When you hear the words Darth Vader, what do you think of? The wheezing, mechanical, sounds like he’s in scuba gear breathing, right? That’s what I think of, anyway. Now, what would you think if you heard that sound coming from the forward head? OK, maybe now you understand the title. This is a post about all of the noises on the boat that can drive you crazy as you are trying to sleep in some remote anchorage.
We are all sensitive to novel sounds. On a boat it is important to pay attention to any unusual sounds, which can be warning signs for problems. And when it is a windy night in the anchorage, we tend to be even more alert.
The Darth Vader breath, as it turns out, comes from the sink drain in the head (nautical for bathroom). There is a hose from the drain that goes to a thru hull to drain overboard, right near or even below the water line. When it is rocking in the anchorage, the bow of the boat pitches up and down and air gets sucked down the drain and then pumped back out, making a very distinct wheezing sound. We have plugs that we put in the drain that prevents Darth from breathing, but if it is really rolly, they pop right out. Our friend Ron from Duet asks incredulously “why don’t you just close the through hull valve?”. Of course we could do that, but then we fill the sink when we wash our hands and have the potential for sloshing water around. So it’s usually jam in the drain plug and close the door.
Last year when we were coming down the coast we got very good at eliminating all sources of banging, whacking, knocking, and clunking as there is nothing like a Pacific Ocean passage to expose all areas with laxity. Ask any boater and you will hear a long list of solutions for the bangs and rattles that can happen both underway and at anchor. Just the other night our friend Penny revealed her ultimate weapon – blow up beach balls. Easy to store when empty and can be inflated to just the right size. We have a very large collection of nerf-like footballs and basketballs that Gwen searched around Brookings Oregon to find after our first multi-night noisy passage.
The usual suspects are easy. All cabinets and drawers latch, yet we are often lax with securing them properly. The bang, bang, bang synchronous with the waves is easy to track down. More problematic are those less frequent thumps that only happen when things really move in a certain direction. Since we returned to Mexico and have been anchoring again, we have been experiencing one of those slow rolling thunks, usually when trying to take a nap during a storm because there is nothing else to do! This one sounded like it was coming from directly over Gwen’s side of our berth (bed in nautical lingo) and was obviously driving her nuts. This is a bit unusual as I am typically the one driven to distraction by these things. She had searched on multiple days to find it, and her most recent supposition was that the muffler guys had left a piece in the muffler stack (which does go right through the area near the thunking sound).
Last night she suddenly announced, “I found it!” Jubilantly, she reported that the culprit was a tequila bottle that was leaning back and forth against other bottles in the liquor cabinet when the boat rolled at just the right angle. When we are on passage, we wrap the liquor bottles with that rubber cabinet liner material, but when we are coastal cruising, it is of utmost importance to have unfettered access to the booze. I think this problem will soon be solved by emptying the offending bottle.
Our current checklist for a sound night’s sleep at anchor:
- A well-set anchor
- Bridle to take strain off the anchor has chafing protection to cut down on noise
- Burgees and flags are all restrained
- Horn pump is off – this has the nasty habit of repressurizing with a very loud pump at 1 in the morning
- VHF radios are OFF
- Doors are secured
- Bow of dingy is tied to back of boat securely but far enough away so it doesn’t bang the boat (or it’s stowed up top)
- New addition – cushion the liquor bottles