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Old 31-05-2016, 18:28   #1
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Question Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

Hello all,

Long time lurker, (~7 years), but NOW! - NOW! We are 23 days away from Sailing Away as a full-time cruising family. We bought a new Lagoon 450 in 2012, and have sailed her for 6 months total in Europe and the Carib over the last 4 years.

I am re-reading "Safer Offshore" by Ed Mapes and I really like the book, but I was flipping back to the Monitoring and Maintenance Checklist and my eyes popped out when he says check the bilges 6x a day.

I know I am not a diligent enough cruiser. I do walk around the boat every day and look for loose cotter pins, and things out of order. Check the oil levels on the yanmars every few days (2x a day really!?), check the quality of the exhaust when running the engines fairly often (on start and every 90 minutes or so). I check on the house battery a few times a day of course. But I lift the bilge boards only when opening and closing the holding tanks, or every few days when I think of it. We have bilge alarms and except for one occasion the bilge has been dry. I do not check the standing rigging 2x a day, do you guys?

Do you really check your belts and hoses 2x a day?

I have been scanning past posts and I am gathering that no, most people do not approach this level of diligence.

What do you guys *actually* do?

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Old 31-05-2016, 18:56   #2
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

I love my bilge pump cycle counter. All I have to do is press a button and I can see how often the bilge pump has turned on. Too many times and I know there's something wrong. Even so, if the pump is running continuously, as happened to me once due to a pinched hose, the cycle counter won't necessarily let you know that.

Anyway, Water Witch or a similar brand -- it's about $100 and very easy to install.

I check the oil (and coolant) before every departure.

The rigging I check every once in a while.
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Old 31-05-2016, 19:04   #3
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

Sounds paranoic.
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Old 31-05-2016, 19:13   #4
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

Simple answer: NO, we don't do anything approaching that level of paranoia.

I think that once one is experienced with one's boat that one knows instinctively when and what to check... but then I'm not an expert and I've never written a book.

Jim
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Old 31-05-2016, 19:39   #5
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

I have a trawler instead of a sail boat but here is my routine.

I look in the bilge and check battery first thing when I get out of bed. I have a bilge alarm but my bilge is rather flat and it would have more than 4 gallons in there before alarming. Call me paranoid but I've been scared once and that is enough. Also I once had a leak in the line from the engine to the hot water heater. If the bilge pump had just pumped that out I may not have known I had a problem until the engine temp. started increasing. Interesting thing about this one was that the upper part of the coolant header tank on the engine that was losing coolant was actually checking cooler than the other engine when the coolant was low enough that it was only in the bottom of the tank. Then I noticed a smell.


I just read Jim's comment. Yes a little paranoid but I have old engines and I don't have sails so the sooner I find an issue the better the chance of it being a small problem. Plus I don't get to trim sails so I get to do something!

Check all fluids and belt tension before engine start. Check gauges after start and water out the exhaust.

1/2 hour after beginning of movement full electrical and engine room check including using a IR thermometer on: coolant header tanks, oil sump, transmissions, prop shafts and packing glands and alternators. Use the nose for any abnormal smells and follow all liquid paths in to out. Check engine pans for fuel, oil or coolant. Check bilge.

If everything is normal after first check I check in an hour and if still normal I go to 4 hour checks. On a passage this will coincide with watch change and continues until destination or any change. For instance if the packing starts leaking more than I prefer or they are above 110F (2-3 drips a min. in my boat will keep the prop shafts and packing housing between 95 and 105F) I adjust and check every 1/2 hour until I'm sure it is stable. By the way 2 drips a min. typically evaporates and doesn't accumulate in the bilge. My engines don't use much (knock on wood engine 1 used 1.5 gallons and engine 2 used 2 gallons from Racine WI to Columbus MS) oil and have large sumps so I only shut down (just to) check oil every 48 hours so have only done so on the passage from Isla Mujeres to Ft Meyers.

Full check after shut down but I save the fluids check until morning when the engine room is cooler.

Check bilge and battery just before bed.
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Old 31-05-2016, 20:03   #6
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

Install a high water bilge alarm and have a light in the cockpit that comes on when the bilge pump turns on.

