Surveyor’s Notebook: Bilge Pumps

Bilge pumps live in a hostile environment. On most boats they sit in at least a little saltwater and are expected to uncomplainingly pump water that may be contaminated with all sorts of detritus.
Author:
Publish date:
The soggy life of a bilge pump

The soggy life of a bilge pump

Bilge pumps live in a hostile environment. On most boats they sit in at least a little saltwater and are expected to uncomplainingly pump water that may be contaminated with all sorts of detritus.

Many bilges are filthy. The worst culprits are often older, heavy-displacement sailboats with deep keel sumps. Their bilge pumps lurk at the bottom of these black holes, are never cleaned and are seldom inspected. Most boats often have at least two bilge pumps, sometimes three or four.

I have noticed that many sailors have come to rely totally on their electric pumps, which is a big mistake.

Corroded bilge pump wiring

Corroded bilge pump wiring

What if your batteries go flat, the pump burns out, or some other mishap causes the pump to stop working?

Don’t get me wrong, electric pumps are great, but surveyors like to see a manual diaphragm pump in addition to the electric pump. A manual pump can often move water faster than a small electric pump and is far less prone to clogging.

Float switches are a constant source of irritation

Float switches are a constant source of irritation

Many electric pumps have a separate float switch, which is a potential trouble spot. You should periodically check the operation of your float switch, as these do get hung up from time and a continuously running pump will soon flatten your battery. Another thing I often see are pumps that are not fixed in place and are merely held in position by their discharge hoses. I urge you to check the operation of your pumps regularly. The safety of your boat and crew may someday rely on them.

Related

albintoilet

Gear: Albin Pump Marine Toilet

Head Start Is there room for a new marine toilet? Albin Pump Marine thinks so, having just introduced its line of Swedish-built heads—ranging from compact to full-size models—to the American market. The toilets feature vitreous porcelain bowls and either wooden or thermoplastic ...read more

07n_45R2699

Multihull Sailor: Classic Cats

If you’re looking for a decent sub-40ft cruising cat, you have few choices when it comes to new-boat offerings. It is a well-known fact that the multihull market has taken off in a way very few could have predicted. Despite Hurricane Irma’s recent destruction of a large part of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Thanks a bunch  This scene is very calm and seamanlike. No frantic rope throwing or shouting. As he passes the line to the gent on the dock, the crew on the boat says, quietly and clearly, “Would you ...read more

mcarthy-and-mouse

Experience: McCarthy and the Mouse

Sitting at the helm in a light breeze, my arms crusted with a fine rime of salt, my skin so dry I’d lost my fingerprints, I heard a clatter and a curse from below. There were only three of us a thousand miles from shore and only one on watch at a time. Usually, the off watch lay ...read more

2018-giftGuide

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

Brass Yacht Lamp Does someone on your gift list spend the whole winter missing the warm days on the water? Let them bring a little bit of nautical atmosphere home with this new lamp from Weems & Plath. The glass enclosure means the flame cannot be blown out even by ...read more

image001

Opinion: On Not Giving Up Sailing

E.B. White was 64 when he wrote his now-famous essay “The Sea and the Wind That Blows,” which begins as a romantic paean to sailing and then drifts, as if spun around by a pessimistic eddy of thought, into a reflection on selling his boat. Does an aging sailor quit while he’s ...read more

1812-JeanneaueNewsVideo

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410

Designed by Marc Lombard, the Sun Odyssey 410 shares much in common with her older siblings including of course, the walk-around deck. Other features that set the 410 apart from other models being introduced this year include the 410’s “negative bow” shape allowing for a longer ...read more