How to maintain your bilge pump
Avoid the misery of having your boat sink at the dock or while underway; maintain your bilge pump regularly.
Instead of quoting statistics about bilge pump failure and describing their complexity, I want readers to be aware of a few facts that will help keep water outside of the hull where it belongs.
Bilge pumps are more complicated than most of us realize. They can be overly sensitive to the float, which controls the pump’s turning on and off, and many expensive pumps have resets and sensors that can cause the pumps to accidentally stay off when they are most needed. Test them daily to be sure they are working properly and check the hoses to confirm that water is being pumped outside the hull.
Regular inspection is key. It’s amazing what finds its way to the bilge, and all those bits and pieces can easily lodge themselves around the pump intake or against the float, preventing it from moving and telling the pump to turn on. Many a boat has sunk with a working pump that didn’t activate because the float was mired in debris.
From my experience, bilge pumps don’t last long. I have three in Melodic, and every year, I replace at least one of them. Why they stop working properly is anyone’s guess. All I know is that the cost of a new pump is nothing compared to the cost of repairing a boat sunk at the dock.
Most bilge pumps are located midships in the lowest part of the hull, but since water also accumulates in the bow and stern, a three-pump system provides real safety benefits. Position your pumps where they are most needed.
Lastly, keep a manual, non-electric bilge pump onboard in case you lose electrical power while taking on water. In a tight situation, an inexpensive hand pump could keep you afloat until help arrives. –Daniel S. Fannon
Prepare for any crisis
Learn how to handle any emergency while underway by taking our Emergencies Onboard seminar.