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Old 09-12-2017, 10:15 AM   #1
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Water in your Bilge?

Hi All,

Being a new Trawler owner, I got the boat with water in the bilge and have talked to another owner who said he had water in his bilge for 16 years, never thought much of it. Our previous sailboat had the shower and the ice box drain directly into the bilge. I know boats with regular shaft packing drip also. It used to drive me crazy if I had water in the bilge in my sailboat. Discussion for the new guy? Thanks.

Dave
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Old 09-12-2017, 10:25 AM   #2
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I think knowing the cause is critical; that in turn can influence decisions for what to do about it, if anything.

We have seven bilge compartments. From bow to stern, 1-5 are internally connected, with dedicated bilge pump, and usually dry. The forward AC condensate is plumbed to the shower sump. (Mid-ships AC drains overboard.)

6 is the engine room, dedicated bilge pump, and usually dry (this with dripless seals).

7 is under the cockpit, dedicated pump, but the rod holders drain straight through... so that area under the fishbox/lazarette is often slightly wet.

If I have any water at all in bilges 1-6, it sets me off on the hunt to find out why and fix it.

Water in 7 doesn't really bother me too much; I usually know why it's there, how it got there, how much that pump will periodically evacuate, etc.

-Chris
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Old 09-12-2017, 10:41 AM   #3
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All my bilges are bone dry. Shower has Attwood plastic sump/pump and I have dripless shaft seal.

I like it that way - if there is any water, then, it is not supposed to be there.
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Old 09-12-2017, 12:07 PM   #4
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Dave
As stated by previous posters, dry bilges are a good thing to have, with any change then signaling an issue to deal with. Since this is a new boat for you, what said the surveyor?
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Old 09-12-2017, 12:18 PM   #5
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Dave - I have a dry bilge boat older boat (76) - except: on rare occasions, after a hard wind driven rain, fresh water will collect in the forward bilge pocket. Minor, an inch or less max. I apparently still have stanchion bases or other deck fittings that allow water leakage under particular wind/rain conditions. The way the forward area of the boat is constructed, there is space between the hull and the interior "skin." Result - leakage works its way down the interior face of the hull, doesn't touch the interior, and collects. Pumps out and dries out easily. So, it's "on the list" but not high priority.

I wonder if you may have something like that going on. I'd start with determining whether its salt or fresh water in the bilge.
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Old 09-12-2017, 12:21 PM   #6
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I love TF- it's here that I learn that the one thing that only boat brokers agree on "there is always a little water in a bilge" is false ;-).

Or, is it only applicable if a boat is for sale?
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Old 09-12-2017, 12:21 PM   #7
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Dave
As stated by previous posters, dry bilges are a good thing to have, with any change then signaling an issue to deal with. Since this is a new boat for you, what said the surveyor?
Nothing. Didn't bother him at all.
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Old 09-12-2017, 01:17 PM   #8
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Show me a boat with a continually wet bilge and I will show you a boat that smells.
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Old 09-12-2017, 03:00 PM   #9
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Show me a boat with a continually wet bilge and I will show you a boat that smells.
Indeed!!!
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Old 09-13-2017, 06:27 AM   #10
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Show me a boat with a continually wet bilge and I will show you a boat that smells.
+1

Cheers.

H.
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Old 09-13-2017, 06:45 AM   #11
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Quote:
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Show me a boat with a continually wet bilge and I will show you a boat that smells.

That probably works the other way, too: I'd guess a boat that smells very likely often has some standing water in it somewhere... even if it's not immediately visible.

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Old 09-13-2017, 07:02 AM   #12
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2 liveaboards with water in the bilge, no smells unless closed up for a few days. But then there is smells from the saltwater heads, petroleum smaells and whatever else is aboard too that has an odor.

If anything, the engine room smells less as there is air turnover there from the engine vents if the boat is shut up for awhile.

My engine vents arent shielded very well from rain, so a driving rain does put some water in the bilge unless I engineer new ones and that just isnt worth it.

I may also have a leaking shaft tube, another project that is probably not worth it.

In cold weather, there is quite a bit of condensation that forms on the outer shell, especially the undersides of side decks. You can see the streaks in lockers when enough has formed to stream to the bilge. I would have to insulate some very difficult areas to stop that water intrusion.

I also have a few dribbles from broken scupper trim, that is a small project that I am working on.

So a water free bilge for me might be nice, but probably isnt in the cards and is no big deal as a liveaboard. It regularly gets turned over as it comes and gets pumped out, a tad of soap is continuously added to keep it reasonably clean. Plus the soap helps with less odor down there that realky doesnt affect the living areas.

