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An internal manual bilge pump for storm conditions

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What is the issue?
Most yacht bilge pump arrangements have one manual pump operated from the cockpit and a central electric pump. These do not lend themselves to enduring extreme conditions when a vessel has elected to adopt a 'batten down' strategy and the cockpit may be unsafe. This positioning eliminates the use of the cockpit manual pump.

Why address this?
In these conditions, it is also critically important to reduce the draw on the battery power. Hence it is not ideal to use the power-hungry central electric bilge pump.

How to address this?
Add a third manual pump in the cabin sole so that the vessel may be manually pumped without going above decks. If a large volume of water has gone below it will be difficult to pump out if the boat is pitching and rolling. It may safer to turn head to sea and lie hove to while it is done.

Manual pump
Photo: Courtesy of SEAFLO

This recommendation comes directly from the 'Fastnet 79' (link to download as zipped PDF of the special incident report External link) disaster that cost the lives of 15 sailors. One of the earliest inquiries into the disaster was published jointly by the RYA and the Royal Ocean Racing Club (available as a PDF External link) noted that the race should...'teach owners the value of elementary equipment. Several crews commented adversely on the use of the heads pump as the second bilge pump. They felt that it was in the wrong part of the accommodation, too far forward in the hull with insufficient space to work and that the complicated plumbing involved was inappropriate to such an important item of equipment.

It also made further observations regarding bilge pumps 'Pumps which discharged into the cockpit were also criticised, as when there was a large quantity of water in the hull the cockpit did not drain effectively and had itself to be balled. The lack of any adequate bilge sump caused much annoyance, and although it was probably not relevant to the ultimate safety of the yacht, it was certainly a factor in lowering morale and increasing the risk of hypothermia due to wet clothes and bedding, because of the difficulty in removing the last few gallons of water from a hull with no depth of bilge or sump. Many competitors reported that a stirrup pump was extremely useful for removing water which could not be drained into the main bilge and for clearing the water from boats with very shallow bilges.'

This was then specifically addressed in section 8.21: Bilge pumps, at least two, manually operated, one of which must be operable with all cockpit seats and all hatches and companionways closed. At least one of the bilge pumps shall be securely fixed to the yacht's structure '. (Category 3 only, alternative to 8.21: One manual bilge pump operable with all cockpit seats, hatches and companionways closed.) It is also recommended for Special Regulation relating to bilge pumping should require bilge pumps to discharge overboard and not into a cockpit, unless the cockpit is open-ended. It has since become standard in most seagoing racing yachts that have hatch-boards and should be implemented as a standard on all seagoing vessels.

Install the additional pump in such a fashion that a crewmember can lie down on the cockpit sole wedge themselves in place and still operate the pump. It is also essential to provide generous anti-syphon loops in the discharge lines to prevent "backflow." This occurs when a heeled hull submerges a bilge-pump discharge thru-hull allowing water to drain back into the bilges through the pump. The top of the anti-syphon loop must be well above the level of the thru-hull at any possible heeled waterline and firmly secured.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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