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Old 12-11-2017, 03:48 PM   #1
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Rust in the bilges

I need some ideas on how to get the rust out of my bilges. It started about 2 months ago and since my bilges are not accessible I didn't notice it until a bilge pump kicked on and rust came out. Cathodic protection-zincs? All help is greatly appreciated!!!

Is it illegal to pump out my bilges if it has rust in the water?
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Old 12-11-2017, 04:04 PM   #2
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There’s some ferrous metal down there rusting. Either find it and remove it or keep pumping it overboard until something goes belly up and then fix it with bronze replacement parts.

By bilge pump sumps are galvanized pipe fittings and rust on the bilge. I assume it’s from non galvanized metal on the inside but not sure. They would be easy to replace but it would take years to rust through. Only downside is the brown water in the bilge as far as I know.

“Illegal to pump rusty water overboard?” Hahaha don’t think so. But these days ... ???
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Old 12-11-2017, 05:06 PM   #3
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You could try adding phosphoric acid to your bilge. This converts one type of rust to a prettier type of rust.

2 H3PO4 + Fe2O3 → 2 FePO4 + 3 H2O

disclaimer: i have no idea if something in your bilge will be attacked by this acid...
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Old 12-11-2017, 06:41 PM   #4
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You are not going to like this but you need to start looking for where the rust is coming from.

If the source is something like the bottom of the drive gear or the engine oil pan you are going to have trouble with one of them sooner or later.

You also need to figure out how much water is slopping around and figure out how to control it better. There is a point where there is way too much and it will cause damage to something. Just what/when is the question.

May mean doing a better job of packing the rudder and propellor drive shaft stuffing boxes along with more frequent adjustments.


Check for leaks from the drinking water system also.

A small bilge pump in the lowest part of the bilge that can remove almost all of the accumulated water. This pump is not to be confused with the larger capacity emergency centrifugals. Often the much older and maligned Jabsco diaphram water pumps make an effective small quantity dewatering bilge pump as they can be mounted out of the bilge, will pull water up a couple feet, can be fitted with a hose to reach into the deeper parts of the bilge using a small bronze screen on the hose end. Even a used but running pressure water pump can be fitted with the bilge pumping valves which have larger holes to pass more garbage with monkeying the valves.

A standard type of centrifugal pump may not be good enough for that purpose as they will leave a lot of water they simply cannot evacuate.

To me the most likely sources of rust are the engine/gear box, steel tanks whether fuel or water, steering gear supports such as the main anchor for the steer cylinder, generator, water maker , and so on. I don't know what you have but start sorting it out.

If you are lucky maybe it is just an old lost in the bilge piece of forgotten steel or steel equipment. But find out.

Empty all the gear in the bilges and look seriously. If need be get one , or borrow one, of the remote cameras with the flexible heads. They have come down a lot in price over the last few years.
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Old 12-11-2017, 08:27 PM   #5
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Nordic, what do you mean by "bilges are not accessible"?
Like in not accessible at all?? That would be worrisome.
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Old 12-11-2017, 08:38 PM   #6
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Never had rust in my bilges till my dampner plate between the engine and tranny started coming apart. The loose pieces were scraping all the rust out of the bellhousing and flywheel area.

The rusty oil was dripping out of the hole in the bottom of the bellhousing.
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Old 12-11-2017, 08:53 PM   #7
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I lost a wrench in the engine room one day. I looked high and low for it. Several months later I found rusty water under the generator, yep found my wrench.

If you have never had to deal with water quality in California then you have no idea how insane they are. If you drop one teaspoon of fuel while filling a boat they are required by law to fill out spill forms. I never top the boat off when I'm in California. I also wash the bilges and pump them dry before heading into a California Harbor.
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Old 12-11-2017, 08:54 PM   #8
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I had lots of rusty water in my aft bilge until I had the rusted out aft fuel tank removed from underneath the master bed platform.
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Old 12-15-2017, 10:05 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Max Simmons View Post
Nordic, what do you mean by "bilges are not accessible"?
Like in not accessible at all?? That would be worrisome.
This specific area is directly under the Main propulsion diesel.
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Old 12-15-2017, 10:07 AM   #10
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Thank You all for your suggestions/comments. Looks like I'm getting a grabber and fishing around this weekend. Wish me luck!
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Old 12-15-2017, 01:20 PM   #11
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might also try a telescoping magnet. Available at most auto supply stores.
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