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Do I need an automatic bilge pump

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Jun 3, 2013
12
Catalina 27 Calusa Marina Goodland Fl
I am new to living on a sailboat and new to sailing. I have been told my many people who live in the Marinna that I need an automatic bilge. I have a mannual one that I have only had to use 1 time during this rainey season in Florida and that was because I overflowed my freshwater holding tank into the bilge. It does not have a place for the bilge to pump out so it would need to be put above the waterline I know that. There are other boaters familiar with this model who tell me I do not want one and do not need one. I want to have the boat ship shape and ready to sail by December but I really would like input from others if this boat needs to have an automatic bilge intstalled I appreciate any knowledge since I am learning
Carol ;)
 
May 18, 2010
543
Oday 27 Gulfport, MS
Hi Carol and welcome to SBO.

Automatic bilge pumps are a good thing to have because they are ready to work when you don't know and aren't there to catch the leaking seacock or cracked hose that could sink your boat before someone notices and reacts. Or while at sea!

For example my bilge pump does not see much regular action, however when checking the sump today I see that there is sea water in it! :eek: I check the sump regularly so I know it is a new problem and am definitely glad that it is there. If it hasn't been kicking on, I know that it is there if this pesky problem develops quicker than I can track it down.

Relatively cheap and easy to install too. Some owners insist on having a second/backup automatic bilge pump to protect against the first failing and leaving you without protection.

Good luck with the new boat and adventures with it.
 
Jan 1, 2006
4,204
Marblehead Skiff 14' Greenport, NY
Is "Freshwater holding tank" an oxymoron?
Catalina owners on this forum can provide specifics about this boat. I would add that an automatic function on a bilge pump is a good thing. But, even with it you cannot let down your guard with respect to monitoring possible water intrusion in the bilge. The float switches are prone to malfunction. You do not want to bet your boat on it.
For example, in my current boat a "Red solo cup" got into the sump - I wasn't involved- and it jammed the float switch. When I cleared it the pump ran for an uncomfortable amount of time. Stuff happens don't count on anything automatic.
 
Sep 22, 2006
4,001
Catalina, Luger C-27, Adventure 30 Marina del Rey
On my C27 I have an automatice bilge pump and a Whale gusher pump for back up. My boat tend to take on water when heeled for any length of time. The automatic switch does not come on soon enough. There is enough water in the bilge that when I heel it gets the carpet wet. I have to use the manual switch to drain the bilge so that it doesn't leak. I do this in the morning before going out and when I return. I also get water in the compartments under the seats and have had to pump them out with a kayak pump and follow with a microfiber rag.
I have tried sealing the rail with chaulk but it continues to leak though not as much.
If your boat is going to be in the water unattended, then you definetly need one.
 
Mar 1, 2012
1,813
1961 Rhodes Meridian 25 Texas coast
Depends.

On my recently sold 21 footer, I had no built in pumps at all. But then it had no bilge and absolutely no openings below water. I did carry a board mounted Whale Gusher for IF situations.

On my 25, I had a pump with a switch, except one time the bilge filled due to a problem, and overflowed the sole. Cost me a battery. NOW I have a float switch, even though that boat has zero openings in the hull below water either. I glassed 'em all over.

I also have a Whale Gusher 10 mounted in a cockpit locker so I can pump from the cockpit if needed.

Do you NEED one? Probably not. Would I want one? For sure. At least a manual one you can move to where needed.
 
Jun 4, 2009
3,233
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
I believe this is one of the strangest threads I've seen on this site.
Of course you should have an automatic bilge pump on any vessel without a full time engine room crew.
If you cannot place the pump in the bilge, you must use another kind of pump (diaphragm or impeller type), remotely located and plumbed to the deepest point in the bilge. The float switch can then be located wherever necessary to turn the pump on when there is water in the bilge. Centrifugal bilge pumps will not work unless they are in water or if the input line empties of water; they are not self priming.
If you want to monitor the water coming in (and being pumped out) you can buy and install a meter that will display the number of cycles (times) the pump operates. You should have a switch which allows you to either operated the pump manually or automatically, and a proper circuit breaker or fuse in the power supply to the pump. And of course, the battery power to run the pump for several days or however long it is between visits to the boat.
Pretty simple stuff to install, but absolutely necessary, especially if you are not aboard 24/7.
 
