Bilge pumps, water in the boat and you. - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 61 Old 09-16-2007 Thread Starter
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Bilge pumps, water in the boat and you.

Today, before traveling out of Canadá, I decided to buy Sail Magazine, to read while on the plane.

In it, was a page and half account of a guy that during a passage had his prop shaft bearing leak into the boat. He had over a foot of water inside.

His problem was, that since he was sailing, the boat was heeled and the water inside never could get to his bilge pumps that are in the center line of his boat. (He decided not to stop sailing due to sea condition, and also because sailing he was approaching land). So he removed the water by hand while the wife sailed, and his 6 YO daughter passed the water out. In the mean time he managed to reduce the ingress of water.

I have sailed many years, and had a boat almost completely sink 1 mile off the coast, around 1986, while I fought to steer it to land, (that's when I lost the girlfriend, but that’s another story), many years ago....but never really experienced a situation where the boat was actually taking water thru shaft seals, thru hull or other type of situation.

I admit, that off all things at sea, water entering the boat is my biggest fear and the only thing that really freaks me out, even thinking about….Tommyt and Val, may well remember that when sailed together I kept going back to remove “waters” inside. (I had a shower pump fail a few weeks before and some water was still inside certain compartments I had no access to. So as we sailed it passed thru and appeared under certain floor boards. Not much one or two buckets, but pissed me off.

That’s all fixed and I had the builder open accesses to those areas, and believe it or not, just in case I asked him to install bilge pumps there, just in case.

So, the article really touched me as it is my biggest fear as I said, and as a consequence of my “fear” I have pumps everywhere on my boat.

My hull is pretty flat, and the deepest bilge is 1 foot deep, where the keel is, elsewhere its only inches deep. I also don’t have many bilges as all the space underneath the boat floor is water tank or diesel tank, but, there are a few spaces.

I have presently 6 electric bilge pumps (don’t laugh, I’ll explain why), plus 2 separate portable electric pumps with hoses attached operating from the 12Volt cigarette lighter and 2 hand pumps.

My pump inventory is as follows:

I have a bilge pump in the keel box, that is always dry, and one in the engine compartment, that due to the shape of my hull is almost at the same height as the floor panels.

I have 2 heads, each has a shower pump, and then in the compartments created underneath the head floors, (where I had water accumulate once), I have 2 extra pumps, one in each head, just in case, and small hatches to access these spaces.

What I would like to know is how many of you had sea water getting in the boat, not occasional hatches open or rain, but water quantity that your boat could sink.

How did you cope with it, how and where are your pumps, and anything else you may add.

I really need your input in this, as I must understand more about what you guys did, and gain from your real experiences.

It occured to me, that since my boat is almost 14 feet beam, it would take a lot of water on one side until it reached the center line of the boat, so I envisioning the installation of 2 more pumps, stbd and port, under the salon cabinets on the floor of these, to prevent against this possible situation. But then I would have 8 bilges...I'm not that crazy...am I???

Please refrain from joking on this thread and true stories only. Please

I appreciate your experiences and input.

Thank you

Alex

Last edited by Giulietta; 09-16-2007 at 06:57 PM.
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post #2 of 61 Old 09-16-2007
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On my boat, I don't have a problem with water getting into the bilge, except by user error. The bilges on my boat are relatively shallow...two-inches or so deep, and I don't have most of the holes through the bottom that monohulls have—no prop shaft packing gland, no engine cooling through-hull, no in-hull exhaust, etc.

On several boats I've done the work on, I've installed two bilge pumps along the centerline of the boat, as well as one on each side to help when the boat is sailing. One of the two along centerline is a small "maintenance" pump which has the float switch down as low as possible, and is a really small pump—mainly to deal with the leaks from the stuffing box and such. The other three electric pumps are high volume bilge pumps, for dealing with large volumes of water, whether from the cockpit being pooped, or a leaking through-hull. The float switches for the port and starboard pumps are slightly outboard of the pump strainer, to help make sure the pumps won't be switched on unless necessary.

If the bilge has separate sections, due to bulkheads, floors or stringers, I'll generally either drill limber holes or, in the case of watertight bulkheads, install another pump.

I try to keep the hoses as short as possible and the rise as little as possible to help the pumps maximize their output. I prefer the mini-diagphragm pumps, rather than impeller-based pumps, since they can pass small objects more easily.

I also usually install a high-capacity manual bilge pump accessible from the cockpit. On a larger boat, I might also have a high-capacity manual pump in the cabin someplace. The reason for the manual bilge pumps is in case of electrical failure or to assist in the case of a lot of water coming in.

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Last edited by sailingdog; 09-16-2007 at 07:29 PM.
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post #3 of 61 Old 09-16-2007
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My bilge at first glance is a bottomless pit, extending well past the bottom of the 42 gallon fuel tank glassed into the keel cavity. In reality it is about 41/2' at the deepest spot . I can't imagine how much water it could hold but I hope not to find out! I've dropped several stainless bolts and other non magnetic stuff down there that i can't reach!! My hull is only 9'6 wide and not very flat so all water ends up in the bottom of the keel. Right now i only have 1 bilge pump, a large whale gusher locate in a locker in the cockpit. I bought an electric one but haven't installed it yet. The odd thing is that my bilge satys totally dry. I guess replacing all of the thruhulls helped. I thought for sure it was going to be a damp old boat
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Of course it really depends on whether the boat has a wine-glass hull profile, like your Southern Cross or a flatter profile, like Giu's custom beastie. With the wine-glass profiles, it is far less important to have outboard bilge pumps, since the bilge is generally a lot deeper and not affected as much by the angle of heel or which tack the boat is on. On my friend's Cape Dory 30, we installed four pumps: a maintenance pump, a high volume electrical pump and manual pumps in both the cabin and cockpit.

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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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post #5 of 61 Old 09-16-2007
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My personal tail of horror happened earlier this year when I had a new stern gland fitted. Everything looked cool when she was up on the slips but looks can be deceiving.

When we put her back in I decided to see how she was moving with her nice clean hull so I went for a quick spin around the bay near our mooring. When I got back to the mooring and killed the engine I thought I could hear an odd sound so went a looking. The gland had come completely off the shaft and water was streaming in. It was already within a inch or two of the floorboards (and we have quite a deep bilge). No way was the electric pump going to cope, although I managed to keep the level steady with the manual pump. Alone on the boat this left me in a no win situation cos if I stopped pumping to try and fix the problem we were sunk, literally. Things looked grim, particularly as the yard had already started hauling two other boats so running her back up was not an option. (I'd invoked Sod's Law of the Sea as our spare electric pump was off the boat for service.)

Ah but the gods of modern technology came riding to the rescue. Phoned Ms Wombat at the office on my mobile, she rang the mechanic , who threw a portable pump into his workboat and rushed out to our mooring. The extra pump took care of the water, he reattached the gland and we spent the rest of the afternoon beating the crap out of his offsider who had incorrectly attached the gland.

So, although I'd checked the bilges after we came off the slips the problem only reared it's ugly head went I put her into gear and opened up the throttle.

The obvious lessons learnt were

Always have at least one spare high capacity bilge pump, even if it is a portable.
Don't just check the bilges when your boat first goes back into the water , do it again when the engine is running and in gear.
Keep a change of underwear on the boat at all times.
Most importantly, heed the words of the late great Douglas Adams and "DONT PANIC".

A very chastened Wombat after that experience but it was almost worth it to hear Ms Wombat's reaction to "Now just shutup and listen. I don't have time to explain, Raven is sinking. Ring Alan and get him out here pronto."

Ah such fun.

Andrew B

“Life is a trick, and you get one chance to learn it.”
― Terry Pratchett, Nation

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Last edited by tdw; 09-16-2007 at 07:58 PM.
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Glad you and Raven made it back safely... however, not much stinks as bad as soggy wombat...

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—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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post #7 of 61 Old 09-16-2007
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not even a dry wombat? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

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Give me ambiguity, or give me something else.
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ROFL... mean werebeagle...and us doggies don't have much to say about it...

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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
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her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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post #9 of 61 Old 09-16-2007
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Originally Posted by werebeagle View Post
not even a dry wombat? (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Dry Wombat smells sweet. Damp Wombat somewhat on the nose. Funnily enough I hear that my cousin the beaver when wet is highly prized, particularly if neatly trimmed.


(I can hear Alex grinding his teeth and Cam sharpening his blue pencil.)

Andrew B

“Life is a trick, and you get one chance to learn it.”
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post #10 of 61 Old 09-16-2007
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I'm a firm believer in two electric pumps and a manual pump at minimum...just me though

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