Cruisers Forum
 


Join CruisersForum Today

Reply
 
Thread Tools Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 21-05-2013, 09:21   #1
CF Adviser
 
Bash's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: sausalito
Boat: 14 meter sloop
Posts: 7,260
Bilge alarms

Last week I had breakfast with an ab-diving buddy who had just learned that his five-year-old Tayana 48 needed a new tranny. That was money he'd intended to spend on davits. Oh well.

About a year ago, after a day of motoring, they were sleeping at a guest dock up in Alameda when his wife got up in the middle of the night to use the head and was surprised to discover water sloshing over the floorboards. Their dripless packing gland had failed, and the bilge pump had been unable to keep up with the water. No bilge alarm, of course. A year later their tranny failed, and their mechanic discovered internal corrosion in the gears from back when the boat had flooded.

On my boat we have a working bilge pump down at the keelbolts, and about six inches higher a high-capacity emergency pump that is alarmed.

Last Saturday I cleaned an abalone in the morning and then made ab fritters for lunch. While we were cleaning up, the bilge alarm went off, and when I popped open the floorboards I discovered about seven inches of water in the bilge. I checked all the thru-hulls immediately, but no problems showed up, so I tasted the bilge water, which was fresh. ("Fresh" as opposed to "salty.")

It turns out that a connection had failed on the transom shower. We don't really use the transom shower often, but it's a great way to clean fish guts (or ab guts) from the sugar scoop. Oops.

Most marine screwups are caused by multiple problems feeding off each other. In our case, a butt connector to the float switch on the working bilge pump had corroded, unbeknownst to us. While we were never in danger of sinking, our pressurized water system could easily have pumped 200 gallons into the bilge were it not for that emergency bilge pump and its alarm.

I like to think that the system saved me $5,000 last weekend. (Probably not, but it could have been ugly, regardless.)

New item for mental list of things to check periodically: float switches.
__________________

__________________
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
Bash is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21-05-2013, 09:33   #2
Registered User
 
goat's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Everywhere (Sea of Cortez right now)
Boat: PSC Orion 27
Posts: 1,098
Re: Bilge alarms

Excellent advice Bash. I've got three bilge pumps with the 'middle' one alarmed. When my packing was dripping a little too much the irritating alarm made me get around to adjusting it. Nag, nag, nag. but it works.
__________________

__________________
goat is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 21-05-2013, 10:43   #3
Senior Cruiser
 
rebel heart's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 6,190
Images: 3
Re: Bilge alarms

The "dripless" shaft seals are really pretty ridiculous. They don't solve any actual problems, they're expensive, and they in fact cause serious problems. I had a quite competent friend of mine (charter captain, ASA instructor, etc) who spent an entire night trying to dewater his own boat a few months back when the dripless shaft seal broke.

The best part is they are advertised as "maintenance free".

But the point about bilge alarms is well taken. I hooked up a water witch on advice from cruisersforum and have been quite happy with it. It's an excellent auto switch.

Water Witch Bilge Pump Switch
__________________
rebel heart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21-05-2013, 22:05   #4
CF Adviser
 
Bash's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: sausalito
Boat: 14 meter sloop
Posts: 7,260
Re: Bilge alarms

Quote:
Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
The "dripless" shaft seals are really pretty ridiculous. They don't solve any actual problems, they're expensive, and they in fact cause serious problems.
Amen. I had a dripless packing gland on the previous boat, but have a conventional stuffing box on the current one. The new graphite packing materials are far superior to what was available ten years ago. Kinda like the difference between laminated sails and canvas.
__________________
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
Bash is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21-05-2013, 22:41   #5
Registered User
 
Celestialsailor's Avatar

Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: In Mexico, working on the boat
Boat: Hallberg Rassy 35. and 14ft.Whitehall pulling skiff.
Posts: 8,013
Images: 5
Re: Bilge alarms

To join the club here...I have just replaced my dripless also. That said...I am fighting the install as the shaft log was metric and the rubber hose/tube, is inch. So when I tighten it down, it wanted to pull to one side or the other. I am remedying it this week. The way I found out was the packing nut feeling warm to the touch. That said, I sleep better now. I agree with the alarm. When I first started using them. I wired a automobile reverse alarm to the float switch. However, when I sailed, I had false alarms. Especially in rough conditions (water sloshing). Now I use a separate float for the alarm, 6" above the bilge pump. My bilge is 3 ft. deep and 18"s X 18"s. I'm not sure you have that luxury on a fin keel boat.
I also use the new packing and will try it out all next week when I do my shake down.
__________________
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow - what a ride!"

