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Old 28-11-2018, 07:15   #1
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A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

You're 40 miles offshore, water sloshing in the bilge, no 12v pump(s) for some reason (in my case, electrical fault), so you start pumping the manual pump...


The pump was a Whale Gusher 10, Mk3. It was fitted to a 50 ft. sailboat built in 2001-2. I suspect the pump was never used or tested until the above emergency. When it was needed, the Whale failed! It did not draw water after prolonged pumping. The vessel was never in danger of sinking--there is a 4,000 gph pump out of the 'slosh zone,' and two portable 4,000 gph pumps onboard.


In preparing for another offshore voyage, I installed a new hose and disassembled the pump, with a rebuild kit in hand. The pump appeared to be in as new condition. There was no debris, no sign of salt damage, all rubber looked to be in excellent condition etc. Then, I noticed that excess factory-applied paint caused a lump to form where one of the flapper valves seats. The valve will never obtain a complete seal with a lump. (see photo)



Given that a manual pump is the last resort to save a vessel, such a flaw in manufacturing/quality control is problematic to say the least, especially for a pump with a list price of $338. I contacted the manufacturer despite an expired warranty period. I was duly informed:



"... The issue is not relevant to our current production, which is due to its age which is also the overriding factor in this warranty case. We do consider out of warranty cases and quite often support products regarding expired warranty periods, but no matter the issue we cannot support a warranty claim that is well over 10 years past itís limit..."

The response speaks for itself! Whale stands by its current products only. Such a response is surprising given the tendency of US Courts to impose strict liability in product liability--for safety items like emergency bilge bumps, the response is mind-boggling.
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Old 28-11-2018, 07:32   #2
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

Did you send the photo to Whale? Since this is clearly a manufacturing defect I am a bit surprised that Whale responded as they did.

On the other hand, it's a pretty simple fix to sand that lump flat and reassemble the pump. I rebuilt a 25 year old Whale pump that had been quite neglected and had a bit of corrosion around the valve seats. Cleaned it down to bare metal, painted it with several coats Al primer/paint, sanded the flapper seating area nice and flat and finished with one last, thin coat and it's good as new.
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Old 28-11-2018, 07:38   #3
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

That is a pretty surprising response from the manufacturer and much different than the response we received with regard to a similarly aged pump when we had difficulty. In our case, Whale sent us an entirely new pump when all I had wanted was to purchase some replacement parts when I contacted the company. Instead, the Customer Service rep insisted that she would have a new pump shipped to us straight away and did so. I wonder if your situation is merely a matter of whom ever you spoke with (assuming, of course, that there are more than one Customer Service representatives!), Yes?

FWIW...
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Old 28-11-2018, 07:40   #4
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

I sent two photos and an email to Whale. It is very clear that the paint lump caused the valve failure. The inside of the pump is pristine. Whale only cares about warranty issues, not its long-term liability for poorly made products.



And yes, it is a simple thing to sand out the paint bubble.



People who have seen the pump are appalled. It would be impossible to screw in the flapper valve without seeing the paint lump. Quality control must have been nonexistent at the time.



I am seriously considering sending the material to the US Coastguard. I am worried that the problem may be typical.
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Old 28-11-2018, 08:20   #5
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

One friend ran aground and cracked the hull just outside of our group's destination. Came in saying I'm sinking the bilge pump is not keeping up with the inflow. Got to work with buckets and a portable bilge pump and the situation was under control. Seemed the low leak rate should have easily been handled by any bilge pump, so I offered to troubleshoot his.

After a few minutes of opening sole hatches and peering about with a flashlight, I said to him I see no hoses, no wiring, absolutely nothing in your bilge most certainly no bilge pump. His reply was the bilge had always been bone dry in the year he had owned it. Also when he bought the boat he had tested the bilge pump by turning on the switch, the light on the switch came on so the assumption was the pump was working.

Another friend I was helping, we were for some reason using the manual pump to empty the bilge. It wasn't working, I took it apart and found a zip tie tail in the check valve. Pumped for awhile and it stopped again, found another. Did this several times.

My boat took me awhile to find that the small diaphragm pump was installed backwards. (It was the dry the bilge pump, not so much an emergency pump.)
I also had a manual pump that worked but you had to pump like crazy to get primed, the rubber check valve was a little warped from age.

My zip tie friend found me letting water into the boat, which I do every couple of years, to test the pumps. He asked why would I do that?

Why do people never test emergency pumps?
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Old 28-11-2018, 08:25   #6
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

+1

I fill the bilge every few months to check all the pumps.

This is more the OPs problem than whaleís.

