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A bilge pump warning light

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What is the issue?
Whilst underway the sound of the automatic electric bilge pump is often drowned out by general boat noise. Never more so than when operating under power.

This pernicious oversight could lead to the vessel sinking. Good examples of engine running issues are failures in the stuffing boxes or of an impeller. The stern gland is one of the few thru-hull fittings designed to allow some water into the boat. This is about 2-3 drops per minute when the shaft is turning but if there is a problem this drip could turn into an in-flood without anyone knowing it above decks. Likewise, an impeller could give way causing the engine to overheat and its hot gases to melt the engine raw-water hose. This opens the closed loop cooling system and allows water to enter the boat.

Why address this?
Bilge pump operation is indicative of a build-up of water and it is essential for the boat's safety to be made immediately aware of this. A sudden leak may go undetected until a build up of oily water becomes visible on the cabin floor. By this time the situation has escalated and the resultant clean up is less than desirable. People may be powering on in the cockpit in both of these events not hearing and not knowing the bilge pump is being overwhelmed and the boat is sinking beneath them.

How to address this?
Fit a flashing red bilge pump warning LED where it will unmistakably catch the eye of the helmsman, such as the face of the bridge deck. As LEDs are completely inexpensive a second or third LED on the navigation table or in the captain's sleeping cabin for off-watch reassurance is an equally good idea.

To fit, simply connect into the pumps positive feed, downstream from the float and manual switch, before it arrives at the bilge pump. Pick up the negative from the opposite side of the pump or the boats negative. Hence the light(s) have power when the pump is powered.

This is a simple and cost-effective safety feature that leads to peace of mind and an excellent reminder of needed maintenance such as the tightening of a stuffing box. For more on holes beneath the waterline see what to do if you are taking on water and potentially sinking Experience.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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