http://wwwjolielle.blogspot.com/
Celestialsailor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-05-2013, 13:23   #6
Senior Cruiser

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 1,594
Re: Bilge alarms

It's always nice to know when your bilge pump is pumping. In our case the noise of the pump running dies it!. It'll jerk you awake in a heart beat. No need for an alarm!
__________________
Randy

Cape Dory 25D Seraph
rtbates is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 29-05-2013, 17:59   #7
Senior Cruiser
 
FSMike's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Bahamas/Florida
Boat: Solaris Sunstar 36' catamaran
Posts: 2,654
Images: 5
Re: Bilge alarms

A good test is to see if you can hear your bilge pump alarm in the cockpit when you're motoring at cruising speed. My ex and I had to get louder alarms for our old boat.
Don't forget to try it with the stereo going also.
__________________
Sail Fast Live Slow
FSMike is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31-05-2013, 09:47   #8
Registered User
 
S/V Alchemy's Avatar

Join Date: May 2008
Location: Toronto
Boat: Custom 41' Steel Pilothouse Cutter
Posts: 4,577
Re: Bilge alarms

I recently installed a PSS to accompany my new engine/shaft/prop/ Aquadrive install. I would concur with much of what is said against it, except that I have a steel boat, and the utter absence of water ingress is a big deal to me (Not a drop since I launched, and I peer down my rather large and deep bilge every time I get aboard.

I do agree, however, that a bilge alarm is a sensible precaution, as is a second, larger bilge pump at the six inch/15 cm. point on a boat where a small amount of standing water (from down a keel-stepped mast, for example) is not going to be a particular concern or worry.

Something like a Whale Supersub 650 with a Rule 3700 above it would match my setup for a 40-45 footer with a traditional stuffing box.

It is to this second, larger pump I would attach a loud buzzer. I don't really need to know beyond the regular eyeballing I do of the bilges if there's a small amount of water down there.
__________________
Can't sleep? Read www.alchemy2009.blogspot.com for fast relief. Can't read? Avoid www.volumesofsalt.blogspot.com, because it's just personal reviews of sea books.
S/V Alchemy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31-05-2013, 10:42   #9
Registered User
 
Capt Phil's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Stateline NV
Boat: Prior boats: Transpac 49; DeFever 54
Posts: 2,749
Re: Bilge alarms

Not certain where or when I aquired the habit (perhaps from years of delivering boats of which I was unfamiliar), but underway, every two hours would check deck areas, galley, heads, bilges and engine room for leaks, smells and general condition. When at anchor or moored would check same every 2-3 hours all night and day long. Many folks think I was a little OC but I've caught several issues before they became problems. If you're on your own boat, you get used to sounds and smells and can sort problems out pretty quickly just from your familiarity with what is normal.
If you find a problem, it makes up for all the false alarms and extra effort to keep an eye on things. Enter your inspections of each area of your vessel in your log... it impresses insurance folks and if they see you perform inspections on a regular basis over time, it could result in a premium reduction as well as peace of mind for yourself. Phil
__________________
Capt Phil is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31-05-2013, 11:18   #10
Registered User
 
S/V Alchemy's Avatar

Join Date: May 2008
Location: Toronto
Boat: Custom 41' Steel Pilothouse Cutter
Posts: 4,577
Re: Bilge alarms

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt Phil View Post
Not certain where or when I aquired the habit (perhaps from years of delivering boats of which I was unfamiliar), but underway, every two hours would check deck areas, galley, heads, bilges and engine room for leaks, smells and general condition. When at anchor or moored would check same every 2-3 hours all night and day long. Many folks think I was a little OC but I've caught several issues before they became problems. If you're on your own boat, you get used to sounds and smells and can sort problems out pretty quickly just from your familiarity with what is normal.
If you find a problem, it makes up for all the false alarms and extra effort to keep an eye on things. Enter your inspections of each area of your vessel in your log... it impresses insurance folks and if they see you perform inspections on a regular basis over time, it could result in a premium reduction as well as peace of mind for yourself. Phil
That reminds me of the habit I have (and have seen in others) of "walking the decks" at dawn and sunset to see in the slanting light if any pins or other bits and pieces (fibres from fraying line, nuts, bolts, bearings, or parts of rivets). A clevis under tension without a retaining pin or ring can work perfectly for a long time...until it doesn't. Spot something on (or below) deck early enough and you can avoid very much larger issues later on, like a sinking or the loss of a rig.