The best reason to check the bilge is for propane, fuel, coolant and oil leaks. Put an absorbent pad under the engine(s) so you can check the colour.
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Old 31-05-2016, 20:39   #7
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

Well... there's paranoia and there's sinking.

While in the Navy on a carrier, a requirement was every 4 HOURS, some poor guy was supposed to climb down 6 levels of ladder, opening and closing hatches each level to check for water at the bottom... then he had to climb back up, closing all the hatches behind. Repeat for each of the 4 shaft penetrations of the hull....
One day a guy actually tried to do it and the 3rd hatch sprayed water when he cracked the little valve to check. (following the book for how to do it... new guy)
The leak once found (40 ft below the hatch that leaked when checked...) was a leaking valve packing at less than a gallon an hour.
We calculated that it took MONTHS for that leak to fill that space!
Many thousands of dollars of damage due to the water... which would barely have have been a minor annoyance if it had been found in a normal 4 hr check.

Glad that wasn't my work center that wasn't doing the checks....

You may not need to check every 6 hours... but you need to make regular checks for water being where it doesn't belong.
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Old 31-05-2016, 22:19   #8
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

Thank you guys very much for these practical answers.

Going to do the absorbant pad under the engine, like that a lot.

Love the bilge cycling counter - great!

I think I do need to be more diligent about checking the hoses and the belts. I eyeball them before using the engine, but I should get in there and touch them.

Question - what would be a reasonable check of the standing rigging? I can climb my mast, but I do not enjoy doing it. Do you just run your eyes up the stays and look for something out of order or do you do something more rigorous more often?

Cheers & thank you
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Old 31-05-2016, 22:26   #9
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

what's a bilge? Oh that place that I vacuum the dust out of? Sorry to be such a wise acre. Come on, seriously, who checks their bilge 6x a day? As far as rigging, how old is it? Under 10 years? If there is going to be corrosion at the swaging it will most likely be on those on the chain plates, not up on the mast. BTW rust on the rigging itself is not an indication of weakness or impending failure. IF a swaging is cracked (check closely for hairline cracks extending down from the swaging) then yeah I'd say time to replace them.
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Old 31-05-2016, 22:27   #10
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

Quote:
Originally Posted by exitstrategy View Post
Thank you guys very much for these practical answers.

Going to do the absorbant pad under the engine, like that a lot.

Love the bilge cycling counter - great!

I think I do need to be more diligent about checking the hoses and the belts. I eyeball them before using the engine, but I should get in there and touch them.

Question - what would be a reasonable check of the standing rigging? I can climb my mast, but I do not enjoy doing it. Do you just run your eyes up the stays and look for something out of order or do you do something more rigorous more often?

Cheers & thank you
Daily checks oil, coolant, belt tension (.5 inch play), bilge.

Standing rigging. Weekly. Check for fish hooks (broken wire) while wearing a work glove. Check that cotter rings and split rings are in place. Check turnbuckles and chainplates. Check rigging tune - tap wire with a wrench / hammer and listen to the tone. Use binoculars to check tangs and spreader and caps.
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Old 31-05-2016, 22:40   #11
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Smile Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

Great, great practical suggestions - of course I could use the binocs to check the top of the standing rigging! Feel dumb.
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Old 31-05-2016, 22:49   #12
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

The only cheeking I do in the bilge is pour water in there every now and then to confirm correct operation of bilge alarm and pump then dry them out till next time I want to put some water in the bilge.
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Old 01-06-2016, 04:55   #13
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

I am not living aboard now ,but will check bilges if boat has not been visited .for a number days.
IF making a coastal passage,once a day .

In the bad ole days when on an ocean passage,we checked at the end of each watch change and the number of strokes required to empty were noted in the ships log.
This was noted along with other relevant events(weather,sail changes, taffrail log reading,whales sighted,etc.).
Wooden boats always "made water" in rough weather due to the working of the hull and constant water sluicing across the decks,but of course all boats seem to when driven hard.

...................................luv you all...............................mike............ .......................


