Friday, December 16, 2011

Bilge pumps

To date, I have three bilge pumps on board. Basically, one bilge pump for each of my three water tight compartments. One pump in the cabin area, one pump in the engine room, and one pump in the lazarette. The pumps in the engine room and cabin area are 1 1/2" discharge, 3700 GPH Rule pumps with Water Witch sensors for the switch. The pump in the lazarette is a 1 1/8" discharge, Rule 1500 GPH. I have also made provisions in my hydraulic circuit to have on board a hydraulic pump rated @ 11,000 GPH. The hydraulic pump will be plumbed in to the engine room and forward cabin compartments, and I will direct which compartment it is to pump out via a valve and manifold. The 11,000 GPH hydraulic pump is a two inch discharge. The pumps all have an automatic float switch along with a manual switch. The pumps will have a control panel at the helm that alarms when water is high and an indicator light telling me if the pump is running. It's pretty easy and inexpensive to install an event counter on the pump, and that might be another handy device to have on board.

On past boats I've owned, bilge pump access has always been one of my pet peeves, and production builders seem not to care about ease of access. On this boat, I've tried to make all systems components within easy reach, and have avoided burying components to a point that maintenance becomes difficult. The bilge pump in the cabin area and lazarette are extremely easy to access and I'm happy with their placement. The 3600 GPH pump in the engine room is a different story, but I think I came up with a good solution to make this pump easy to service.

Hindsight being 20/20, I wish I would have moved the main engine forward in the boat by 8 or 10 inches. I placed the main engine as far forward to the center of the boat as possible, leaving the engine 8" off of the main bulkhead. That 8" separation gives me enough room to remove the belt guard bolts and be able to service/replace the serpentine belt on the front of the engine. The problem is that 8" really does not give me enough room to access the bilge pump which is under the engine, on the port side, and up against the bulkhead. The real problem is that the bilge under the engine mounts, is over 24" deep, and making pump connections will be extremely difficult at best. The other issue complicating this job is that all the hydraulic lines for the steering, bow thruster, and anchor winch penetrate the water tight bulkhead in this area, so access is not only tight, but it is crowded. The hydraulic lines received the premium real estate in the bilge and penetrate the bulkhead at a high elevation which makes them relatively easy to connect.

The solution I came up with for the engine room bilge pump was to make a bracket on a post and mount the pump to that. The pump mounting post then screws to the bulkhead wall. I installed plywood on both engine room bulkheads, and that decision is paying some dived-ens given the amount of equipment I've attached to the bulkheads without worrying about hitting a nailer. The flexible 1 1/2" bilge pump discharge line is already connected through the bulkhead before I lower the pump in to place. I make the pump to discharge connection while the pump is out of the bilge, make the wire connections, then lower the pump on it's bracket in to the bilge, and bolt the bracket to the bulkhead with four screws. Removal or installation of the pump takes less than a few minutes. The thing I like about this way of mounting the pump is that if I event suspect the pump has a chance to get oil fouled due to work being done in the engine room, I can easily lift it out of harms way, do my work, then easily and quickly replace it. I have about five or six hours in making the bracket and tweeking it, but for me, this is time well spent. I know the older I get, the more difficult it is going to be to cram myself in tight places, and being able to easily service this pump will make life on board much more user friendly. Now that I've had the pump in and out of the bilge a few times, I'm totally happy with this set up as it's a breeze to make the pump connections while the pump is sitting on the engine room door's threshold.

For the lazzarette pump and forward cabin pump, I fabricated some stainless steel brackets. The pump base bolts to the bracket and the pump snaps to the pump base. I tapped threads the metal the fabricated bracket screws to so I could use 10-24 stainless machine screws to mount the bracket. These pumps are easy to access by so no fancy post contraption needed to be fabricated.

I kind of frown on boats that have a rats nest of wire and wire nuts dangling in the bilge for the wire connections on bilge pumps. I decided that I want all my wire connections in a good junction box, so that's what I did. For me, it's all about future maintenance and not having to contort myself for basic service work.

I don't have the hydraulic crash pump installed and probably won't have it for a few years. I've made all the plumbing preparations for the pump in regard to the bulkhead penetrations, and the hydraulic circuit. This pump, more than likely, will not get installed until we get the boat in to the gulf a few years from now.

The engine room bilge pump and forward cabin pump discharges along side the water tank fill manifold on the port side of the boat. The discharge lines loop 12" above the discharge port then drop back down to the discharge port. The discharge port is 12" above the water line.

I'm using a drippless seal for my prop shaft, so I'm planning on a dry bilge in the engine room. Given the boat is steel, I feel as having dusty bilge's is a realistic goal. And while I feel as if I will probably never use my bilge pumps, I want a good installation that is easy to service and maintain so when the day comes that the pumps are needed, I can rely on my end of the work as not contributing to a failure.


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