Strategy for a Flooding Vessel


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Dick
Dick
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Dear snelem
Thanks for your thoughts and contributions. I am sorry you experienced water over the floorboards and glad it worked out for you. With the self-contained water detectors available nowadays there should be no reason to have water detection accomplished by a wet foot.
I think you are wise to start your engine to charge your batteries at the initial sign of flooding. The voltage drop can be impressive under bilge pump load and the volume of water moved out of the boat will decrease markedly with voltage drop.
I did not address in much detail de-watering a boat as it can be a complicated, boat dependent topic worthy of an article (book?) on its own. I have thought deeply about this on our 40 foot sailboat and have followed others in their explorations and believe there to be no definitive method that can be generally applied: all are compromises, some significant. There is no vessel I know of which emerges from the factory floor which is even close to being prepared to deal with a flooding situation.
I have followed the efforts of a number of skippers who have attempted to make an AC sump/trash submersible pump work. Some misgivings I have about the method you describe for your boat include the time necessary to get your submersible pump out of storage, get the discharge hose out where it goes overboard and tie it down or it will flail about, plug the unit in and start the inverter (the DC to AC converter). That alone could take a bit of time and time is of the essence in the event of flooding. Every second of a significant leak makes the leak more difficult to find and finding the leak is the first priority as no pumps (on our recreational vessels) will keep up with a significant leak.
My other hesitation revolves around the need for you to be close at hand to 220 AC in a chaotic situation where you will be wet and sticking body parts in wet places to find the leak. I would urge you, at minimum, to make an AC pump a permanent install, hose permanently installed overboard and the electrical inspected by a marine electrician.
Better, in my mind, to stick with DC pumps, again permanently installed. Rule makes some big pumps that move a lot of water. If room, install 2. The idea being that you are buying time to find the leak. More volume is certainly better, but having something you just flick a switch to start the pump(s) and then quickly begininspecting for the leak seems to maximize the chances of finding of the leak.

My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy, Harwich, England
Erik Snel
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Hello Dick,

Good thoughts. My bilge is very shallow, so I cannot install the pump permanently, it just wouldn 't fit. So this is indeed a 2nd best option. I do however have the pump including hose fopr grabs ready dor use.
Same goes for the bigger Rule pumps, they do not fit under the floor...
I guess it would be possible to find another 12V high capacity pump that would fit, with a hose in the bilge and the pump in another place.

Best regards,

Erik Snel, sy Dutch Rose - Lemmer, NL
Bill Balme
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Toodle-oo! is equipped with a large DC bilge pump and two manual pumps. It 's a good start perhaps.

We also have aboard a pretty large capacity watermaker that runs on 110V (possibly 220V). The pumps are large! I 'm thinking it might be possible to utilize the low pressure pump in the event of a flooding - with a couple of Y valves, I could redirect water to suck from the bilge and expel through one of the existing bilge pump hoses...

I 'd rather have a second use for a pump that 's already aboard than add a dedicated pump that I hope I never have to use.

What do you think?

Bill Balme
s/v Toodle-oo!

Dick
Dick
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Dear Erik,
We just finished an overnight from Ijmuiden to Harwich and sailed past Lemmer a couple of weeks ago. This was our second visit to your country by sail and I must say, it very much grows on you. We had a terrific time.
Yes, shallow bilges do make for difficult installations for bilge pumps. An alternative is a hose to a strum box placed in the deepest section of the bilge and then the pump can be positioned in a locker or some other convenient spot, as you suggest. This would not work for most AC sump/trash pumps as their design is for the water to come in from the bottom, but it would work for a number of pump designs.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Dick
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Dear Bill,
Please see the article for the details on my thoughts on manual bilge pumps, but basically, time is better spent finding the leak than crew using a manual pump. Finding the leak fast is primary. So I would not touch a manual pump in a flooding situation unless you have a lot of crew.
Possible ancillary emergency bilge pumps, such as your watermaker pump and the more commonly considered raw water propulsion engine pump, can move some, often not a lot, of water, but I prefer dedicated bilge pumps that can be started with a flick of a switch. Both pumps mentioned above are likely to get ruined if used with bilge water in a flooding situation unless strainers/filters are such that flow would get compromised and installation would be a headache. And I consider the propulsion engine a mission critical system to my cruising, so I am loath to ask it to do tasks more than move the boat and charge batteries while doing so.
Much better and easier, I think, to find room for an extra DC bilge pump permanently set up and hope that, in the long run, it is a waste of money and effort (except for the peace of mind it brings) as you will only use it a few times a year in test situations.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
Maxwell Fletcher
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This is an excellent article - thanks Dick.