BTW: what the heck is a taffrail log?
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Old 01-06-2016, 07:52   #14
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

When things are easy to check it's not such a big deal. Example is our bilge watch system. We have a 10 position Hart Tank Tender and didn't need all the positions so we just hooked up one of the positions to the forward bilge (in front of crash bulkhead) and one to the main bilge right next to the bilge pump. No need for looking in the bilge, we can just use the Tank Tender which is in the chart house (pilot house) next to other important gauges. There in the chart house, we also have a separate light that goes on each time one of the primary bilge pumps on. There's a switch to manually turn on each pump there as well. If I want to see the bilge, it's easy enough in this boat to do so right in front of the engine compartment through an access door. I don't even have to bend over, I just open the access, shine the flashlight and see essentially the lowest part of the bilge right there.

Focus on bilges? We sail a restored 1931 schooner. It's wood and in theory--be design--could have more problems than a fiberglass boat with water intrusion. Because of our recent rebuild, it doesn't work/move while underway and does remain dry. As an aside: Not all wood boats leak, only those in need of maintenance or beyond the service life of the existing hull. Similarly, not all decks leak, just those in need of deck maintenance or on a boat with too much sailing-related working/movement due to need of hull maintenance. Though the bilges of this boat are dry except for water we get from the (intended) drip of the packing gland, we check bilge levels frequently unless sitting in a slip hooked up to shore power. Then it might be once a day to check. While underway, the on watch person checks the bilge with no less frequency than when they're writing a log entry because they're standing right next to the Tank Tender when writing the entry. Easy to check, it will be done. Hard to check, it is less likely.

The thing that will bring us a wet bilge is if we're in heavy weather and we do not close the thru hull to a particular bilge pump residing under the engine. We have two there (redundant) and one has a lower vent loop than we'd like but such is life when you have extra pumps and need a place for the hoses to go. We only close the thru hull on it if in big seas though.

Other systems? Frequency usually minimum is once per watch period to check engine systems (if using the engine), look at the raw water intake (often see little bits of trash in there or sometimes tiny fish) alongside our cat who likes watching the water swirl around (the intake filter is in the head where it can be seen every time you're in there for that matter) and rigging chafe/sails etc. If we're sailing in heavy weather or challenging seas, I'm more likely to be looking closely at things for leaks (e.g. around the chain plates, mast partners) than if we're tootling along on mill-pond-flat seas and light air.

At anchor, we have boat position alarms, wind direction alerts, wind speed alerts, etc to help us out but we are pretty careful to walk around and inspect anchor gear in use--looking for chafe, wear, "impending doom" of whatever sort might be in the mind's eye of the watch stander.

Otherwise? We wander around while underway and pay attention to what we're seeing. Use the binoculars to check things aloft, yes.

Some people notice things more readily than others do. Some folks don't leave the cockpit or pilothouse so they don't see a thing. Some people just walk around their boat and see things out of sorts in a way that might lead to damage or wear whereas other folks can be doing an "inspection" and not see what's right there in front of them. You have to know yourself and what you're capable of taking note of. If you're the sort who doesn't notice wear, tear, dirt, shiny spots, whatever might give you an up-front clue then it might be best to train yourself to do regular and frequent inspections. If you've made it easy to inspect things, eventually the inspections will turn into walks about the boat interior and deck that won't seem like a whole lot of effort anyway. Hopefully you'll be noticing if something is moving, loosening, chafing, wearing, tightening, etc, just as you're doing your walks about on deck.

Best of luck.
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:43   #15
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Re: Do you guys check your bilges 6x a day!?

I pretty much rely on noticing the bilge pump light, and high water alarm, I may occasionally look down there every morning.
I check oil and coolant level before every day of running, but once in a while I crank it and shut it down three days later, but I know my oil consumption is almost zero, so I don't shutdown usually every day to check oil level.

Military generators had two marks on the stick, one for when the engine is running, I haven't tried to see if that would work on my Yanmar, maybe it would?

Part of my Zeuss is the capability of displaying two different video sources, I haven't done it yet, but my idea is to have one camera on the engine and the other looking at the packing gland, that way I can check both without leaving the cockpit.
Maybe after I get the HF installed

I don't understand the checking standing rigging with a glove thing, I do understand what we call "meathooks" in aircraft maintenance, it's broken wires in a flight control cable, use a rag to inspect for, but the wires on my standing rigging are huge by comparison, I mean fish hook sized, one of those breaks and you see it from ten ft away, no rag or glove needed?
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