Strainer Queen for a day…that’s me! Cruising has amazing rewards indeed: from seeing new places to meeting new friends, having new experiences, and gaining new perspectives on life and what one "needs"... we realize that it's a blessing that we are out here doing it. For those of you who are envisioning us lolling about, being hedonistic in our pleasures aboard, and just living the high life….let me set the record straight. Cruising also involves hard work! “Hard” being the operative word at times, more often than not! Cruising and living aboard is not just relaxing in the sunshine, sipping cold drinks, swimming or scuba diving, hiking and exploring. You see, all boats require daily maintenance and upkeep, daily checks of systems and frequent corrections. Some of those necessary items aren’t as easy as they sound; I jokingly call them the "necessary evils"!
Take, for example, our A/C system. It's a reverse cycle system and uses circulated seawater piped through a closed loop from the condensing units to the cooling units. It's quite a luxury to have air conditioning aboard, especially in the Caribbean, but a boat’s A/C system is not like your system at home, no sireee, Bob! The raw-water intakes need frequent checks and cleaning: there are raw water sea strainer baskets plumbed into the raw water line that should be inspected on a regular basis, especially so when you are boating in waters that have a lot of seaweed or debris. While on anchor here in Chrisitiansted, we noticed the A/C in the salon was straining a bit, so went down to the engine room to check the strainer, and found it getting clogged with short, pine-needle-like seaweed bits. The strainer basket actually contained quite a knot of the stuff, so we not only cleaned that strainer basket out, but made sure all other raw water strainers were clear and free as well.
And that was my morning – three hours of it! Cleaning strainers sounds simple, but in fact, most of the raw-water intakes are located in areas that aren’t exactly easily accessible: behind engines, between generators and bulkheads, up against stringers and hose runs, or on higher parts of the hull outboard of pieces of machinery. It takes agility and balance to reach some of the strainers, proper tools and strength to open the water-tight lids to the strainers, plus patience and determination to prep and diaper around each thru-hull access. Even after closing the sea-cocks, there will be seawater spilling out of the strainer basket housing as you pull out the strainers. The bilges get wet, and machinery must be rinsed off and dried if it gets splashed to keep corrosion at bay…not exactly a straightforward, easy process. I probably should also mention how hot, muggy and stuffy it can be in an engine room aboard a boat in the hot Caribbean sun, too! (Can you say sauna?)
Keep in mind that you’re not merely cleaning out the scant bits of debris, but you should also scrub each strainer basket too. Flowing seawater invites all sorts of marine growth, and if you just empty out what bits of weed, grass (or bits of jellyfish!) that are in the basket, you overlook the fact that the tiny strainer holes might be clogged with scales or growth, which also diminishes water flow. Those few minutes spent scrubbing the strainers pays off, for a clean strainer ensures that water can flow through at maximum velocity. Hence…my hours spent doing a “simple” job!
The pay-off after hours of back-breaking, sweaty work? Um....ok, relaxation in an anchorage of a Caribbean island, lounging on the aft deck. Just rewards, and not too shabby at all, I admit! Well worth the effort!