Before we headed across the Atlantic I installed a high capacity emergency DC bilge pump, along with a circuit breaker prominently marked “Emergency Bilge Pump.” But we don’t have a high water alarm which I will rectify this winter. In looking at available options I am intrigued by the wireless Aqualarm high water alarm as it requires minimal wiring/installation. Being wireless makes me a tad nervous (too fancy/prone to problems?) but I have the Aqualarm engine overheat alarm which is a nice piece of kit. If anyone has experience with the wireless device I would be interested. I may also install a Water Witch alarm to notify is when our regular Bilge pump comes on, which uses a Water Witch sensor that has performed well for us.

Like you, we have all underwater through hulls and fittings diagramed and reviewed from time to time. We shut some of them when leaving the boat for extended periods, and test all of them for opening/closing periodically. We will review our flooding procedures with your article in mind.

Thanks again for calling attention to an often overlooked aspect of seamanship.

Max
Dick
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Maxwell Fletcher - 9/1/2019
This is an excellent article - thanks Dick.

Before we headed across the Atlantic I installed a high capacity emergency DC bilge pump, along with a circuit breaker prominently marked “Emergency Bilge Pump.” But we don’t have a high water alarm which I will rectify this winter. In looking at available options I am intrigued by the wireless Aqualarm high water alarm as it requires minimal wiring/installation. Being wireless makes me a tad nervous (too fancy/prone to problems?) but I have the Aqualarm engine overheat alarm which is a nice piece of kit. If anyone has experience with the wireless device I would be interested. I may also install a Water Witch alarm to notify is when our regular Bilge pump comes on, which uses a Water Witch sensor that has performed well for us.

Like you, we have all underwater through hulls and fittings diagramed and reviewed from time to time. We shut some of them when leaving the boat for extended periods, and test all of them for opening/closing periodically. We will review our flooding procedures with your article in mind.

Thanks again for calling attention to an often overlooked aspect of seamanship.

Max

The following was first printed in the OCC Bulletin.
Flooding
This Safety at Sea message is a bit of a tease as I can merely introduce the subject but, follow up is easy.
Very few recreational boat bilge pump systems can do more than deal with small incidental leaks: it does not take much of a problem to start a “flooding” situation (where incoming water exceeds bilge pump capacity). A real problem: a break in a 1.5-inch raw water line say, and you have a fast-emerging emergency where sinking is on the near horizon.
So, you hear your bilge pumps get activated: the next step is…?
If your answer was to operate the manual bilge pump(s), I would suggest you think otherwise. De-watering must play second fiddle to finding the leak, repeat: Find and Stop the Leak. This is not the time to sit down and devise a plan over a cup of tea. Quick action, planned well ahead of time and practiced is required and the inspection areas should already be designated. Locating the leak is far more easily accomplished at the onset of flooding. Early, the leak’s location is easy to discern. You can still see. Later, higher water obscures and the chances of finding the leak diminishes rapidly.
Prior preparation, early warning (high water alarms), knowing where all sea cocks reside, and an inspection plan are among the essential ingredients. A complete article on the above can be found on the OCC’s Forum under “Strategies for a Flooding Vessel”.
Please come back with questions, comments, thoughts.
Safe sailing, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy


Dick
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Maxwell Fletcher - 9/1/2019
This is an excellent article - thanks Dick.

Before we headed across the Atlantic I installed a high capacity emergency DC bilge pump, along with a circuit breaker prominently marked “Emergency Bilge Pump.” But we don’t have a high water alarm which I will rectify this winter. In looking at available options I am intrigued by the wireless Aqualarm high water alarm as it requires minimal wiring/installation. Being wireless makes me a tad nervous (too fancy/prone to problems?) but I have the Aqualarm engine overheat alarm which is a nice piece of kit. If anyone has experience with the wireless device I would be interested. I may also install a Water Witch alarm to notify is when our regular Bilge pump comes on, which uses a Water Witch sensor that has performed well for us.