No water is a good goal, but not necessarily a practicality on all boats.
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Old 09-13-2017, 07:14 AM   #13
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So a water free bilge for me might be nice, but probably isnt in the cards and is no big deal as a liveaboard. It regularly gets turned over as it comes and gets pumped out, a tad of soap is continuously added to keep it reasonably clean. Plus the soap helps with less odor down there that realky doesnt affect the living areas.

No water is a good goal, but not necessarily a practicality on all boats.

Yep, I agree. I'm almost always more focused on determining the cause... but then deciding what to do about it can sometimes include the "nothing" (live with it) option.

Twice we've had some rainwater ingress in our forward bilges. First was making carpet damp in the forward stateroom, not good, fixed it (recaulked rubrail).

Second was putting rainwater into the engine room, but I thought not enough to worry about. OTOH, when we were finally diagnosing, wifey aimed a garden hose at the suspected leak area and it was like watching a waterfall pouring into the ER. Had previously thought it was just driving rain through the engine vents. Au contraire. Turned out to be out deck-hull joint seal, underneath the rubrail, had failed -- for some apparent reasons once we opened it up. Not to worry, resealed, replaced rubrail and recaulked, all good. But had the amount of water during that inspection not been so serious, I could have lived with it; in fact did live with it for a year or so before getting serious about troubleshooting...

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Old 09-13-2017, 07:30 AM   #14
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Agree not easy to keep a dry bilge all the time. But it is a worthy goal. By minimizing bilge water a problem leak is more evident.


And same thing with engines and equipment. If kept clean and wiped down leaks, cracks and other failures easier to spot.
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Old 09-13-2017, 07:47 AM   #15
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Detecting leaks is a worthy goal too.

A dry bilge ALL the time isnt required though.....and to do so on some boats is more frustrating than the little water in the bilge.
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Old 09-13-2017, 07:52 AM   #16
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I'm a dry bilge guy, especially the engine room. Before I start, I look under the engines for any water or oil. Same for my cars, I look on the ground.
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Old 09-13-2017, 07:53 AM   #17
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Dry bilge here. Shaft seal spittle goes into a sump that drains fwd to shower sump. Also have four (semi) water tight compartments each with a pump.
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Old 09-13-2017, 08:05 AM   #18
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A few points to note going back to the issue of water in the bilge and to ponder on with any water in the bilge

1) More than one-third of sinking's happen when some small part, most often below the waterline, gave up its fight with the water due to age or fatigue or corrosion.
2 )Those sinking's might have been prevented with good maintenance,
3) From an insurance perspective, a boat is sinking if it must be actively pumped out to remain afloat and undamaged.
4) That above definition highlights two key issues. First, a sinking boat is not watertight. There is always a source of water that must be located and stopped to keep the boat floating.
5) The Second is that well-designed boats do not sink due to failed bilge pumps. A boat should stay afloat in the conditions for which it was designed without water having to be pumped out of it ó even in heavy rain and big seas (relative to the size of the boat).
6) A bilge pump constantly/intermittently running merely postpone's a sinking until it fails, loses power, or is overwhelmed by the volume of water. Had someone fixed the leak in those days, weeks, or months, the boat would not become part of these sinking statistics.

Cheers Steve
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Old 09-13-2017, 08:44 AM   #19
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Second Steve on that. I participate in post-loss investigations which includes sinkings.

Most common scenario:

1. Known small ingress of water. Shaft seals, rudder post seals, rain into hatches, etc. A gallon an hour over many weeks is a lot of water.

2. Shore power goes out or charger fails for some reason, batts go flat. Or pumps/floats fail.

3. Water slowly accumulates, nobody notices it settling. Then other paths to ingress start flowing (bilge pump discharges, scuppers, fishbox drains, etc) and then she goes down quick. Usually at night, otherwise someone would notice.

We call them "lobsters". All you can see are antennae

Amazing how many bilge pumps do not work out there. Go flip your floats!!
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Old 09-13-2017, 08:57 AM   #20
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Capt Steve
The source and amount of the leak are relevant. Some vessels have leaking on board water tanks. Nuisance yes, hazardous no. Many have wooden boats that are not water tight to the Nth degree. Was recently on a very large 90 year old wooden work boat to yacht conversion where bilge pump cycles were a measured sign of health, for nearly a century.

I know of many vessels that have been sinking for their lifespan. Dry bilges on all boats is not attainable. On mine, a dry bilge is attainable thus a bell weather.
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