PBO columnist Sam Llewellyn found the joy of extracting a blanking rubber ring from the blanking bilges was short-lived

One Thursday in the autumn, when Dahlia was out of the water, I was fossicking around in her engine compartment.

This is reached, she being a centre cockpit beast of 1970s vintage, via a trapdoor which consists of the entire cockpit sole.

I had been doing a bit of winterising some time before, and as part of it had removed the lid of the inlet cooling water strainer, which is one of those plastic ones that always gets stuck.

Having unstuck it with a weird spanner thing I had bought for more than £25 in the summer, I skilfully allowed the seal, a rubber ring some six inches across, to tumble into the bilges.

It is impossible to write about what followed without swearing.

Practical Boat Owner is however a magazine with a family readership, so I will replace the brilliant spectrum of Britain’s favourite swearwords with the single expletive ‘blank’.

So there went the blanking rubber ring into the sump of the blanking bilges, which is a well of filthy water about eight inches square and three feet deep.

The engine compartment is like a filthy dieselised hell, and this bilge sump resembles Dante’s fifth circle of the Inferno, a nasty bit of the river Styx reserved for the wrathful and sullen.

Following my usual habit I sighed and walked away from the whole mess.

During the weeks that followed, the ring began haunting my dreams.

A couple of days ago I decided that I must drain the sump and retrieve it.

I was preparing an elaborate system of pumps and tubing when I ran into Prop, the yard’s resident genius, and he asked me what the blank I thought I was doing.

I told him.

He then made one of his Suggestions, which are not to be ignored.

Get a length of blanking hose, he said.

Lash one end of it to a four-foot stick, making sure that the end of the hose stops short of the end of the stick lest it get clogged with the debris that will certainly have accumulated in the nethermost regions of the sump.

Shove the stick with the hose attached into the deeps.

The other end of the hose, which should be longish, leads over the side of the boat towards the yard hose, to which it is then connected.

The sump is then dosed with bilge cleaner, Fairy liquid or other emulsifying jollop, in case any diesel has found its way into the bilge.

The yard hose is turned on until it starts filling the sump.

At this point it is disconnected, leaving the original hose turned into a siphon, which will then empty the bilge sump into a vessel of some kind for handy disposal.

This worked extremely well, and the level of bilge water began to sink.

It was at this point, however, that I noticed a smell even more evil than Dahlia’s bilges.

The yard is a popular stop for dog-walkers, one of whose charges had relieved itself near the bottom of the ladder that gives access to the boat, and the blanking blank had transferred itself to the sole of my boot, which had transferred it to the rim of the blanking engine hatch, against which I was resting my fevered brow as I watched the level sink in the sump and fished around for the rubber ring, which you may remember I mentioned at the beginning of this rigmarole, with a bit of fence wire bent into a hook with my Leatherman.

Retrieving the ring was a tricky business, which involved a lot of squinting round corners with head torches and blanking and blinding.

At last, though, up it came on the end of the hooky wire, and I laid it on the cockpit seat in a mood of quiet triumph.

At this point I noticed that the stench had got stronger, and was now emanating from

a) my forehead and

b) my clothes, which were liberally besmirched with blanking dogblank transferred from boot to hatch rim.

I stood.

I deblanked the boat.

Deep midwinter or no deep midwinter, I removed all my clothes except the t-shirt and boxers and marched down the ladder clad mostly in goosepimples.

Other boat owners eyed this oddly and by no means warmly dressed person with some nervousness.

I blasted the dogblank with the hose and drove off half-naked, reflecting on lessons learned, viz.

a) emptying bilge sumps is a doddle, but

b) dogs have no place in boatyards.

I hope this helps.