Like you, we have all underwater through hulls and fittings diagramed and reviewed from time to time. We shut some of them when leaving the boat for extended periods, and test all of them for opening/closing periodically. We will review our flooding procedures with your article in mind.

Thanks again for calling attention to an often overlooked aspect of seamanship.

Max

Hi Max,
Thanks for the kind words and glad that you found the article helpful. I agree, this is an often-overlooked aspect of seamanship.
I have been using high water alarms for a couple of decades and when I started, the only options were the household “basement/sump pump” models mentioned in the article. Being a creature of habit and not finding anything to “fix” I have continued using these inexpensive and battery operated alarms. They are obnoxiously loud (a good thing) and I like that they are separate from the ship’s battery/wiring system as they live in the bilge. The 9v battery lasts a season and they have not failed me.
That said, more recently, there have come on the market marine high-water alarms, but I have no experience with them. I would assume they would be more expensive and possibly more adaptable to a boat’s specific demands which are more complex than monitoring a basement.
As you collect data on these new products, please share your researches and tell us what changes/additions you plan.
I very much support your having an alarm telling you when your bilge pump is activated. Our boats are generally water-tight enough now so that it is worthwhile knowing when the bilge pump works and taking a quick look in the bilge for anything untoward.
I also agree that it is a very good habit to work your seacocks regularly (on Alchemy, we do this every month).
And, finally, reviewing the through hulls and fittings diagram from time to time is also wise (and again, often forgotten about). Lots of this “seamanship” thing is just doing the work ahead of time and covering your bases: I think it was Amundsen who said something like (to paraphrase wildly): “Good preparation makes for little drama”.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Dick
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Dick - 9/1/2019
Maxwell Fletcher - 9/1/2019
This is an excellent article - thanks Dick.

Before we headed across the Atlantic I installed a high capacity emergency DC bilge pump, along with a circuit breaker prominently marked “Emergency Bilge Pump.” But we don’t have a high water alarm which I will rectify this winter. In looking at available options I am intrigued by the wireless Aqualarm high water alarm as it requires minimal wiring/installation. Being wireless makes me a tad nervous (too fancy/prone to problems?) but I have the Aqualarm engine overheat alarm which is a nice piece of kit. If anyone has experience with the wireless device I would be interested. I may also install a Water Witch alarm to notify is when our regular Bilge pump comes on, which uses a Water Witch sensor that has performed well for us.

Like you, we have all underwater through hulls and fittings diagramed and reviewed from time to time. We shut some of them when leaving the boat for extended periods, and test all of them for opening/closing periodically. We will review our flooding procedures with your article in mind.

Thanks again for calling attention to an often overlooked aspect of seamanship.

Max

Hi Max,
Thanks for the kind words and glad that you found the article helpful. I agree, this is an often-overlooked aspect of seamanship.
I have been using high water alarms for a couple of decades and when I started, the only options were the household “basement/sump pump” models mentioned in the article. Being a creature of habit and not finding anything to “fix” I have continued using these inexpensive and battery operated alarms. They are obnoxiously loud (a good thing) and I like that they are separate from the ship’s battery/wiring system as they live in the bilge. The 9v battery lasts a season and they have not failed me.
That said, more recently, there have come on the market marine high-water alarms, but I have no experience with them. I would assume they would be more expensive and possibly more adaptable to a boat’s specific demands which are more complex than monitoring a basement.
As you collect data on these new products, please share your researches and tell us what changes/additions you plan.
I very much support your having an alarm telling you when your bilge pump is activated. Our boats are generally water-tight enough now so that it is worthwhile knowing when the bilge pump works and taking a quick look in the bilge for anything untoward.
I also agree that it is a very good habit to work your seacocks regularly (on Alchemy, we do this every month).
And, finally, reviewing the through hulls and fittings diagram from time to time is also wise (and again, often forgotten about). Lots of this “seamanship” thing is just doing the work ahead of time and covering your bases: I think it was Amundsen who said something like (to paraphrase wildly): “Good preparation makes for little drama”.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

