We left Cape May, NJ this morning with a working bilge pump, which was an accomplishment because apparently we didn’t arrive with one.
For you non-boaters out there, the bilge is the space in the bottom of the boat that collects water from various leaks and drips. And the bilge pump sucks the water out so the boat doesn’t sink. Perhaps you’ve heard that nautical saying: The best bilge pump is a scared man with a bucket.
But of course, we weren’t scared because we didn’t know we had this problem until we filled up our water tanks and discovered a leak in our aft tank, a 50 gallon rubber bladder. I’d suspected it might be leaking, since it seemed to run out quicker than it should, but I’d never looked at the bladder closely when it was full before. This time I did, and I saw 3 clear pinhole leaks spouting water at a fairly quick rate.
Of course, being the head-fixing handywoman that I am, I said, “Psh, I got this!” and reached for a roll of duct tape. Only it turns out duct tape doesn’t stick to water. Not even duct tape with purple peace signs on it. It slid right off the wet rubber and the water just carried on dribbling into the bilge.
The next worry was what was happening to all that water leaking out. It turned out it was going into the bilge and then going nowhere. Which was confusing because we’d just installed a new bilge pump and we were sure it was working when we left New York.
Luckily, Ryan is turning into quite the handyman himself, so he had the foresight to keep our old bilge pump on board as a backup. So he got down and dirty in the bilge, and with a little bit of unwiring and rewiring, voila! We had a working bilge pump.
Once we were sure the boat wouldn’t sink in our absence, we happily hopped on our bikes to go out and explore the town of Cape May, which turned out to be an adorably quiet, picturesque Victorian seaside resort (apparently created because wealthy Philadelphians used to come here in the 1700’s to escape the Yellow Fever epidemic) with meticulously restored Victorian homes and bed-and-breakfasts, and adorable boutiques and restaurants with the most elaborate hand-carved wooden signage I’ve ever seen. Ryan and I joked that the town sign-maker must have done a deal with the local politicians because even the low-brow Acme supermarket had the most beautifully carved wooden sign out front. There was definitely a town ordinance on fancy signs.
As adorable as Cape May was, though, with its fall foliage, town scarecrow exhibit and pumpkins everywhere, the truth was that it was still too cold for our liking. Which meant there was only one thing to do: head further south before it got even colder.
But not before we checked the boat over for all its working parts. Cape May’s near disaster with the bilge pump resulted in the creation of a brand-spanking-new Hideaway “Departure Check List,” which includes “check the bilge.”
I’m sure we’ll need to add to this list as we go, but at the moment, the check list looks like this:
- Check oil level
- Clean cat litter
- Fill water tanks (if needed)
- Get diesel (if needed)
- Clean cabin
- Check bilge
- Check batteries, including back-up battery
- Download latest Zygrib
- Get pump-out (if needed)
- Send someone sail plan