May 18, 2010
543
Oday 27 Gulfport, MS
On my C27 I have an automatice bilge pump and a Whale gusher pump for back up. My boat tend to take on water when heeled for any length of time. The automatic switch does not come on soon enough. There is enough water in the bilge that when I heel it gets the carpet wet. I have to use the manual switch to drain the bilge so that it doesn't leak. I do this in the morning before going out and when I return. I also get water in the compartments under the seats and have had to pump them out with a kayak pump and follow with a microfiber rag.
I have tried sealing the rail with chaulk but it continues to leak though not as much.
If your boat is going to be in the water unattended, then you definetly need one.
Hey! I was heeling over quite a bit yesterday when I had my seawater intrusion...could you elaborate more on where the water might enter in? The hull-deck joint? Somewhere else? My auto bilge discharge is about the same area as my sink drains on the stbd side above water line-- could water get forced back through this fitting, back up the hose, and past the auto bilge into the sump?

(Sorry about hijacking for a bit, but it's a good example of why an auto bilge is important and issues that might arise.)
 
May 18, 2010
543
Oday 27 Gulfport, MS
I believe this is one of the strangest threads I've seen on this site.
Strange to some, but the original poster (OP) is new to sailboats (and I assume the powerboat experience was trailered and hauled out per use).

One of my first questions here was how to take the big front sail thingy (Genoa) off the furly thingy (furler). Three years later the water behind me ears is finally drying out and leaving me a bit Salty and Crusty. Aargh!
 

Brian D

Moderator
Feb 17, 2006
4,527
Lancer 27PS MCB Camp Pendleton KF6BL
Welcome to SBO.

It is highly recommended that you have an auto bilge pump. On my boat my cooler empties into my bilge so when all the ice melts and I am not on the boat, it goes out instead of sitting in the bilge.

I would think there would be a bilge pump on a C27.
 
Jan 22, 2008
1,113
Hunter 37-cutter Richmond CA
It may end up that you need a bilge pump to pass a survey to get insurance to get a marina berth. A good idea anyway.

On my soap box - also get marine quality smoke and CO2 alarms
 
Dec 2, 1999
15,184
Hunter Vision-36 Rio Vista, CA.
It is a good idea to have one. If you have an outboard engine it is probably not as necessary. Currently my boat has one that is working but I must tell you that just because it is supposed to be automatic, does not mean that it will function when you need it. The float switches (inexpensive ones) are not very reliable. The pumps (inexpensive ones) are only marginally better (based on my experience).

So for $40-$80 it is not a bad investment. Just check them out regularly for functionality.
 
Sep 22, 2006
4,001
Catalina, Luger C-27, Adventure 30 Marina del Rey
Hey! I was heeling over quite a bit yesterday when I had my seawater intrusion...could you elaborate more on where the water might enter in? The hull-deck joint? Somewhere else? My auto bilge discharge is about the same area as my sink drains on the stbd side above water line-- could water get forced back through this fitting, back up the hose, and past the auto bilge into the sump?

(Sorry about hijacking for a bit, but it's a good example of why an auto bilge is important and issues that might arise.)
Before I put in an antisyphon loop I was getting a lot of back flow though the pump. The only time I get it now is when the rail is buried and the waves are over 3'. I don't get it nearly as much after rechaulking the rail. I did not remove the rail and only schmooched the calk in to the crack. I was getting alot under the V-berth. I haven't looked under there lately. I should check it out.
 
Jun 4, 2009
3,233
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
Strange to some, but the original poster (OP) is new to sailboats (and I assume the powerboat experience was trailered and hauled out per use).

One of my first questions here was how to take the big front sail thingy (Genoa) off the furly thingy (furler). Three years later the water behind me ears is finally drying out and leaving me a bit Salty and Crusty. Aargh!
I was not talking about the OP but the folks who seem to think one does not need a good auto-pumping system.
I would consider it an absolute necessity, especially for someone new to sailing, who has no idea that hoses & clamps fail, joints leak and the zillion other things that can let water into a boat.
And not some cheap system, but a quality pump and switch that will always be functional and with the proper maintenance, the most reliable system on the boat.
 
Dec 19, 2006
5,570
Hunter 36 Punta Gorda
I have 2

Yes yes you should add a auto bilge pump and should not be too hard to do,my boat came with 2 auto 1 normal one and 1 high water with alarm and do check them both regularly.
I also have manual pump and have heard too many stories of boats sinking at the dock or out at sea.
I guess if you have a outboard others may say you don't need one but you should try some type of pump out manual or auto.
Tell us more info about your boat setup.
Nick
 
Sep 24, 2010
34
Beneteau 321 Edgewater, MD
My boat does have a electric and backup manual bilge pump.

I do not have an automatic switch on the boat for the electric bilge pump, or a separate auto electric bilge pump. I may regret it one day, but I don't think it is necessary.

I close all seacocks when I leave the boat, and I visit the boat at least once a week (just to check on it, even if I am not going out). Besides, if the shaft seal/seacock had a catastrophic failure no bilge pump would be able to keep up with the inflow of water anyway.

