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Old 14-07-2017, 21:57   #1
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C & C 37, 1989, bilge pump issues

I just ran into a curious issue I've not encountered before with a 1989 C&C 37R sailboat. The owner called me to investigate water in the bilge that was rising slowly and threatening to flood the cabin sole. To make it worse, the bilge water was densely black and had the odor of hydrogen sulfide ("rotten eggs"). The automatic bilge pump was not working and the volume of water was great enough that the manual pump wasn't even tried, instead I used an emergency dewatering pump borrowed from our yacht club. About a hundred gallons later, of foul black bilge water dumped overboard, the initial drama was stabilized. Now, to find the bilge pump and open the bilges for examination. Not an easy task. For some reason known only to the builder, all of the floorboards were screwed down, with a salon table bolted to the floor covering some of the screws. The table had to be slowly disassembled to disconnect it from the mast which it surrounded. Zero access to the bilges, otherwise. Very expensive in labor time.

Once having removed the floorboards and table, it became evident what had caused the problem, besides the inoperative electric bilge pump. The bilges on this boat, as on the 34 foot version, were independent, interconnected only by holes AT THE TOP OF EACH SELF CONTAINED BILGE. The original builder used a 400 gallon per hour automatic bilge pump in the forwardmost bilge, served by a 3/4" hose leading aft to the transom drain.. The remaining two bilges of any depth accessing the keel bolts had an inch and a half diameter manual bilge hose, served by the hand pump in the cockpit, and a selector switch to empty one hose or the other. I had expected greater quality from C&C. The electric bilge pump had long ago had its sodden wiring harness deteriorate from corrosion, and the inaccessibility of the pump for inspection or service made for guaranteed failure.

We had the boat hauled to check for any other damage, specifically issues with the through hulls and sea cocks, which had apparently never seen any servicing whatsoever. While hauled out, we had the bottom repaired for gelcoat blisters and new bottom paint applied. Now we could safely remove hoses and be secure about taking on water once we brought the boat back to the slip (the yard wouldn't allow me to do any servicing of the bilge pumps, myself, in the yard). Once the bilges were completely exposed, washed repeatedly to clean them of the filth that had accumulated over the years, we were able to determine what was going on. On large commercial craft, one can find bilge sump hoses that connect to the seawater intake pumps of big engines. They employ these as emergency bilge pumps if the boat is taking on a lot of water. Unfortunately, a previous owner had been sold on this idea for a small diesel engine impeller pump. Had they ever used it in practice, they would have discovered that in addition to not be terribly efficient in volume, but then they would have discovered the engine was now overheating from a clogged cooling system or shredded impeller blades. But, furthermore, the craftsman who installed the auxiliary bilge pump, used a ball valve to connect the engine seawater intake hose to the bilge intake strum, which over the years had lost its strainer screen, allowing crud, should it have been used, to enter the raw water pump. The current owner, not understanding the function of the ball valve, had opened it, unknowingly allowing about a gallon per minute of seawater to enter the bilge.

In addition to a range of related lack of maintenance issues, we realized something needed to be done to protect the boat and its crew in the future should the vessel begin taking on water from a burst hose, a failed shaft log (the hose clamps snapped off in my hands while inspecting them) or inundation from a wave. Now the fun begins.

The bilges are so small that only 700 gallon per hour automatic bilge pumps can fit. With 3/4" hoses, not a lot of water can flow. So, we are placing three individual bilge pumps, one in each primary bilge, with the small hoses leading, via integrated non return check valves, to a plastic pipe manifold, in turn drained by an inch and a half smooth bore hose, aft to the transom area where it climbs up to a loop and siphon break, then down and overboard. Each pump will have its own manual-off-auto switch and large gauge power wiring. I have never seen such a shoddy design as the original version from C&C.

