There are many noises on a boat, and it’s important to be able to identify them. I’m still learning. Some come from the boat itself while others result from interactions between the boat and Mother Nature. I’m not sure I can do the sounds justice in words, but I’ll give it a try.
- A light hum– the sound our electric motors make when we’re underway.
- An abrupt and deep “thrum thrum”– the sound of the diesel generators starting up, fading to a steady hum once they fully engage. Then there’s the abrupt “thrum splutter” when they shut off.
- Rapid machine gun fire in the distance– the sound of the fresh water pressure pump. The saltwater pressure pump makes a similar sound, just a bit louder.
- A sucking/slurping noise- the sump pumps in the heads pumping water overboard from the sinks and showers. One night I heard ours go off when nobody was using the head. Hmmm. Dave investigated but found nothing and the sump well was dry. In the morning he investigated again and realized rain had trickled in from our open head porthole, run down the wall and into the shower drain thus triggering the sump pump. Mystery solved. Close your portholes when it rains, silly!
- A soft whirring– the bilge pumps. Fortunately we haven’t heard those come on other than when Dave tests them to ensure they’re still functioning.
- A whirring/buzzing sound followed by a whirring/buzzing/garbage disposal sound– the first is the head as salt water is pumped into the toilet, the second is the macerator grinding the contents and pumping them into the holding tank. (Gross, I know, but necessary.)
- A deep whirring sound that becomes higher pitched after about 2-3 minutes- another macerator pump emptying our holding tanks overboard (only when we’re more than 3 miles offshore) until the tank is empty. You know they’re empty when the higher pitched sound starts.
- A low hum that continues after the engines are shut off- the cooling fans in the engine room make. It’s like our Priuses when we shut them off and still hear the cooling fans.
- A loud, constant whirring inside– the water maker, requiring us to close the door to the cabin in which it is located, otherwise conversation is difficult. Fortunately it makes about 30 gallons an hour, so we don’t have to run it for long to fill our tanks, and we try to do it on nice days when we can be outside rather than inside.
- A faint beeping sound (usually heard at night when the winds have kicked up)- Ah yes, the anchor alarm. That is not a fun sound to hear, and we’ve unfortunately heard it several times this voyage. It sounds like our coffee pot telling us it’s done brewing, only the anchor alarm doesn’t stop until we tell it to. It seems I am the only one aboard who can hear this alarm. Fortunately it wakes me when I’m asleep. (Dave can’t hear it over his snoring.) You’d think such an important sound would have been programmed to be louder.
Boat + Nature noises
- Water hitting our hull makes a variety of noises, some of them downright scary, but harmless. They range from splashing, to a light slapping against the hulls, to thunderous booms that scare the hell out of me, especially when they wake me out of a dead sleep. If you’ve ever been to Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park, you now have a reference for this alarming sound.
- The wind makes our American flag and our Seven Seas Cruising Association burgee flap. Depending on the speed of the winds, this can be a light “flap, flap, flap…tink, tink, tink”, or it can sound like someone is beating a rug with a broom handle.
- The wind also runs over our cabin and under our roof, which makes it howl at varying frequencies, again depending on the speed of the wind. The fabric rain gutter we mounted under the roof over the gap between its halves also flaps making a “whoompf, whoompf” sound.
My favorite noises to date occurred around 4:00 and 4:30 am today. The earlier sound was a light, irregular drumming low on our hull. I got up and went outside to investigate and saw something slowing moving away from the hull. I went back in for my glasses (duh!) and saw two ducks swimming away. They may have been eating algae off our hull 🙂 . Only I’m not quite sure about that, because minutes later I heard my Dad get up and check the fishing lines he and Dave had left out overnight. There was a catfish on each one! So perhaps we were hearing them fight a bit and the rods were knocking in their holders. We’ll never know for sure. What I do know for sure is the source of the sound I heard at 4:30 am right over our heads- “patter, patter, patter, patter… pause…patter, patter, patter” (repeat a few times) . “Those are feet!” I exclaimed, and got up (again) to check. I found a pair of mallards pattering around on our bow. How cute! I left them alone, snapped a couple of pictures and went back to bed.
After that, all I heard were the typical sounds of morning as the sun rose over the calm waters of the Sassafras River- the quiet swish of water on the hull, early bass fishermen in their small boats, osprey hunting for breakfast, and other bird song in the distance.