The phone call: "Are you the owner of a boat with a beer keg on the deck labeled "diesel"?
Me: "Yep. Isn't she a beauty?"
He: "There's a problem with your boat."
Me: "Oh-oh. What happened?"
He: "It's sinking. And it's on fire."
Me: "Oh no. Wow. At the same time?"
He: "How soon can you get here?"
Me: "Ten minutes?"
He: "See you there.
Click on the mp3 file below to hear the similar message left on Captain Pat's answering machine.
He was climbing in Yosemite at the time.
Here's the table of contents of the whole saga:
Chapter 1: How to Get a Free Yacht
Chapter 2: Maiden Voyage of the Free Yacht
Chapter 3: Fix Broken Stix and other Trix
Chapter 4: Outboard Motor Mutilates Foot
Chapter 5: It's sinking and it's on Fire.
Chapter 6: How To Give Away a Free Yacht
Chapter 7: Get an Even Better One and Fabulize it.
Chapter 8: Celebrate Freedom
Chapter 9: Technicolor Dreamboat
Chapter 10: Privateer Knot
Chapter 11: Dismasted!
Chapter 12: Kiteboat!
Chapter 13: Mast Raising
Step 1: How to sink and burn your boat without doing anything
We got out the pumps and started working.
Here's the boat with most of the water pumped out. The water was shin deep above the floorboards when we got there. It took us about half an hour to pump it out with the two hand pumps. The "gusher" lever/diaphragm pump was a lot faster than the pvc piston pump.
How did it happen? The boat has a slow leak through the rusted stern tube. When the water gets high enough to lift the flap on a float switch it turns on an electric bilge pump which runs for about ten seconds and pumps out the water. Those little pumps are the size of half a beer can and work really well. Until they stop working. One of them died and we didn't notice, because the other pump kept working and the boat stayed dry. Each pump is wired to a separate battery. Eventually the other battery died a natural death.
We went sailing on a sunday. Everything was fine. Some time after that the remaining pump quit doing its thing. The boat slowly sank at the dock. When the water got high enough it reached the end of an extension cord that was hanging off the side of the counter.
The 120volt AC started arcing and fizzing, making clouds of steam and smoke. The neighbors noticed the burning smell and came to investigate. It's actually a really lucky thing, because without the fire, no one would have noticed the boat sinking until much later. We don't know how low the boat could have gotten, would it have sunk to the bottom and flipped sideways hanging from the dock lines? Fortunately we didn't have to find out.