1888 May 24, 2002

To those who have lost items to the bilge of no return,

Yes, I am speaking of the abyss that lies ‘neath the powerplant and drive shaft. I had just removed my main backstay chain plate on the port side when I stood up in the lazarette to slide off the square cover plate. A trace of caulk was holding it and when it broke free, I lost my grip and it noiselessly fell into the blackest depths of the abyss. After uttering and sometimes shouting a number of blasphemies, a walked to the boat of my machininst friend, who is fabricating my chainplates, to request the fabrication of one more item. It was the principle of the thing that galled me. I had been doing so well, and was going down the home stretch to finish the rest of my chainplates, when the uspeakable happened.

Well, he wasn’t there but his neighbors were. I told them of my saga, and they offered me a grabbing device designed for handicapped people. It is about three feet long, and has a trigger in the handle that actuates a set of pincers with rubber suction cups on each side. I took it to my boat, and groping blindly, was able to recover a set of wire strippers, that I had borrowed from a friend, and had already replaced. I continued for just a few minutes more when, to my amazement, I saw the metal cover plate fixed end to end in the rubber suckers of the pincers. It must have been lying flat in the floor of the bilge. Anyhow I was impressed. I rapidly repented of my blaspehemies and sequestered the part in a ziploc bag.

They told me that you can sometimes find these grabbers in drugstores like Eckerds or Walgreens. They can certainly be found in medical supply stores.

Best wishes to you,

James Self, Niko (91)


1917 Jun 2, 2002

As usual I am a little behind in reading e-mail. I read the discussion of "bilge grabber" with interest.

Tim and I found a 20-LB pull round flat magnet with a hole in the center. We tied a long string to it and it was a very successful bilge grabber for tools and all of the other bits and pieces that fall into the bilge. Obviously this would not work with aluminum or stainless.

The description of the bilge as a black place causes me to pass on the following hint. First, I will say we sailed NIRVANA 1978 - 1995 when the rules about overboard discharge were not as strict. We also sailed in areas outside of the jurisdiction of USCG. To keep the bilge clean - once a week we "squirted" a small amount of a good dishwashing liquid into the bilge and then pumped overboard. The bilge water was always clean enough to see the objects that had fallen there - the problem was that my arm was too short to reach the fallen object.

Paula Colwell