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Little Island - 264 hours

A big, squally night sail followed by an excrement morning. That’s right. Excrement.

As I was coming off my watch at 0630 this morning, one of the crew blocked the toilet (it was me). I fear that those reading these blogs will feel I have some sort of obsession over bowel movements and faecal matter. I really don’t, I grew out of that when I was 24. This is just the way events have unfolded on the boat.

So, the toilet. There I was, pump pump pump, all going fine and then suddenly I encounter some serious resistance. This happens from time to time but unlike the other incidents, this wouldn’t budge. Fear not, I thought to myself, it’s probably just at the bottom of the toilet unit - I’ll get the plunger. Plunge, plunge, plunge. Nothing but black rubber marks on the bowl and a flurry of tiny bits of tissue, floating around like the first icy flakes of a light snow shower. I’ll have to unscrew the bottom of the pump system, I thought. That’s where the blockage will be. I braced myself, marigolds and paper towels at the ready, knowing full well what sort of horrors could await me. I had a couple of pans ready to catch the drips. Just a little water would come out when I unscrew the valve, I thought. A few turns of the screws later and it was like the Asian tsunami of 2005 in the heads, although thankfully there wasn’t much debris in the flood. I threw down all six of my paper towels in panic, I gave it all I had. Perhaps I’d underprepared? The towels just disintegrated into a translucent mush, barely absorbing an egg cup worth of water. Even worse, the blockage wasn’t even there. It was somewhere further on in the system. I left the disaster zone for a while to reconsider the problem, praying that one of the emergency aid charities had sensed my pain and were sending out Mr Muscle, toilet duck or perhaps even Barry Scott from the Cillet Bang advert via chopper - I’d take anybody with a bit of knowledge on loos.

The rest of the pipe work is in the lazarette, so I emptied out some fenders and uncovered the piping, unscrewed some jubilee clips and found the problem just before the anti-syphon valve. Years of calcification in the pipe had turned what is a 36mm pipe into more of a 15mm pipe. There was only one thing to do - get the gloves back on, get more paper towels, find my longest screwdriver, hold my breath and jab, jab away. The crusty calcium deposits weren’t actually too bad - almost like scraping damp brown sugar from a jar, or honey when it crystallises. I took a tea spoon and, breathing through my mouth only, excavated the stubborn minerals whilst singing ‘a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down’. All went well and I’ll choose to emit the part about what was behind the calcium blockage. I went down to test the heads and returned triumphant, rising from the cabin as Sir Fartin, conqueror of all things shitty.

Finally I got my well earned sleep, two hours later.

So the reason it was such bad timing was because we had just had a night of endless squalls. None were too severe but they were enough to make me reduce sails and grip the wheel hard. The worst involved unbelievable rain and 30+ knots on the leading edge. I had checked on radar, but this one seemed to come from nowhere. I yelled down to Cat, who allegedly couldn’t hear me from the front cabin. No reply. Rain pouring into the cabin, I rushed for the washboards and then returned to the helm as fast as possible, knuckles white and teeth gritted as we made probably the best ten minute average speed so far. A few more squalls came and went but all were dealt with and remarkably, stopped completely when Sleeping Beauty rose from her slumber. Now we’re expecting more of the same, we feel quite prepared, providing we don’t have any more plumbing catastrophes.

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