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A tale of woe and horror at the pump-out dock PDF Print E-mail
Written by Carlos Alvarez   
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 17:29

My family and friends decided to have a couple of weeks at a different lake and marina than our usual one, so we trailered the boat over.  That was a job in itself, being 32' long and 12' wide.  On Sunday when we were getting ready to haul out, we went to the pump-out to drain the holding tank before moving the boat, as that can often cause back-flow into the toilet and head compartment.


When I started to loosen the cap, I discovered that the vent line was clogged again. Some of you know the sign of this; the sewage starts to come out of the fitting as soon as you loosen it. We grabbed a hose and started washing it down while slowly opening the fitting to let it vent.


Now let me make note of one thing. I was standing in the boat, to the side of the fitting. I never open any fitting while standing within its trajectory path. My friends were standing on the dock with the pump-out hose and fresh water hose. Within the trajectory path.

Well, vent it did. Sewage, not air, of course, slowly started to come up around the cap. To make it all better this is after a weekend of four guys on the boat eating meat and drinking whisky (while made fast, not under way of course). As the pressure would subside, I'd open the fitting a bit more, and let it come out. The smell was not exactly pleasant. When it was down to a very light dribble, I assumed it was pretty much done, and took the last thread out of the fitting.

This is when the error of my ways hit me in slow motion. The next three seconds felt like an hour as the sewage sprayed in all directions from the cap, which was now loose but being held down by my hand. I contemplated my next step. It was too late to try to put it back. The sewage spray wasn't coming into the boat luckily, and I had managed to jump out of its way as it washed over the swim platform. My friends on the dock were wide-eyed and shocked, but lucid enough to quickly back up. However, we were at a foreign marina, and they didn't know how far they could back up before falling in the water. They couldn't look away from the horror before them either.

As they got out of what I believed to be range of the potential torrent I was holding back, I quickly pulled the cap away.

A geyser of nastiness shot up and over the pump-out dock.

Huh, I didn't think we had eaten any corn.

For a few seconds, the geyser erupted with the fury of Mt. Saint Helen and Old Faithful combined. Half of the swim platform and most of the pump-out dock was sprayed. Luckily on the my boat the pump-out fitting points up and outward, not towards the boat.

Every emotion in the world washed over the three of us as we wanted to laugh, cry, and throw up all at once. I mean, come on, this was Three Stooges funny, but then again, it was sewage. And the smell. Buzzards were knocked off dead coyotes across the lake.

As the geyser ended, I took the hose and started to wash off the swim platform and then the dock. When I thought I was done, I told my friend to put away the hose. His wide-eyed look made me burst into laughter, as he said, "I think you need to hose that off more." I hadn't noticed how far the geyser shot; there was sewage all the way across the 8' wide dock. He took the hose and went to work on cleaning the dock, while I went down below for some soap.

What I really needed was a rape shower and therapy.

We may not ever be welcome back at that marina.


How do you keep this from happening to you?  The vent line getting clogged can be caused by a number of things.  One common one is spiders making a nest in the hose.  The only way to prevent that is to have a vent fitting with a tight screen, but that screen can itself often cause a clog.  The other most common cause is overfilling the tank to where the sewage is pushed up into the vent and it builds up inside the hose or on the vent screen.

Pressing a hose against the vent fitting will often unclog it, or help to keep it from clogging if done as a preventive measure.  If your boat sits around for a while, you may want to do that when you go to recommission it.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 November 2012 17:32
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