Personally, I use my ears quite a bit aboard. Creaks and squeals of a well-maintained boat can be quite characteristic, and either the absence of a particular noise (or the addition of a new, uncharacteristic one) can act as an early warning of areas that require, if not attention, early inspection.
__________________
Can't sleep? Read www.alchemy2009.blogspot.com for fast relief. Can't read? Avoid www.volumesofsalt.blogspot.com, because it's just personal reviews of sea books.
S/V Alchemy is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31-05-2013, 11:42   #11
Registered User
 
SVTatia's Avatar

Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Toronto, Canada
Boat: Luders 33 - hull 23
Posts: 817
Re: Bilge alarms

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bash View Post
...New item for mental list of things to check periodically: float switches.
And have your buddy provide those abs more frequently

Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt Phil View Post
Not certain where or when I aquired the habit (perhaps from years of delivering boats of which I was unfamiliar), but underway, every two hours would check deck areas, galley, heads, bilges and engine room for leaks, smells and general condition. When at anchor or moored would check same every 2-3 hours all night and day long. Many folks think I was a little OC ...l
Aha, that makes two of us!! Thank you Capt Phil, I thought I was paranoid. This is not anxiety, I feel this is valid and I call it proactive problem finder or PPF.

Even with the electric alarms, I have to go for my checks, you never know...
__________________
SVTatia is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31-05-2013, 13:41   #12
Moderator
 
Hudson Force's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Lived aboard & cruised for 45 years,- now on a chair in my walk-in closet.
Boat: Morgan OI 413 1973 - Aythya
Posts: 7,894
Images: 1
Re: Bilge alarms

I did hear the cycling of my bilge pump a few years ago when the raw water connection on my oil cooler gave in to metal fatigue, but I must confess that neither of my three bilge pumps are "alarmed". Now, with these posts, I'll add to my list of tasks to install a bilge high water alarm. I don't feel that the float switches are the most reliable. I tend to favor the pneumatic switches, but I'm not keeping pace with all the new technologies. I'd like something without electric circuits in the bilge and without moving parts in the bilge. This is the advantage of the pneumatic switch. Do any of you have another suggestion? The weakness of the pneumatic swith is the potential for an air leak that prevents the pressure from increasing to activate the switch. I must say that I've used my pneumatic bilge pump switch for about thirty years and never had it fail, but we all need to know what the potential failures are. I'm not "anxious or paranoid" either, but if I can consider a problem, it will stck in my mind and I'll be checking it now and then.
__________________
Take care and joy, Aythya crew
Hudson Force is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31-05-2013, 13:52   #13
Registered User
 
Strygaldwir's Avatar

Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Deale, Maryland
Boat: SeaView - Privilege 37
Posts: 1,020
Images: 5
Re: Bilge alarms

Stopped using Rule float switches for that very reason! I would test them regularly and would have to replace one of the 6 I had about every 6 months. Very annoying to think they could fail and cause signficant damage.

Finally replaced the 4 critical switches with the Ultra Switch. 1 year, no failures, yet.
__________________
Strygaldwir is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31-05-2013, 13:58   #14
CF Adviser
 
Bash's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: sausalito
Boat: 14 meter sloop
Posts: 7,260
Re: Bilge alarms

Quote:
Originally Posted by rtbates View Post
It's always nice to know when your bilge pump is pumping. In our case the noise of the pump running dies it!. It'll jerk you awake in a heart beat. No need for an alarm!
The nice thing about an alarm is that someone standing on the dock is going to hear it as well if I'm not on the boat.

A former boat had a water-cooled refrigeration system, and one day I got a call from a yacht club member who wanted me to know that my bilge pump was running. I asked whether an alarm was sounding, and when he said "No" I knew not to bother about it.
__________________

__________________
cruising is entirely about showing up--in boat shoes.
Bash is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
bilge

Thread Tools
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off




Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 13:06.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.