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Old 15-07-2017, 09:48   #2
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Re: C & C 37, 1989, bilge pump issues

Originally Posted by Roy M View Post
...About a hundred gallons later, of foul black bilge water dumped overboard...
When I had a major oil leak, my bilge pumps stayed off until I fixed it, then I hauled about 150 gallons of oily water ashore to be disposed of before cleaning my bilge. It took many trips up and down the dock and hours to do.

I know hindsight is 20/20, a gallon a minute isn't an incredible amount, not a tiny drip either. I know water up to the floorboards is frightening for any owner. Did you try to come up with a way to not pump black bilge water overboard?

Just something I try to consider, what I'm putting overboard. I hope the owner continues to keep his bilge clean.

I love big boats and I can not lie.
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Old 16-07-2017, 00:36   #3
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Re: C & C 37, 1989, bilge pump issues

The C&C are not alone with the lack of drain holes to a common lower bilge, some of the Jeanneau models have the same issue and very shallow bilges, to solve we have drilled thru various ribs/bulkheads and epoxied plastic pipes in place allowing water to collect in two low area's (both with bilge pumps and float switches,

Dont be to quick to throw out the emergency bilge system using the engine water pump as if installed correctly (easy to get to the two way valve) and suitable non corrosive end filter, they can really help in an emergency as:

1) They are tireless and dont need electric power (flat batteries! or under water !)Many modern yachts dont have much of an bilge and the batteries are first to go under!)
2) They actually move quite a lot of water (especially compared to those small bilge pumps like 3/4"(Numerous engine pumps are 1")
3) If your sinking every bit counts
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Old 26-07-2017, 19:58   #4
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Re: C & C 37, 1989, bilge pump issues

Okay, a month later into the drama: Sorry, folks, none of your comments really resonated. The bilge solution had no, zero, petroleum. Pure organic crud, biodegradable, and removed with a wonderful biodegradable cleaner called T-Greaser. Then, once the bilge was cleaned and visible, the issue with the unconnected bilges was resolved with a Milwaukee 28 volt right angle drill (also known as "Winch Buddy", with a one-inch hole saw, drilling through the fiberglass webs to create limber holes. It's an ancient technology, clearly not understood by some modern shipwrights, but, hey, I've been building boats for forty-plus years, so I'm ancient.

The next stage was discovering that the 3/4 inch effluent hose was tie-wrapped and otherwise secured to adjacent hoses, then buried beneath the fuel tank,aft, made use of it awkward. Instead, since we now had a common bilge available, I was able to repurpose one of the manual bilge hoses, 1 1/2 inch diameter to connect to a new 1200 GPH Rule Automatic pump (small enough, physically, to fit into the bottom of the bilge cavity. Problem solved.

And, as far as using an impeller pump to evacuate bilge water, forget it. It WILL fail due to the garbage found in the sediment of most bilges. A centrifugal pump, found more often on commercial vessels, or most bilge pumps, will be more successful in handling cruddy water.
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Old 28-07-2017, 22:27   #5
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Re: C & C 37, 1989, bilge pump issues

I had a C&C 38 with a custom keel, I really loved that boat for the way it sailed, the light air capability as well as it's performance in a big sea when properly canvased. It was a very capable and comfortable boat.
Yes they have shallow bilges but that is part of the hull design that allows it to have the performance it was designed for.
Why not use a diaphram pump mounted in the engine compartment with a hose lead to the bilge with a strainer on the end. It will allow you to put a big capacity pump into a boat with a shallow bilge.
As for "scum and material in the bilge", if you don't take care of your boat and keep it relatively debris free then maybe you shouldn't venture far fro the dock. My boat had floor boards with a removable section in the center of the floorboards under the table to allow access to the deepest part of the bilge, it allowed access to maintain and clean the bilge. If you do it on the regular basis it's not a huge chore.
Adding access panels to the floorboards is not rocket science, it just takes a bit of imagination and some hardware.
The 37 has great sailing characteristics, it's well worth putting the effort into.
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