More P&M about….pumps. And smells.

On our recent vacation we noticed a very distinctive and odd odor.

While boat odors are not “normal” in the sense that your boat shouldn’t stink, there are certain odors that are more…common. The “Head Smell”, when something is fouled and wrong with the lavatory, the “Dead Sea Things Smell” when crispy critters get up in somewhere and die (sometimes comes along with the Head Smell, when they up and do this in the raw water intake for the head and their reek comes forth when you flush for the first time in a week), plus there are Engine Smells (Exhaust, Hot Antifreeze, Hot Oil), Bilge Water Smells and others. When you get one you track it down, clean it, treat it and make it go away. Who wants a stinky house?

There is typically some rhyme and reason to these smells – head like odors generally are found near the head for example.

We’ve had some odd ones before, like when one of our old Gel batteries was SO baked that it made really nasty sulfur smells and got scary hot when it was charged. This is odd because sulfur/rotten egg smells usually come from the head, NOT wafting up from under the bed. Took a while and a lot of confused sniffs around the toilet to deduce that one. Start the engine, and ten minutes later Beelzebub has invaded the aft cabin, all that’s missing is the flies.

This strange new odor was also a head like smell, and sort of like a bilge smell. And it was in the galley, not the heads. If you have been paying attention you will recall that we had two brand new heads on board, the likelihood of a foul odor coming from the head when it has been flushed thoroughly and replaced is low. Also this smell was not on the boat before vacation, only when we were on the boat.

So – the sniffing around began.

Sticking my head in the bilge – the likely culprit – was enough to show that in spite of the odor being near the bilge it had nothing to do with it. In fact, the odor was emanating from under the floorboards in the kitchen cabinets where the compressors and raw water pump for the fridge and freezer are. Aha!

Turns out there is something wrong with that whole setup, my working theory was that the pump was shot and something was growing in there, which in turn got stinky when the pump heated up. This particular pump had been on the “to replace” list for a couple of weeks since it had gotten very noisy.

Simple solution – after a couple of years with this boat I’ve scrounged an inventory of 24V pumps, they’re not easy to find. But a quick check of the documentation for the Frigoboat system says the pump must run off the Frigoboat electrical connection which is all stepped down to 12V. Yes, Mr. Backup 24V pump guy has to go off to West Marine and get a stupid 12V pump, because unbeknownst to me there was in fact one 12V pump – the fridge raw water pump. It is run by the refirgeration processor and uses power supplied by it, which is 12V.

Suffice it to say, in spite of being mildly excited about being able to just walk into a West Marine and buy a pump without special ordering I was STILL unable to get the pump I wanted off the shelf. No one stocks any of the smaller 12V pumps, the Jabsco Par-Max series have a nice quick connector setup and I’ve a number of filters that snap right in. No luck.

So today i ended up with a 3.5 GPM pump in there – too many amps, too loud, and too much water…but it should work. Except IT won’t prime either.

It looks like there is a blockage in the (too long) raw water intake line. For some reason this thing is plumbed to a through hull about 15 feet away and done with insulated hot water hose as well. It will be a bear to re-plumb, so I am trying to clean it and break up the blockage with some bleach and water over night.

We’ll see how that goes.

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