Hi everyone,
A comment came my way privately and I thought it worth sharing with Forum readers with my response:
Dick
Re your article on Flooding. My last, and final, boat had the ability to change the the source of engine cooling water from the normal situation to draw cooling water from the bilge. I never had cause to test this but it was simply a case of turning the handle on a Y valve. Maybe this is quite common but I personally have never come across it anywhere else. Assuming the engine will work this would shift a lot of water in a short time.
Response:
In a de-watering situation, plumbing one’s engine raw water circulation system with a diverter/Y valve so that it draws water from the bilge instead of through the seacock is certainly an option and fairly simple to execute. I personally do not recommend it as turns a “Mission Critical” piece of equipment, the propulsion engine, into a bilge pump. It seems to me far too easy for the engine to get damaged: debris in the sump being sucked into the engine, overheating etc. And, although I do not have the figures with me from when I did the research in this area, actual water flow is not as great as might be first thought.
Now all this might be acceptable were the boat to be saved by the engine being turned into a bilge pump, but there is an alternative about as easy to execute: get the highest volume 12v bilge pump you can find and plumb that in to a discharge hole you drill in your topsides well above heeled waterline. It will move far more water than any engine will, especially if the engine is on and the voltage coming to the pumps is high. And the engine will not be compromised.
Please come back with questions, thoughts etc.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy, Glovertown, Newfoundland, Canada

David Tyler
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Once again, and as usual, I'm out of step with the majority of sailors (or is it that I'm the only one in step!).

I attack the causes of flooding, rather than try to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. I was appalled, some years ago, to read that Arthur Beiser, the author of The Proper Yacht, had sunk his new boat because it had 34 seacocks and they couldn't find the one that was leaking. That, in my view, was a most improper yacht. I was appalled, when I visited one of the Beneteau factories, to see how they installed a seacock at one end of the boat, ran a hose from it to the other end of the boat, and then made the hose inaccessible by fixing an internal lining on top of it. My current boat, Weaverbird, and my previous two boats, Tystie and Ivory Gull, have no seacocks. Instead, I use seatubes or standpipes (same thing). I take some copper tube, of a suitable size, and roll it up in glass cloth and resin such that the lower end is equal in thickness with the hull and the upper end is of a diameter to accept the hose. Then I make a hole in the hull and fillet and glass in the tube so that its upper end is above the waterline at all reasonable angles of heel. For 1 1/2" hose, the copper tube is 32mm ID, 35mm OD. No valve is necessary, and would simply add complication. KISS.

On Weaverbird, I have only an intake for saltwater to the galley (10mm copper tube with glass cloth added to make it fit into a 1/2" hose). The upper end of the seatube is as high as possible, close under the deck. The galley sink is a loose bowl, emptied overside. When I bought her, I took out the pumped heads, along with its seized and dangerous gate valve seacocks, and installed a composting heads using components from the Little House Company (no longer available, unfortunately). I took out the defunct transducers for the sounder and log, filled the holes and installed a sounder transducer bonded internally. I did not put in a new log transducer. I have an outboard for auxiliary power, so there is no shaft log. A previous owner had installed a ventilator in the bulkhead between anchor well and forepeak, and this caused severe flooding in wind against tide conditions - I soon sealed up that hole. So that now, I am as sure as I can be that I won't have water over the floorboards.

On Tystie, I initially tried an intake seatube manifold supplying the engine, the heads and the galley. I found this unsatisfactory. Each needs a non return valve, to avoid sucking air back through the others, and I found that even the slightest piece of debris  getting through the strainer and lodging in the non return valve would permit air leakage. I replaced the Lavac pumped heads with an Airhead composting heads. The galley and heads sinks were high enough above the waterline that there was no surging of water up the seatube outlet, but where the sink has to be set low in the boat, a seatube with a high upper end can be combined with a small diaphragm hand pump. Unfortunately, there's no answer to the shaft log, for an inboard engine, except perhaps a high coffer dam.

Where a through hull transducer must be used, I've heard of the coffer dam principle being used, with a large tube being bonded in around the transducer and its cable, extending above the waterline, but have never used this myself.

GO

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