I would feel really good about all this healthy procreation, except that I don’t think anything down there’s ever died yet.

You’d think that the government would jump at the chance (maybe the word is “dive”) to send down a robot to check it all out. But they don’t seem to get it. Instead all they’ve done is make me place this weird sign near the bilge. I’m not exactly sure what it says, because it’s so splattered with oil, but I think it says something about not “discharging” overboard. Who would want to do that? When I spend all the money I’ll get from my mining operations, I’m going to sink an oil well down there and make more money that way. Besides, I want a very high level of viscosity to my bilge water. When I drop something in I want to hear the splashes; but I certainly don’t want to feel them.

Bilge Busting Tips

A wet/dry vacuum cleaner, such as a Shop-Vac (tm) is a great tool for bilge maintenance. You can pour bilge cleaners down there all day long, but they won't take care of everything, and sometimes end up smelling worse than the bilge water. An occasional cleaning with a Shop-Vac, using the extensions (such as the crevice wand) can dry your bilge almost completely, pick up grime and dirt, and even suck up most of the wildlife that's lurking down there. It'll also help to ward off bilge blister. Yep, in some fiberglass boats it's possible to get them down there if it's wet enough long enough. Then you've got outside blisters working through to meet inside blisters. This is a union that's not made in heaven.

Click Here for More Tips

There’s a lot to be said for dropping things in your bilge. It certainly beats dropping them overboard. Then you’ve got to worry about clarity of the water to see them on the bottom and the barracuda that come rushing up to check them out just before you dive in to get them. There are no such concerns with bilge drops. Worrying about water clarity down there is like worrying about lily pads at the North Pole. And the survival time of a barracuda in my bilge would probably be like the survival time of an ice cube on the equator. The issue here is more philosophical. I have to stand there trying to decide which I value the most: the tool, or my life. I never even think of trying to reach down there to get my screwdriver back. I just stand there listening to see if there’s any angry exclamation. Then I move back if that initial splash continues and starts to get louder. Then, if it was a really important tool, like the one I was using to stop that leak from the through hull I just busted, I decide which other tool I want to sacrifice to try to reach down and get it back. Usually I fish with a magnet on a rope. I can tell whether I’ve found it by whether I’m pulling it up or it’s pulling me in.

It bothers me to hear some people brag about their perfect boats. I once had a friend who bragged about his boat all the time. He said his bilge was so clean that that he could eat off it. I invited him to dinner in mine.

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale