Systems+Engines

Make A Portable Pump

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The cockpit lockers on my 20-foot trailersailer leak because the lid destroys any seal that is attached to it. I’ve resigned myself to needing a waterproof container for anything I store there, but I still have to deal with the water that has leaked in. My solution was to attach a small electric bilgepump (with a hose) to a handle.

I used 1/8" by 1" aluminum bar stock, which is easy to bend, for the handle. Three bends were required—one at the bottom for the pump mounting; another for the handle; and a third for the on-off switch (see illustration). If I could work heavier stock, I would use 1/4" by 2" aluminum bar stock.

After bending the handle to the proper shape, I drilled a hole in the upper end of the bar stock for a simple SPST on-off toggle switch to disconnect the positive side of the power to the pump. The handle is a short length of 1" dowel stock that I split lengthwise. I drilled two holes through the aluminum and in one side of the dowel. Two stainless-steel screws hold the handle parts together.

I chose a small 360-gph pump, which I fastened in place with a stainless-steel hose clamp. I wrapped the pump with several layers of electrical tape to cushion the motor and give the clamp a better grip. The strainer can be removed for cleaning.

I used clear hose (photo below), but I recommend the lighter corrugated bilge-pump hose. The power cord is 16-gauge duplex wire. Ten feet is long enough to reach all the important areas on my boat; if your boat is larger, make it longer. I connected the cord to the pump with adhesive-lined butt crimp connectors that shrink around the wires when they are heated. I also applied several coats of liquid electrical tape to make sure the wires were sealed.

After cutting the positive wire and hooking the ends to the on-off switch with adhesive-lined crimp ring terminals, I made a loop in the power cord to make sure the switch connection is not strained. Electrical tape secures the loop to the lower side of the handle and also covers the switch’s exposed triennials. I taped the power cord and hose to the handle in several places.

I put a cigarette-lighter connector at the power end of the cord so I can use onboard DC power by plugging into the auxiliary power socket in the switch panel. A cigarette-lighter socket with alligator clips lets me use the pump anywhere I can carry a 12-volt battery. In addition to pumping out boats and dinghies, I’ve used the pump to empty water tanks with access ports and to empty a bath tub with a clogged drain. In short, it’s a handy thing to have.

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