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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2009

    Default How do I choose a bilge pump, if at all?

    I have an old Hartley Flareline 18' boat, which doesn't leak, but, as there is no specific floatation in it, figure that I ought to at least consider putting in a bilge pump "in case". It will only be used for day trips on Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne

    1) Is this a useful idea, or a waste of time. I'm just thinking that the likelihood of me going out in marginal weather is extremely small, and I'm having trouble thinking of other times when a bilge pump would be worthwhile (?v v v heavy rain).
    2) If it is a worthwhile idea, how many g/l p hr do I need for it to be worthwhile?
    3) Would I be better off just putting some foam floatation in the boat, and having a waterproof phone cover to ring for help?
    Thanks in advance.
    Andrew Allan

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Eustis, FL, USA


    There's only one rule to sizing a bilge pump, install the biggest darned one you can. A quick moving thunderstorm can dump enough rain to easily overwhelm a small pump. A small leak or hole can permit a huge amount of water to enter a boat, especially powerboats when underway. I usually install two pumps, one slightly higher then the other, which works as a back up. The idea is if the first pump isn't keeping up with the leak, then the water level rises to the second pump and it kicks in to help out.

    Floatation in your boat that's enough to save the boat, means it's just barely afloat and this requires a lot of the internal volume of the boat be used up with this floatation. It's a stop gap measure at best, so rely on pumps and scuppers, not foam.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008


    Hi Andrew.

    PAR is spot on with his advice.

    RULE, make a big range of pumps, readily available in Aus and good quality, including any type of switch system you choose.
    Get 2 of the best you can afford.

    The best bilge pump. "a scared man in a sinking boat with a bucket." Sorry. Could not resist that old joke.


  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Aberfoyle Park SA


    Does it have to be one or the other?
    Flotation & bilge pumps do two different, although related, jobs.

    The bilge pump/s manage (relatively) small events & keep you functional to
    return to the ramp or to the nearest patch of dry land. For as long as there is
    power to drive them anyway. The bigger the pump, the more power they consume,
    so you need to match that against alternator output & battery capacity.

    Flotation (foam/bags/compartments) keeps you from losing the lot in the
    event of catastrophic failure/collision.
    Also makes it possible to stay in/with the boat.
    Port Phillip bay is a big place. I'd hate to be just a head in a PFD type 2 after dark.
    And I saw the aerial pics of the sharks near the Rip published in The Age back
    in the '80s...

    So I'd go for both if I could afford it.
    If I couldn't afford both... I'd be the dissenter to the above advice.
    My life is worth more than my convenience. I'd add flotation first.
    The US Coast Guard has a good guide on calculating how much you need & where
    to put it.

    Then I'd put in the biggest, gruntiest pumps I could afford (and power) second.
    I like the configuration PAR recommends. Makes seriously good sense.


  6. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Nowra NSW


    I go along with PAR regarding the bilge pump setup, that is, go big rather than small in the hope you will never need it. Brave lad going out in Port Phillip Bay in a PFD 2 rather than a PFD 1. Yes I know they both keep you afloat, but it's how they keep you afloat. The phone is a nice idea and seriously worth having but don't rely on it as your only means of communication because it's very hard to describe to someone who maybe looking for you where exactly they should be looking for you when the horizon is only three feet in front of you. I used to work as a SAR diver and you have no idea how hard it is to see someone in the water even when they are trying to attract your attention. Port Phillip Bay during the day, smoke flares and a handheld water resistant VHF, night time VHF again and also maybe either mini flares or parachute flare. The mini flares can be sown onto your life jacket so you always have them on you and from memory there are I think ten to a pack so you have ten chances for someone to see it.

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006


    If installing an auotmatic bolge pump on a float switch it is really good idea to have the output tube exitting the boat in a position that is very noticable from the helm position.
    Not only does this tell you that the pump has been running for along time but may may also alert you to other foriegn matter being pumped from your bilge. An alerting dash light to tell you the pump is running is also a good idea as this will tell you if the float switch has jamed and has continued to drive the pump witout water. A nhand operated bilge pump is also a worty consideration.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Eustis, FL, USA


    The simple addition of a light, when the pump is running is a common and desirable method to install a bilge pump. I install them the same way, regardless of boat or customer, they get a switch panel with a light mounted in a conspicous location, typically on the instrument panel. The DPTT switch offers an "Off" position, also an "On" position which turns on the pump, regardless of float position and an "Auto" position, which permits the pump to work if the float switch says it should. In the "On" and "Auto" positions, the light will come on if the pump is running. This is the only way I will install a pump and a good point that an Old Codger brings up.

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