Bilge Pumps and Your Boat

One huge misconception is that bilge pumps are on a boat as a life safety feature and can save a boat from sinking.

Rule Pumps

Rule Pumps

Bilge pumps on your boat are an important device. We as Americans want to believe that we each have insurance policies on everything we do, keeping us safe and preventing disasters. Take the development of the bullet proof vest, when this invention got out we all took a huge sigh of relief, now anyone could stop a speeding bullet completely unscathed. Or how about the seat belt, doesn’t matter what kind of motor vehicle accident your involved in, the seat belt assures you that nothing will happen to you allowing you to walk away without so much as a scratch. The list goes on and on but I think you get the point. There is one piece of equipment that is often seen as a life saving too.

The piece of gear I am speaking of is found on almost every boat on the water today and is known as the bilge pump. This bilge pump is a 12 volt pump that sits in the lowest part of the boat, the bilge area of your boat that is responsible for removing water that has collected in the bilge. There are many sources of how water can enter a boat; rain water, small waves taken over the bow, raw water wash down systems and more. Depending on the size of your boat will dictate the GPM size and number of bilge pumps you would need to adequately handle causal water in these areas. One huge misconception is that bilge pumps are on a boat as a life safety feature and can save a boat from sinking. While this statement is not entirely incorrect, it is far from reality when it comes to taking on water while boating. Bilge pumps were and are designed to remove small amounts of water on a non-permanent basis from the bilge areas of vessels both in and out of the water. While the pumps have no knowledge of where the water was coming, and depending on the amount of water entering the hull, for instance, if your boat struck a submerged object knocking a hole in the hull, the chances that the pumps could save your vessel from ultimately sinking are remote at best.

This fact changes very little regardless of the size or quantity of the bilge pumps you have on board and they should be viewed not as equipment associated with life safety but as components for safer boating. When choosing the best bilge pump for your boat start with the area you have available to place the pump. Bilge pumps should be mounted at the lowest level of the bilge area, preferably near the back of the boat for 2 reasons; first it is easier to install and maintain the pump and second when the boat is up on a plane the casual water will collect in this area making it easier for the pump to remove all water present. Bilge pump manufactures like Rule or Attwood have charts to be used as guide lines when choosing the best size pump for your application. If you’re currently boating without a bilge pump get one installed before your next outing and for those of you who currently have a pump test it from time to time to ensure it is in good working order. Just like insurance, it’s worthless, until you need it.

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