There are many, many preparations made prior to moving aboard a sailboat; preparing the boat, preparing family and friends, and preparing oneself for the unknown ahead. A boat presents a challenging environment in which to achieve two objectives: safety and comfort. Before moving aboard I took it upon myself to read about others’ experiences, recommendations, and warnings. I took courses to learn the rules of the road for boating and to learn how to navigate. There were so many angles along the learning curve, it was mind boggling! Let’s not forget I was still (and still am) learning to sail! Along the way I am now learning I am quite possibly the least well read among fellow cruisers, those being of similar age, and I wonder when in the heck they had all this time to read between working, socializing, refitting boats, exercising, traveling…etc. I justify this by telling myself that I am a hands-on learner and often find that the best knowledge is learned through experience; my own and the trial and error of others to be avoided (thank goodness I’m such a good socializer). And so my own learning curve continues…here is a most recent lesson.
Lesson: The “forward” water tank is always the one closest to the v-berth, the “back” water tank is always the one closest to the ladder – no matter what direction I am facing.
I continue to have trouble with forward and back on the boat because I always assume that whatever I’m facing is forward of me and whatever is behind me is back. Whenever we fill the water tanks I have to point and Brian has to look to confirm that I am opening/closing the correct valves. So, earlier this week, I was up and moving early one morning and decided to pour our jerry can water into the tanks so that we can refill the jerry can with fresh water before leaving (if ever leaving). It is very easy to get water here at the docks.
I looked closely and the tanks, opened the valve, and hauled the jerry can up on deck to pour into the fill hole. This took what seemed like forever because the water kept bubbling out and I had to wait for it to go down before filling again. This often happens with a hose so I thought nothing of it. Then I heard a bunch of water gushing out of the boat. “Hmm, I didn’t think that much had bubbled out and through the scuppers. Ho, hum, continue slowly pouring.” Then water gushing out a second time. “DING! Oh yea, that means the tank is full. Hmm, had only poured about half of this 6.5 gal jerry can and thought I’d use the entire can.”
At about this time when I peek down to see that the water is rushing into the bilge, Brian sits up in bed and calmly asks, “What tank did you open?” The forward, the back, who knows! I opened the one that was closed, naturally. “We’re not drawing from the closed tank, we’re drawing from the open tank.” So this means…I filled the full tank.
PANIC!! I just dumped half of our emergency fresh water into the ocean!! Now we have a disabled engine and 3-gal of water. (We still have 40-gal, by the way, in the very full tank.) Thank goodness the water supply is a mere 300-yds away, we could totally swim that and paddle back on top of the jerry can. Saved! After this lesson learned I have labeled the water tank valves as “1” and “2” to avoid this “forward” “back” problem. I have also started to say “Shut Up, Brian!” much more than I ever thought I would.