Check your equipment!!
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Old 28-11-2018, 08:29   #7
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

Quote:
Originally Posted by cal40john View Post
One friend ran aground and cracked the hull just outside of our group's destination. Came in saying I'm sinking the bilge pump is not keeping up with the inflow. Got to work with buckets and a portable bilge pump and the situation was under control. Seemed the low leak rate should have easily been handled by any bilge pump, so I offered to troubleshoot his.

After a few minutes of opening sole hatches and peering about with a flashlight, I said to him I see no hoses, no wiring, absolutely nothing in your bilge most certainly no bilge pump. His reply was the bilge had always been bone dry in the year he had owned it. Also when he bought the boat he had tested the bilge pump by turning on the switch, the light on the switch came on so the assumption was the pump was working.

Another friend I was helping, we were for some reason using the manual pump to empty the bilge. It wasn't working, I took it apart and found a zip tie tail in the check valve. Pumped for awhile and it stopped again, found another. Did this several times.

My boat took me awhile to find that the small diaphragm pump was installed backwards. (It was the dry the bilge pump, not so much an emergency pump.)
I also had a manual pump that worked but you had to pump like crazy to get primed, the rubber check valve was a little warped from age.

My zip tie friend found me letting water into the boat, which I do every couple of years, to test the pumps. He asked why would I do that?

Why do people never test emergency pumps?

I have similar problems with coworkers and colleagues assuming that because they've made a data backup that they are safe. You aren't safe if you don't TEST a data restore! Regularly! You don't have a spare tire if you don't CHECK the spare tire! You don't have emergency pants if you don't che... what?
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Old 28-11-2018, 08:34   #8
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

Has anyone installed special valving to use other pumps for emergency draining the bilge? Such as a Y-valve to change the air conditioner pump, shower drain pump, engine raw water pump, to draw from the bilge?

If you're in the situation where "MUST REMOVE WATER FROM BILGE OR DIE TRYING" seems like you'd want all the available pumps working on the problem.
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Old 28-11-2018, 08:38   #9
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sailmonkey View Post
+1

I fill the bilge every few months to check all the pumps.

This is more the OPs problem than whale’s.

Check your equipment!!
Bingo. But some folks tend to think everything is fully somebody else’s fault. What we really need is a new law to cover inspections by the government and decades long warranties.
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Old 28-11-2018, 08:38   #10
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

So not only is the pump out of warranty, likewise the life of the sailor is out of warranty...apparently. WHAT A CROCK! These pumps should be held to the highest standard. In the production process, that a 'bump' of paint would cause a seal failure in the functioning of the pump, WHALE should be screaming for you to return it immediately with NO QUESTIONS ASKED. As far as I can see, this is liability on steroids. This is not an age problem; it is a negligence problem on their behalf.
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Old 28-11-2018, 08:43   #11
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

I agree. While I checked the primary support systems before departure, including replacing all the raw water hoses, and filling the bilge to check the 12v pumps, I neglected the emergency manual pump. My contributory negligence, however, does NOT relieve the manufacturer of its responsibilities for quality control and the resulting product liability.



Incidentally, I have 15,000 gallons/hour of theoretical bilge pumping capacity (3 x 4000 gph pumps, one 2600 gph, and one 400 gph pump to dry out the bilge) and a very large watertight compartment in the bow. And yes, there is a diverter valve to shift the engine water supply to the bilge.
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Old 28-11-2018, 08:46   #12
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

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Originally Posted by Stardreamer View Post
So not only is the pump out of warranty, likewise the life of the sailor is out of warranty...apparently. WHAT A CROCK! These pumps should be held to the highest standard. In the production process, that a 'bump' of paint would cause a seal failure in the functioning of the pump, WHALE should be screaming for you to return it immediately with NO QUESTIONS ASKED. As far as I can see, this is liability on steroids. This is not an age problem; it is a negligence problem on their behalf.
Omg. Sand down the bump and get on with it.
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Old 28-11-2018, 09:16   #13
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

Iím disappointed in Whale. I think an appropriate response would have been an apology, a free repair kit and instructions to sand the bump flat. Iím also surprised the pump wasnít tested before leaving the factory. Why didnít the guy installing the valves spot the problem?

This isnít a reason to stop buying Whale products. This is the first factory defect Iíve run across and I sold hundreds of their products but Iíd sure put my hand over the intake and feel thesuction before installing the pump.

Of course all pumps should be tested periodically after installation as well.
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Old 28-11-2018, 09:16   #14
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

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Originally Posted by Wallaby View Post
I sent two photos and an email to Whale.
Send them a link to this thread so they understand the bad press/black eye it s causing them.
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Old 28-11-2018, 09:18   #15
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Re: A Whale of a Fail: Emergency bilge pump

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Omg. Sand down the bump and get on with it.
I think it's important to identify the problem, discuss it, and inform the manufacturer. But yeah seriously just fix it yourself. The hassle otherwise is ridiculous even to consider.
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