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Old 12-08-2016, 20:53   #1
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Location: Chesapeake bay area
Boat: 1971 cal 27
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bilge pump bs

so, we've all learned that you aren't supposed to use a check valve with a bilge pump. it's in all the instructions for rule bilge pumps. its in articles on-line. it's in the FAQ section on rule bilge pumps.

if you use one the pump may fail to operate due to a few different issues.

airlock conditions may form.

the check valve may get stuck open.

the check valve may get stuck shut.

the water on the other side of the valve may be too heavy for the pump to push open once the flow is interrupted.

just google 'why can't i use a check valve with my bilge pump' and you'll see all the reasons written out. the long and the short: if you use a check valve, your boat may sink.

now, i have a 1971 cal 27 pop top that i am refitting. when i bought it the first thing i had to do was install a bilge pump; marina's orders. i did so per the rules. i always do things the right way. no shortcuts or half-assed fixes. i'm like ford: quality is job one.(that is ford, right?)

it worked fine. as we all know, there is always a little water in the hose that comes back when the pump stops pumping. no big deal. never enough to make the pump come back on.

two years later.

a lady who lives aboard a cal 2-27 asked me to install a bilge pump for her. she has never had one. her boat recently started leaking around a through hull and gave her quite a scare. they got it patched temporarily and used an AC powered bilge pump to empty the bilge.

the marina manager recommended she get a rule 800, which she did before she asked me to install the pump. i told her it was too small and she should have gotten an 1100 like mine but, i installed it. i wired it to a switch so she had off/manual/auto functions.

her bilge is different than mine, although her boat has a similar draft (lapworth designed a completely different boat for each of the 3 cal 27s). my bilge is the same depth back to front. so, my pump sits in the middle of a space that is as wide as hers but as long as my entire fin keel.

her bilge has a step. the forward 1/2 (or more) is pretty shallow and the final part is deep. this means that, while the space her pump sits on is no narrower than the one in my boat, it's quite short.

she first wanted me to route her hose to the transom to use the through hull that her whale manual pump used (no extra holes in the boat). i never thought this would work. her freeboard is a good bit higher than mine; meaning it's a lot farther to get up out of that bilge to free air.

as i thought, the pump just kept running. it emptied the bilge but, kept pumping out the last hose full over and over.

it had to be a shorter run! but, she didn't want any more holes in the hull. what to do? well, i had an idea. i could put a through hull in the cockpit bench, right near the top of the bridge deck. she will never take the boat out of the bay and, if it became a concern in bad weather, she could always turn off the pump and plug the through hull. the scuppers could certainly handle the water from the bilge. shortest run possible. but, i didn't have a through hull so i'd have to do it the next day. (she also had me take out the 800 and put an 1100 in)

unbeknownst to me (because she never told me) she took the pump out of the deep bilge, after i left, and put it in the shallow bilge.

so, i install the through hull fitting and cut the hose, fitting it to the through hull properly, so i thought. after it's done, i say about testing the pump and she says we'll have to put it back in the lower bilge! there was just enough hose....barely.

we put water in the bilge. it works but the pump has to cycle 4 to 5 times before the returning water doesn't turn the pump back on. even with the absolute shortest run, it's almost too much water. even though the run in mine is now longer, the fact that the space her pump occupies is so small means the little water rushing back in gets too deep.

but, it works fine. i explain the situation. the fact that it will, ultimately, stop cycling. it just takes a bit. i figure all is fine.

during the night she decides to see if it does work properly and dumps water in it. since it doesn't stop cycling immediately, she takes it back out of the bilge! she talks to the marina manager again and he suggests a check valve. she goes out and buys one along with more hose so i can rerun the hose, since she caused it to get cut short... i haven't seen it yet. hope she got a joker valve and not a spring operated valve.

[note about the hose: she hasn't considered that it's not necessary to rerun the entire hose since i have to unhook the hose from the pump, fit on the check valve, and add a piece of hose so i can reconnect to the pump.i hope she didn't rip it out! it was a pain to fish in.]

i tried to tell her, before, that you were not supposed to use a check valve on these. that it can cause pump failure. even showed her the place in the instructions where it says that (with a magnifying glass! who do they write those things for? ant man?)

anyhow, she's adamant about it. the marina manager (who recommended the too small pump) said that's what you do. i told her i would talk to the guys at rule and see what they say.

so....what did they say?

he said to put in a check valve!?!

yeah. read that one again.

after all the hoopla. the warnings in the instructions, the FAQs, all the other stuff on-line about not using a check valve or your boat will sink. he says use a check valve. (a joker valve and not a spring operated one.)

i was like, " but, what about warnings in the instructions, the FAQs, all the other stuff on-line about not using a check valve or your boat will sink?"

he tells me, that's why he asked if the hose outlet was at the waterline. some people (sheer idiots, i suppose) think that putting a check valve at the outlet of a hose that dumps near the waterline is sufficiently safe to keep water from coming back in. that's what you don't install a check valve to do: hold out the ocean. but, he says, the proper reason to install one, down near the pump, is to deal with backflow from water stuck in the hose.

i am just blown away. if that is the case, why not say so on the instructions and FAQs and all the other stuff on-line about check valves and bilge pumps?

(ha! got you. bait and switch. you probably thought i was going to finish with "...about not using a check valve or your boat will sink". crafty little bugger, aren't i?)

that just blows me away. really. i'm no longer, here, typing this. i'm bouncing along down the street, on the wind.

we go wherever we want to go. that's what a ship is, you know. it's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails. that's what a ship needs. but what a ship is...really freedom---captain jack sparrow
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Old 12-08-2016, 21:27   #2
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Re: bilge pump bs

The check valve greatly reduces the amount of water that gets pumped out per minute.

" Wisdom; is your reward for surviving your mistakes"
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Old 12-08-2016, 21:58   #3
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Re: bilge pump bs

This saga is played out by every boater at one point or another. You're not "invested" in this. It's not your boat. If you clearly communicated your pearls of wisdom and it didn't take, it didn't take. I do suggest that you think of this boat owner as a smart person capable of learning. Provide her with links to online forums (like this one) as well as other groups where she might get good info -- like the boat owner's group for her boat type. Suggest a couple books like Nigel Caulder's for example. We learn differently--some from reading, others from personal discussion.

We all take our time learning what we learn. The information has to hit us upside the head a few times and sometimes many, many times before it sinks in and we have that "ah-ha!" moment. Everyone eventually gets it at some point. And this person will, too. Be a good boat-friend and supply her with resources to help out.

Don't feel affronted when your advice isn't taken. I know of people with check valves and without them and both arguments have actually made sense on some occasions. We don't have check valves but I can imagine a situation or two in which I would install a check valve. Nothing about boating is really black and white--we're all operating in the gray.

Fair winds,
"The only noble thing a man can do with money is to build a schooner." Robert Louis Stevenson

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Old 13-08-2016, 00:25   #4
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Re: bilge pump bs

I had a rule vane type pump and a check valve to empty my shower sump. It was very susceptible to air lock, and I had to burp it every time after we heeled over.

I'd put in a diaphragm bilge pump.
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bilge, bilge pump

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