Keep the bilges dry

I’m sure many of the sailboat owners who keep up on Satori can recall a moment with their own vessel when they realize that this big and beautiful yacht can sink. Not only can it sink, it can sink quickly if there isn’t a way to automatically pump water overboard fast enough to keep up with any water leaking into the boat. Fortunately when I first bought Satori there was  a 500 gallon per minute automatic bilge pump wired up to the 12 volt system. Unfortunately that is all that was available aside from a bucket to keep up with any potential issues with water in the bilge. I then realized that there was an actual manual bilge pump installed but after inspecting it, I also realized that is was not working and the bilge hose was full of calcification. About a year ago I replace the small bilge pump and let that be the one that cycles the most often. They are inexpensive and will probably last a couple of years before needing replacing. No problem since it isn’t intended to do more than remove water from the primary bilge. Even when it turns on, there is a back flow that does not allow the bilge to be totally emptied. That is because it cannot push all of the water out due to it’s design so about a half a gallon remains in the bilge no matter what. So I would also use my wet-dry vacuum to suck out the remaining water and then use a sponge to remove the remaining water to dry the bilge completely. Back in February I also installed a secondary high volume pump that switches on and sounds an alarm in the cockpit when the smaller pump could not keep up with the water entering the bilge. I unintentionally tested it’s worthiness once when I accidentally left the primary switch turned off. The big one was cycling on and off so the alarm would sound every thirty seconds. Fortunately someone called me from the marina office and I was able to run down and turn on the primary and fix the cycling issue.

Both bilge pumps installed. Total of 2800 gph (minus head)
Both bilge pumps installed. Total of 2800 gph (minus head)

The only thing left to do was to get a manual large volume pump installed. I debated about rebuilding the Whale 25 and eventually found the rebuild kit online and then added a Y-valve to the primary pump outlet hose, rebuilt the pump and installed it again. I then checked the output of the pump by turning off all of the automatic ones and then filled the bilge with five gallons of water and then pumped it out using the Whale pump in a matter of a handful of pumps once the pump primed. Unfortunately the pump tends to fill with water and not drain out so I ended up disconnecting the hose so the water would drain out and then reconnected it.  Unless for some reason I actually need to use the pump, it’s better to keep it ready and just make sure it works properly. Just like every system on the boat, regardless if it’s for emergency it needs to be dependable and tested to make sure it works in case one day Satori really is taking on water and the electric pumps fail. I’ve read over and over again about a boat taking on water and the electric pumps failed because either the batteries could not produce enough energy or because the pump finally failed. I’ve also heard of suggestions that you should have two manual pumps aboard; one down below and another in the cockpit so you can either steer the boat while pumping or if it’s too dangerous to be outside then you can continue pumping down below. I don’t plan on having two pumps but at the very least I have one dependable pump with brand new rubber components.

The old manual bilge pump in need of a rebuild.
The old manual bilge pump in need of a rebuild.

Okay now for some insight on the rebuild. First was using a half a gallon of distilled vinegar to clean the corrosion from all of the parts. Then I was able to remove all of the screws, which there are many. Once everything was apart, I scrubbed the pump and removed any paint that was flaking away due to the corrosion of alloy under the paint. I debated about completely removing the paint and then applying a new coat but then decided that it wasn’t worth it since there isn’t much actual rust showing on the pump body. Once I scrubbed everything, I began putting it back together with the new parts, with just the sealing gasket left. To make sure the gasket sealed properly I used a silicone caulking to hold the gasket inside the groove, then once the silicon dried I clamped down the pump plates and finally applied a liberal amount of silicon to seal the housing shut. I would normally not use silicon but this is one time where it makes perfect sense to assist in getting a proper seal. I couldn’t think of another option that would behave as well as silicon does. Finally I mounted the pump back where it came from.

Whale Gusher 25 rebuild, parts removed
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild, parts removed
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild parts ready for assembly
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild parts ready for assembly
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild sealing gasket with silicon
Whale Gusher 25 rebuild sealing gasket with silicon

Now that Satori has her bilge pumps to keep dry, I now only need to deal with moisture from condensation, leaks and other reasons why there would be water flowing into the bilge. Currently the water pump leaks a little. Not enough to cause the pump to switch on. Also the refrigerator is dripping from melting and condensation and the excess flows into the center bilge. I keep towels down below to pick up whatever water they absorb and cycle them about once per week. The primary bilge stays dry if I do not use the motor and once it starts to get a few liters inside I will use a wet-dry vacuum to pick up the little bit and keep it dry. Keeping a bilge dry is important because it keeps the humidity down inside of the boat and also keeps odors away since there is less mildew accumulating. Finally it prevents the stainless water tanks from corroding as well as preserving the life of the little pump since it isn’t always immersed in water. I have been debating about getting a self-priming pump to do the work of the vacuum and towels, by sucking everything dry. Although that would be nice to have, I don’t think it’s really that important since the vacuum only comes out every few weeks. I don’t think I could eliminate towels though so I don’t see the point. Perhaps if I could circulate air down there with a fan and use a self-priming pump in combination that might solve it but personally I don’t think it’s worth the extra cost and that’s where I draw the line.

Since I bought Satori, I did have a goal to keep her much drier and eliminate all of her leaks and standing water. Mission accomplished so let’s move on to other more important things.

4 Replies to “Keep the bilges dry”

  1. Hi,

    I was just wondering if this is the same Westsail 32 Satori that was in the video caught out in the perfect storm on the east coast?

    Mark

    1. Mark, no it is not the same boat. As far as I know, there are only three Westsails named Satori; one here on the west coast and another registered in Texas, plus the one Ray Leonard used to own which is the one you are referring to. If you’re ever curious about a boat, just do a search through the USCG vessel database search. Not all vessels would be listed but as you can see, it’s common for boats to share the same name.

  2. The Whale pumps are aluminum, not steel. Corrode they will, rust they will not. Check it with a magnet.

    Hand pumps are relatively useless. It would take three Norwegians to keep up with any serious flooding.

    You might consider an engine driven bilge pump. I have one that pumps 100 gpm via a hydraulic pump belt driven off the engine. It is a positive displacement pump (flexible impeller) that can deliver an 85 ft head. Serious pump for serious flooding. Your head overboard can flood in at 62 gpm, 1/4 ton/minute.

    1. Steve, yes you are correct. Edited to alloy instead of iron. Thanks for the correction. I do plan on using the engine at some point but I was considering diverting the raw water intake but it’s only a 36 horse diesel so probably not a lot of water would be pumped to keep up with 62 gallons of incoming. Looks like a solid backup that might actually keep Satori afloat long enough to get her to shore. If you have any suggestions on make and model that would outlast the engine, I would appreciate it. It’s the first time I’ver heard of such a contraption and it sounds like a worthwhile solution. A fifth backup with the highest output volume run by the motor is perfect. Thank you!

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