Fishing Passion #6/Swimmin in the Bilge of the Big Tee

Discussion in 'The Tackle Box' started by beaglenc, Feb 6, 2017.

  1. beaglenc

    beaglenc Member

    After we all became “regular” guys our fishing continued.
    One of the tasks I did back at the dock while working on the T was to install and rewire a new “high water alarm” system in the boat. In the “bowels”/bilge of all work boats there are bilge pumps. These pumps take out the water that collects in the bottom, the bilge, of the boat. All boats “leak”. Water on the deck makes it way to the bilge and other points of entry. Boats that have shafts from the motor to the propeller have a point where they exit the boat, the stuffing box. The box “leaks” a bit as is uses the water from outside the boat to cool the drive shaft.
    Thus, there is always some amount of water in the bilge of a boat that needs to be pumped out. That’s why if you have ever walked the docks and all of a sudden you see water coming out of the side of a boat at the docks, it’s the bilge pump just doing its job and getting the water out to a set level.
    So you have the main bilge pump that is in play all the time, ready to pump. There are level switches that say, “Let’s pump out some water” and another switch that says, “that’s low enough”, and it turns off the pump. All is well. Normal operation.
    There is a 2nd pump, the high water pump, which only comes into play if the main pump fails. By law, this pump is required to have an alarm built into the system that alerts one and all that there is too much water in the bilge, the main pump has failed, and we may be in deep ****e. So the level switch that triggers this is set somewhat higher than the switch that triggers the main pump so you don’t get any false alarms and water from the bilge when it is rough is sloppin around and you don’t want that switch set too low so it triggers and sets of the audible alarm and strobe on the deck. This is the system I installed.
    Back to fishing.
    So when you are running around and fishing on a bottom boat like the “T”, as mentioned before, anchoring and the act of doing it is a skill that is so important to catching fish. If you are not right on the “spot”, no fish. The “Big T” was a “2 screw boat”. Two engines, 2 shafts, 2 stuffing boxes. When setting the anchor on a 2 screw boat, both engines are used at the very end of the act of setting the anchor by pivoting the boat in place above “the spot” by a hard reverse on one engine, and a hard forward of the other. Makes it much easier than a 1 screw boat. Now we can fish.
    We anchored for the last set of the day a couple hours before dark and fished away. When your basket is full of fish next to your station we all stop fishing, clean and gut what we are supposed to and put our catch in the hold and ice them down. Sun is setting, gutting and throwing all that mess in the water(chumming), Captain starting to work on dinner……..RINGRING RING FLASHING LIGHT…..What? High water alarm going off? What in the world?(WITW)…”Must have set it too low? Mmmm”
    Open hatch jump down there..IN TO ABOUT 18” of water!?!? WITW? The regular bilge is pumping like crazy…the High Water bilge is doing the same. I start wading around in the water looking for any “Obvious” leaks. As I am doing so something in my brain is “flashing”, like telling me I am looking but not seeing. Towards the back of the bilge (bottom of boat), I can see water gushing up through the already 18” and growing depth of water and keep looking forward at the engines and back at the bilge….brain is “flashing”….Then it hits me…..we are missing one of the shafts that comes out of the back of the port engine and goes through that “stuffing box”, (we spoke about earlier”,and is attached to the Wheel!
    WITW…. I stick my hand own into the water where the gusher is coming from Yep…sure enough there is just a 2” hole, no shaft and water is coming in at a rate that is overwhelming the 2 pumps. They are working hard, but cannot keep up.
    I start screaming for zip ties, the Captain and knucklehead are asking WAY too many questions and I WANT zip ties and I want them NOW! They hand me what I want..I rip off my tee shirt and stuff it into the “stuffing box” and zip tie what doesn’t fit into the hole around the opening and sit back in the “slosh” and breathe a sigh of relief.
    I come up through the hatch, Capt asks me what is going on down there? “You will not believe this but the port shaft broke off about 12” from the engine and has slid out of the stuffing box!?!”
    “WITW!?” Me; “Yes sir it has!”
    We all go to the stern and look overboard and by golly you can see that thing hanging down. There is a strut that is attached to the hull of the boat behind the point where the shaft enters the hull. That is what is keeping the shaft and wheel from going to Davey Jones Locker”.
    Captain; “Well we for certain cannot be under way with that thing dangling there. Someone is going to have to go overboard and get a line on that damn thing!”
    It ‘ain’t going to be him. He’s old and about ½ dead as it stands and he’s the only one who knows where we are. It’s getting dark, getting rougher, and we have been “chumming” for ½ hr before this.
    It’s between me and knucklehead. Guess who’s going?
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2017