Did you really check the bilge pump?

Last summer, we chartered a Beneteau 28 from Navtours at Mooney Bay on Lake Champlain, just above Plattsburgh, NY. After Yanik with Navtours reviewed the “Official” check-in list, he then tolerated our own check list. We always have lots of questions. The bilge pump is one of the important things we like to test. During my “Introduction to Cruising” course and certification in Charleston, SC, with Ocean Sailing Academy the importance of making sure the bilge pump works by lifting the float switch was stressed. It is also important to know whether the pump is wired through the electric panel or if it has a direct connection to the battery. If it is wired through the panel and you turn the main panel off, the bilge pump will not work. Nice to know. Our pump appeared to be in working order.

On the second evening of our charter, we decided to take showers, so we moved the valve manifold under the sink in the head to the correct position to pump out the shower (which took a while since all the labels were in French). The pump ran, but water was not being removed. We then set the manifold to pump from the ice box but that didn’t work either. Since it was getting dark, we decided to just sponge up the water with towels and a bucket.

The next morning after I checked for obvious (or stupid) things, we called Douglas, the owner of the boat, on his cell phone which we had programmed into our phone (always make sure you have an emergency number or know the radio contacts to make). Since we were about 40 miles away from Mooney Bay close to Westport Marina, Douglas advised us to get the mechanic at the marina to checkout the problem, pay with my credit card, and then give the receipt to Navtours for reimbursement when we returned the boat. Unfortunately Larry (the mechanic) was very busy that morning but was finally able to get to us about 4 hours later. When Larry arrived, he was not able to prime the pump, so he removed and disassembled it. The pump contained a piece of trash on the diaphragm that looked like a piece of gel coat, so Larry cleaned, rebuilt and reinstalled the pump.

The good news was that Douglas and Navtours readily agreed to compensate us for the lost time as a result of the episode. Needless to say, we are chartering from Navtours again this summer.

Our lesson learned, is to not only check to see if the bilge pump on a charter boat (or any boat for that matter) runs and how it is wired but see if it will actually pump water. So the plan for next time is to pour some freshwater into the bilge or shower (depending on how much water is needed if any) so the pump intake is covered and then manually run the pump to see if the water will pump out and go overboard.

If anyone has any related experiences (good or bad), please share your comments.

Comments are closed.