Russia Invades!

This is the first time we have spent any time on a body of water where the infamous Zebra mussels have successfully invaded.  And there is no other word for it than “invasion”.

Zebra mussels are a tiny, fast growing, fresh water shellfish. Originally native to the large fresh water lakes of southeastern Russian and Ukraine they have hitchhiked around the world in the ballast water of commercial ships. They grow so fast, and in such large numbers they have actually dragged navigation buoys to the bottom with the weight of their tiny, evil, fast-growing, shells.

Full grown–and they grow fast–they are about the size of a fingernail.  They grow fast, and they are amazingly prolific.  Did I mention they grow fast???  I suspect that the unusually rainy months here have diluted the normal salt concentration of the bay to the point where they are growing in parts of the bay that are normally too salty for them.

Harmonie‘s air conditioners are cooled by seawater that is pumped through the boat.  That water comes in through a large strainer in the engine room. Checking and cleaning that strainer is a routine task. We occasionally find chunks of seaweed, maybe some miscellaneous debris.  It has never really been much of an issue.

Since arriving in Annapolis, and staying in a marina, we have been running the air conditioners more than at any time we have owned the boat.  It has been hot and humid almost every day.  It has been about three weeks since we cleaned the strainer basket last. The water here is a bit murky, but there is not a lot of floating trash, or seaweed, or jellyfish.  Things that normally clog the strainer. So we were rather horrified to see…

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Words fail me…

21 days ago this was a shiny clean plastic basket.  I did happen to mention how fast these miserable little buggers grow?  The inside of our cooling system is the perfect environment for them.  Rapidly flowing water bringing food and oxygen they need to grow–really fast.  Yes, they do grow fast!

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The strainer itself was an ugly mess, but it is easy to remove and scrub clean. Unfortunately, these nasty little slavic buggers had infested the entire air conditioning cooling circuit, clogging everything. Basically, all our pipes and tubes looked like that strainer basket!

It wasn’t going to be long before the water flow dropped below the minimum the air conditioners needed to run.  No air conditioning means Karen melts in the heat and humidity.  A melting Karen is an unhappy Karen.  An unhappy Karen, means an unhappy Bill. Something needed to be done–and fast!

A little creative temporary plumbing, and I routed the overboard exit of the air conditioner cooling circuit back to the strainer.  Now, when I run the cooling pump, it just moves water around in a circle.

Barnacle Buster to the rescue!

Trac Ecological’s Barnacle Buster

Barnacle Buster is a phosphoric acid based cleaner designed exactly for this kind of cleaning. It actually dissolves the shells and flushes all the gunk away. If you have occasion to use this, be aware it comes both in a concentrate (4:1) and pre-diluted form. Since one gallon of the concentrate makes five gallons of cleaning solution, it is a lot cheaper to use, and takes less space to store.

After an hour circulating this around the circuit, all the evil invaders have been vanquished. Unfortunately, I am sure there are fast growing reinforcements waiting in the wings. A few weeks, and we’ll have to be back at it again.  We just replenished our supply of Barnacle Buster in anticipation…

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