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Old 16-06-2024, 11:18   #1
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Oops - a case for power off!

The other day while at anchor I was doing the dishes when all of a sudden I could hear my water pump going flat out!

I immediately turned off the pump and pulled up floor boards. After much hunting I found a loose hose clamp that had come apart.

The point is some of us are diligent when we leave our vessels for the day; turn off propane and water valves or even all the power. Had this happened while I was ashore I would have returned to empty fresh water tanks!

Not a big deal when on the Pacific coast of BC and Alaska but there are many cruising locations where clean drinking water is not plentiful or free! No water maker? More diligence is warranted.

Its sometimes the simply things that save us the most grief, time and money…

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Old 16-06-2024, 11:23   #2
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

The exact same thing literally happened to me 2 days ago, Must be something in the weather. Fortunately we were there and caught it right away because it was pumping water by the water heater under my bunk
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Old 16-06-2024, 12:08   #3
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

The fresh water pump breaker is the one thing I always turn off when leaving the boat for exactly that reason. It's the most pressurized system on board, so the easiest to have a messy failure without warning.
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Old 16-06-2024, 12:38   #4
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

Even worse are those who have pressurised mains feed going into their boats. A leak here when not on board will sink the boat.

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Old 16-06-2024, 12:56   #5
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

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Even worse are those who have pressurised mains feed going into their boats. A leak here when not on board will sink the boat.

Pete
It'll make a heck of a mess (and shouldn't be left on for that reason). But most hose feeds will be hard pressed to deliver even 20 gpm. And if your bilge pumps can't keep up with that for at least a few hours then I'd consider the boat to be dangerously under pumped.
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Old 16-06-2024, 13:08   #6
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

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It'll make a heck of a mess (and shouldn't be left on for that reason). But most hose feeds will be hard pressed to deliver even 20 gpm. And if your bilge pumps can't keep up with that for at least a few hours then I'd consider the boat to be dangerously under pumped.
Nevertheless two years ago a 35ft powerboat in my marina sank for exactly that reason.
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Old 16-06-2024, 14:03   #7
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

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It'll make a heck of a mess (and shouldn't be left on for that reason). But most hose feeds will be hard pressed to deliver even 20 gpm. And if your bilge pumps can't keep up with that for at least a few hours then I'd consider the boat to be dangerously under pumped.
That's 4500 LPH. I don't think my 3 pumps could keep this up.
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Old 16-06-2024, 15:38   #8
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

Among the least reliable things onboard are the float switches for your bilge pumps, and if these stick on they can seriously drain your batteries and burn themselves out at the same time. Yet, I never disconnect them because I prefer that to possibly not having them go on. Still, many boats have had their batteries flattened by the bilge pumps. What I have done is put my main float switch quite high in the bilge so most of the time it is high and dry. When I use the boat I manually pump the bilges periodically, letting me know how much water is there and hopefully preserving the float switch for when it is really needed. However, test the float switch periodically if you do this.
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Old 16-06-2024, 16:46   #9
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

Let me add my 2c here...

Best thing I ever did was fit an alarm system to the bilge pump.

I will want to know why the bilge pump kicked on asap, so I can find and rectify the problem, before water starts coming over the floorboards, shorts the batteries, etc.

I speak from experience here, nothing like finding water washing over your floorboards at midnight to get your attention.

I have fitted an alarm that makes an ear splitting sound to wake the dead or at very least the helmsman. The alarm is fitted with an on/off switch to silence the sound, once action is in motion.

At sea, my paranoia extends to shutting off all the thru' hulls, but for the engine intake, and maybe one or two other, usually the head. This directs my attention to their location without having to hunt down the problem elsewhere.

I've also had water hoses break, so natch, all water pumps are switched off at the circuit board.

Have also made it a habit to lift the floorboards every hour or so to take a peek.

After a while it all becomes pretty routine.
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Old 17-06-2024, 11:06   #10
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

When leaving the boat, I ALWAYS switch off the main selector switches. The bilge pump and VHF radio are connected directly to the batteries (with isolating diodes to BOTH house batteries and auto-resetting circuit breakers) so they remain on.

And my bilge pump switches are not connected directly to the bilge pumps. They have relays in between so that only a tiny current goes through the switch. They seem to last MUCH longer that way.

And as McHughV above also noted, I have a loud alarm on the higher of the two pumps so that, if it ever gets activated, everybody aboard knows.
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Old 17-06-2024, 12:04   #11
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

Quote:
Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
It'll make a heck of a mess (and shouldn't be left on for that reason). But most hose feeds will be hard pressed to deliver even 20 gpm. And if your bilge pumps can't keep up with that for at least a few hours then I'd consider the boat to be dangerously under pumped.
My pumps could theoretically deal with that, but I wouldn't want to test it.

I always turn off the water system when I leave the boat for more than a couple of minutes.

And I shut off through hulls when I'm off the boat overnight.

More than a couple days off the boat and refrigeration and the whole electrical system gets shut down.
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Old 17-06-2024, 12:12   #12
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

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Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
Among the least reliable things onboard are the float switches for your bilge pumps, and if these stick on they can seriously drain your batteries and burn themselves out at the same time. Yet, I never disconnect them because I prefer that to possibly not having them go on. Still, many boats have had their batteries flattened by the bilge pumps. What I have done is put my main float switch quite high in the bilge so most of the time it is high and dry. When I use the boat I manually pump the bilges periodically, letting me know how much water is there and hopefully preserving the float switch for when it is really needed. However, test the float switch periodically if you do this.

Ever since they banned mercury in them (20 years ago?), cheap float switches suck.


I use Ultra Junior ones, which are very heavy, with massive contacts, which are very reliable.


This does not solve the problem with my gray water tanks, which use bilge pump type float switches to activate the Whale Gulper pumps. The original mercury ones lasted for a long time, but since they failed (within a year of each other), I've been through a bunch of replacements trying to find one which will last for more than a year.



I used a Johnson Ultima solid state switch in my forward gray water tank, and that's now on its third year. I have another one ready to use in the aft tank, when the mechanical one in there now fails. Touch wood, this one could be the one.


The Ultra switches are too big for the gray water tanks (and expensive!).
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Old 17-06-2024, 14:14   #13
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

I should have mentioned the opposite problem too--the float switches that fail in the off position and never turn on even when your floorboards are floating. So, they don't drain your batteries at least! That was one thing I absolutely loved about our 32-foot cat. There were no through hulls below the waterline that ever got left on except when in use, so unless we got a hole in the hull we were unlikely to ever sink from the usual failed hose. We also had watertight compartments fore and aft in each hull, and lots of foam behind a bunch of other panels. In fact, I didn't even have an automatic bilge pump. I could hook up some manual pumps for emergencies, but the bilges were usually so dry we stored canned goods down there.
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Old 17-06-2024, 15:46   #14
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

Also - Power off the engine start battery switch when leaving the boat for more than a few hours. A friend’s boat was on the hard and suddenly self-started!
Fortunately someone was standing near it and heard it start, saw it was running without hose water to cool it and was able to shut it down before the engine self-destructed.
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Old 19-06-2024, 05:47   #15
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Re: Oops - a case for power off!

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Also - Power off the engine start battery switch when leaving the boat for more than a few hours. A friend’s boat was on the hard and suddenly self-started!
Yep, I recently rewired my main power switches so I have a separate switch that disconnects the engine and alternator circuits. Another switch turns off or on the house loads so I can leave things like the fridge running when away from the boat while having the engine starting circuit off. Also makes it much easier to work on the engine safely.
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