Since I have done a lot of work replacing and resealing portlights, resealing fresh water tanks, and replacing sea cocks my bilge is dry.
 
May 18, 2010
543
Oday 27 Gulfport, MS
Before I put in an antisyphon loop I was getting a lot of back flow though the pump. The only time I get it now is when the rail is buried and the waves are over 3'. I don't get it nearly as much after rechaulking the rail. I did not remove the rail and only schmooched the calk in to the crack. I was getting alot under the V-berth. I haven't looked under there lately. I should check it out.
Thanks CaGuy, I don't recall seeing an anti siphon loop there-- likely the source for me then.

I'm sure there are scads of issues like this on my boat from too many years and too many owners, but I'm learning and addressing them as the issues come up.
 
Oct 26, 2008
4,100
Starwind 27 Barnegat, NJ
Hi Carol,

On your boat, you should have a bilge pump that will work both manually and automatically. Here is a 500 GPH Rule pump and separate float switch that I have on my 27' sailboat. It has been installed for 9 seasons and has never failed to operate properly. It should be wired to the switch panel so that it can be operated manually simply by flipping the switch. The float and the pump should also be wired directly to the battery so that the float switch will turn the pump on even when your battery switch is "OFF" and you have no power at the panel. You should have this assurance to cover any circumstance when you are away from your boat.

http://www.jamestowndistributors.com/userportal/product.do?part=117556&SHOPZILLA&CA_6C15C=613373747

Do not be tempted to purchase a pump that has the combination float switch integrated with the pump. My yard tried this on my boat during my first year of ownership when I replaced the old one and it failed miserably. They removed it and replaced it with the proper float switch such as you see in the link. The combo model failed within a month of installation. These may be fine for a powerboat that sits level almost all the time (I can get many years of service with this type of pump in my ski boat), but a sailboat that is heeling will end up burning out the float switch and/or pump or cause it to simply malfunction. From my experience, they simply don't work on a sailboat and will fail at the wrong time.

The separate float switch will not rise when heeling as long as it is oriented properly along the centerline of the bilge.

I know that this pump will work properly because I drain my ice box into the bilge (melting ice which I need to keep the beer cold). I typically empty the bilge manually with the panel switch because the float switch only comes on when the water is about 2 or 3 inches higher than the bilge discharge. It is designed this way to prevent the float switch from burning out the pump by running it dry. Every time I empty my bilge from the ice water, I wipe down the bottom and manually lift the float to verify that it is working properly. It has never failed.

I probably have not had any occasion within that past 5 years (since installing a PSS shaft seal) where the water has risen in the bilge high enough to rely upon the float switch (except when I have purposely filled the bilge) but I think it is absolutely necessary to have it in place.

Most sailboat owners also believe that there should be a separate back-up manual bilge pump that can be operated from the cockpit with a hand pump. I don't have one but intend to install one if I move the boat to a location where safety at sea is a more serious issue. For now, I simply have one of those plastic Beckson thirsty mates for my manual back-up pump.
 
Jun 2, 2007
353
Beneteau First 375 Slidell, LA
And of course, the battery power to run the pump for several days or however long it is between visits to the boat.
That is going to be the problem for most people. Unless you are connected to shore power whenever you leave the boat (which presents a whole different set of problems), a catastrophic leak will sink the boat anyway, as soon as the battery runs down. And I have seen people tolerate a slow leak on their boat simply because the bilge pump is keeping up with it. As noted above, all it takes is a stuck float switch to become a real problem.

Personally, I work to make sure no water is coming into the boat, and if there is, I want to know about it because I have to manually run the bilge pump. I don't have an automatic pump and don't particularly want one. I do have an electric pump, a permanantly mounted manual pump, a couple of portable manuals, and a couple of buckets if the need ever arises.
 
Sep 22, 2006
4,001
Catalina, Luger C-27, Adventure 30 Marina del Rey
Hi Carol,

On your boat, you should have a bilge pump that will work both manually and automatically. Here is a 500 GPH Rule pump and separate float switch that I have on my 27' sailboat. It has been installed for 9 seasons and has never failed to operate properly.
The separate float switch will not rise when heeling as long as it is oriented properly along the centerline of the bilge.

I know that this pump will work properly because I drain my ice box into the bilge (melting ice which I need to keep the beer cold). I typically empty the bilge manually with the panel switch because the float switch only comes on when the water is about 2 or 3 inches higher than the bilge discharge. It is designed this way to prevent the float switch from burning out the pump by running it dry. Every time I empty my bilge from the ice water, I wipe down the bottom and manually lift the float to verify that it is working properly. It has never failed.
Scott
Does your float keep the levels low enough automatically so that it does not spill out when heeled heavily?
 
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