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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 08-20-2007
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A cautionary tale....

This is a pretty basic thing but I thought that I would bring it up as a cautionary tale to others. Its really about me getting so much confidence in my boat that I begin to take it for granted.

This weekend I chose to do maintenance on the boat. Of late I have been noticing more bilge water than usual and as a part of the weekend's planned maintenance, I thought I would try to find where the water was coming from. I had taken a quick look last weekend and saw nothing. Done this time of year, this hunt should have been easier than it might have later in the year since we have not had rain since July or so, so at least I figured that I was not looking for deck leaks.

On Saturday when I came aboard my boat was filled with a lot of water. In fact, in the four days since I had been on board last, the bilges had filled nearly to the underside of the floor boards, and Synergy has deep bilges. After drying out the bilge, I began my search for leaks checking seacocks and hoses. No clue.

Finally, I began the planned routine engine work; you know, new raw water pump impeller, tension the belts, change filters, and oil and so on. When I finished up, I ran the engine again to check for leaks at the filters, and water pump. There were no detectable leaks when the engine was running, but when I shut the engine down, I found that there was a small drip, drip drip type shaft seal leak on the raw water cooling pump that only occured when the engine was shut down.

I pulled the pump off and originally decided to buy a replacement pump and rebuild the one I had as a spare. I don't know if you have priced a Yanmar raw water pump, but they are roughly $450 these days. The shaft seal is only $7. I ended up buying just the seal and will replace it myself. I don't need a spare pump all that badly.

Anyway, if I take a lesson from this, it is amazing how quickly even a small leak can fill even a deep bilge. And although I should have known better, its a mistake to take even small increases in bilge water for granted. The good news was that I don't leave my bilge pump on 'auto' or I probably never would have caught the leak.

Jeff
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Old 08-20-2007
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I have often had those kinds of experiences where something minor seemed out of place, triggering an uneasy feeling, only later to be be a foreboding of something much more serious. I have learned to listen to and investigate those feelings of unease, listening to your intuition can save a lot of time, money and hassle. You said that you don't leave your bilge pump on auto, is there a reason for that? Did coming back to your boat with water almost to the floorboards change your mind about that? I see your point about the information that you gained by not having it on auto, but it seems to me that it would be preferable to leave it on auto, but have a record of whether it had tripped on or not. Has anyone found an elegantly simple way to achieve that?
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Old 08-20-2007
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Yea, i found out that a small leak can almost sink a boat fast. Ive got a leaking thru-hull on my Columbia Challenger and it almost sank. The downside is when the boat gets enough water in it to put something else lower than the water line. In my case it was the outboard motor well that ended up going under water.
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Old 08-20-2007
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That's one reason I have put bilge pump counters on many boats of friends... by writing in the log what the setting is just before you leave the boat, you can see if it has been cycling. If it has, it is time to look for a leak... yet, since you can leave the bilge pumps on auto, the water level will generally not get too high, unless the leak is catastrophic.
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Old 08-20-2007
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Up to earlier this year, my boat's bilge also seemed to accumulate more water than I'd normally expect. Not much, but enough to trigger the pump's float-switch once every 8 hours or so - which is always set to automatic.

Turned out that we had a loose hose fitting on the tap for the sink off the aft cabin's head - water trickled down the floor drain and into the bilge. This was detected by the fresh water pump kicking on sporadically.

Once replacing the fitting the bilge became drier. I also fitted a new shower sump drain, which has a dedicated through hull. Before, the shower drained directly into the keel bilge . . . which discharged traces of oil overboard with it.
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Old 08-20-2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff_H View Post
The good news was that I don't leave my bilge pump on 'auto' or I probably never would have caught the leak.

Jeff
Thanks for the reminder.

I do have a question...per the quote above. It is my understanding that the "new" ABYC rule is the that the bilge pump is directly wired to the battery, so that it is always on, no switches what so ever?

What if you had not come back for two weeks?
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Old 08-20-2007
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I am debating various shower sump designs (I have none but plenty of space for one), and I am wondering why I wouldn't just T into an existing grey water drain, or out the head outlet (with a joker valve so I didn't run bath water back into the Lavac's bowl or into the holding tank).

In fact, I have considered merely making the sump five gallons or so, and plumbing it through the Lavac so it can go overboard that way.

If you've seen my musings on vent placement, you'll know why I want as few holes in the boat that aren't high and dry as is possible. I have only two below the waterline: the head sink goes starboard and the galley sinks go port. There is a single BWL inlet to a standpipe, and it is forward of the two 'exits".
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Old 08-20-2007
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Should have taken pics of my installation, but it was very simple. I placed the shower sump (a white plastic box with auto-float switch activated 800 gph pump and hair filter) below the shower floor drain and connected the 1-1/4" intake hose. A new 3/4" discharge hose was then extended from the sump's output nipple to a new Y-valve I located in a cabinet, beside the Whale manual bilge pump - inside the pilothouse.

The Y-valve switches between the manual pump output hose and the drain hose leading to an existing bronze through-hull, above the water line. No new holes through the hull needed to be drilled.

To alert anyone thinking of using the manual pump - I'm making a small sign to remind them to check the Y-valve before using. By default, I keep the valve in shower discharge mode.
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Old 08-20-2007
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"While its not good practice to wire anything direct to the battery, I'd say the lone exception would be bilge pumps." David Pascoe

Link to the rest of the article...
http://www.yachtsurvey.com/bilge_pumps.htm
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Old 08-20-2007
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On typical aft-cockpit boats, the batteries are close to the engine to shorten the heavy cable lengths, but I think there's an argument here for keeping the start battery aft near the engine and putting house batteries amidships near the bilge sump, and to make *charging* wire runs longer, as they can be thinner.

Weight near the mast is better, too. The downside is that you can't combine the house with the start if there's a voltage shortfall to start the engine without physically humping the batteries back, but I see that as a minor issue when you consider the benefits of having a short, easily accessed run to the bilge.

Of course, I'm the guy who wants his electrical distro panels on the saloon bulkhead in a cabinet instead of at the nav station (typically aft), because it keeps the runs to the house batteries and the mast as short as possible in the theoretically driest part of the boat. The nav station is no place for wiring unless it's waterproofed, in my view. Too often, a pooping sea can send a bucket down the companionway. Unhappiness results!
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