Technical Article: #007

Title: Fitting an Automatic Bilge Pump
Date Added: 7th June 2012
Article Author: Andy
Boat:
Hustler 30 – Hariette B
Job Time:
Around 2 days

Introduction

One thing that has troubled me over the winter is the volume of water that’s been collecting in the bilge. I’ve been trying to find where this is coming in from but it appears to be from things such as condensation, the odd worn sikalfex fitting (finding and repairing as I go) and the anchor well. It’s never been enough to cause a problem but I thought seeing as though I had the spares from a previous boat, it’s out of the water and I’m overhauling the entire boat, why not fit them?!

Components and Tools

Key Components Used

The components I used are as follows:

  • Rule 360 Bilge Pump
  • Rule Float Switch
  • Rule Switch Panel for the pump
  • Re-enforced water hose and plastic thru hull skin fitting
  • Non return valve
  • Jubilee Clips
  • Enough tinned wire and connectors to lead back to your always on electrical panel
  • Self Amalgamating Tape
  • Zip Ties

The tools used were my trusty Hole Saw, Screw Driver, Sharp Knife (for cutting the tube)

Your Pumps a bit of a tiddler!?
Yep, it’s a small one alright! That’s because this system is only used as maintenance of the bilge. Any serious failure with some proper pumping needed I use my big manual bilge pump in addition to a scared crew member with a bucket. However, there’s no reason why armed with a bigger pump that the same approach cannot be used.

Fitting the Pump – Where To Route The Pipes

The image below is what my bilge looked like pre-pump installation.
The bilge pre-pump installation

As you can see I have the “big boy” bilge pump running through the centre of the boat leading to an above the waterline exit point. However the challenge was where to route the new exit pipe for auto bilge. My choices were:

  1. Splice the exit pipe into the existing “big boy”
  2. Route the pipe into the Galley drain (below the water line)
  3. Splice into the existing cockpit drains (below the water line)
  4. Create a new route directly into the cockpit well allowing the water to then drain via the cockpit drains

I went with option number 4… Why?

Option number 1 meant using a lot more pipe and it meant more of the water needed to go uphill. This is something my little pump couldn’t manage, in addition I didn’t want to cut into a larger pipe, T it off then have a pipe conversion piece and fit multiple non return valves. It’s messy, too much to go wrong and clean should there be a jam and it gets way too expensive.

Option 2 would need a T piece and a single non-return valve. However, this would also mean I needed to consider the fact that water may come back into the boat and possibly into the galley sink. Not only that there may also be bilgey smells coming ffrom the sink due to old water being trapped in there.

Option 3 was similar to option 1 and 2 combined. I couldn’t risk the back flow of water into the bilge as all cockpit drains on Hustlers are below the water line. Again too much dependency on non-return valves.

Option Number 4 !

After some discussion on the YBW forums around this I went with option number 4. This involved me running the pipe along the bilge and exiting via the side of a cockpit locker. There’s a logic behind this…

  • If the pump is having to work whilst I’m underway then I immediately know there is something wrong and I can actually see it working rather than chancing hearing a buzzer if it’s blowy/choppy
  • As this is maintenance only if it does need to work I won’t be on the boat so won’t notice anyway
  • It’s less pipe for me to run therefore getting the best out of the cheap little pump
  • It’s nowhere near below the waterline
  • I don’t have to cut into existing pipework

The only downside is someone, one day may get a wet ankle but then again I also count that as a warning device :-)

Fitting The Pump

This is quite a straight forward process as they are quite easy to fit. First of all I measured all the pipes, wires and ensured they were all routed correctly. I then drilled the hole through the cockpit locker and fitted the exit pipe securely. My cockpit locker on this side isn’t really a cockpit locker. It’s the side of the quarter berth. However, I routed the pipe in such a way that you would never know it’s there unless it is pointed out.

autobilge04

Please excuse the mucky hull, I hadn’t cleaned the hull yet prior to launch (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it :-)). As you can see above the exit hole is at ankle level.

Connecting and Routing

In addition, everything was loosely connected together first. As it’s best to test it all before fixing and securing everything.

After a successful test I then set to work zip tying the whole lot. Any electrical cable joins I used self amalgamating tape in addition to Gel connectors. This was to add further protection should the wiring be exposed to water. The non return valve is placed just out of shot in the middle of the pipe.

Tidy wiring

So with everything secure and installed in place it’s time to fill the bilge with water.

Bilge Full of Water

Bilge Full

As you can see from the above image the switch panel red light has just triggered as the float has reached it’s switch activated position and the bilge is now draining.
Note the submerged wiring in places, make sure you waterproof those connections as much as possible!

Bilge Drained of Water

This is what the bilge now looks like freshly emptied. The whole process to empty the filled bilge was less than two minutes, which to be honest I think is pretty good for a little maintenance pump.

Bilge Drained

Bilge Water Emptying

This is what it looks like in the cockpit as it drains…. Like I said wet ankles and certainly visible should the worst happen when underway :-)

Bilge Emptying

Summary

It took a couple of days for me to do this as I was working out where to route pipes etc. I think with focused effort it should take a day for everyone else. I’m glad I’ve fitted this now as it’s another element of doubt eliminated. All in all it’s cost me around 100GBP for everything. Not bad for a little piece of mind.

HOA NOTE: The article above is related to works that the author has carried out to their own boat at their own risk. This article is intended to share the authors experience with other readers only. It is not intended to be a comprehensive step by step instruction guide. Anyone choosing to do any work as a result of reading this article do so at their own risk. If there is any doubt about whether to conduct work on your own boat call a professional to assist.