Saturday, July 4, 2015

Pump Wasteland

All pumps are born innocent and full of hope. Swaddled in colorful four color printed boxes and clear plastics they wait on the shelf for that happy day they get adopted and go to their new forever home. They have yet to know they will end up enslaved in a chamber of horrors. Buried alive in a stifling dark, damp, moldy and nearly inaccessible compartment. This is their hellish destiny. I'm sure on a quiet night I can hear their tiny muffled pleas coming from the back of the boat. "Help us, it hurts so bad and we're afraid" quaver tiny voices. "What did we do to deserve this?"

Life isn't fair. You're born a pump, your job is to pump. End of story. It could have been worse. Think about the disposable diaper's eventual chagrin when they discover their purpose in their new forever home.

Pumps are pricey and all too often neglect is the real reason they join thems what's dearly departed. They often live in the worst places in the typical boat. Bilge areas that never dry with salt water sloshing about, are dark, warm and wet enough to promote mold growth and rust. Add to this lack of use insuring plenty of time to allow parts to seize up. The boat owners also get involved. 

You just can't make this stuff up. It's a testament to this fish box macerator pump's power that the bag that once held 10lbs of ice got sucked down the drain and into the pump.

The bag and it's long molecular plastic chains prevailed sort of. The whirling cutting blades of death wound the bag up until it could do so no longer, and the pump asphyxiated without even a death rattle. An ugly death at best. Rust was also starting to destroy the case. Another new pump got a forever home.

This poor pump in a state of advanced decay got that way because it wasn't easy to see on a day to day basis. Rain water had been dripping unnoticed on it for years. It was for a secondary bait well that must have had a primary use as a beer cooler.

I don't really care about the pump, it's not mine or my boat. But I do get concerned about the potential for dilapidated pumps to leak.

This pump's hose clamps are in bad shape, and although located slightly above the water line if there was a intake scoop in the hull, and it started to leak bad things would occur. If it did start to leak it would be a crummy time to discover the bilge pump is in a similar condition. 

In all too many boats pumps are placed in locations that are very difficult to access. This leads to less frequent examination. I see so much of this I have developed a theory about it.

It goes something like pump manufacturers offer boat builders a huge discount on pumps, if the boat builders by design make it difficult to check, access, and repair them. This creates more pump sales and everybody wins but the boat owner and the poor schmuck that has to replace them.

Given all of the tribulations involved with maintaining pumps there are things owners can do to extend their wretched lives. The first is to monitor condition and operation, followed by periodically just making them run. It just takes a second to push the switch and see if it runs for a minute. Then you can put the beer into the fish box.

The other big helper is using a good quality corrosion spray to coat the metal parts. There are lots of options and for most investing in a can a year will give these poor machines a healthier and longer life. Lastly I don't like water in bilges period if I can help it. Heat causes water to evaporate allowing it to condense on something else to do evil.

I know that bilge pumps leave some water behind. A $25 wet/dry shop vac from Wallymart will suck the leftover water out leaving your bilge nice and dry, and you get to check the condition of the gear in that's in that godforsaken hole at the same time.

Pump memorial services are held daily at your local marine chandlery and you can tithe at the register.


  1. Very brilliant post, I enjoyed it very much! What about bilge pumps that works 24/7 and die of exhaustion?

  2. Similar to our Henriques - pump for washdown and fresh water bother under deck:
    1. Washdown only accessible if you get down in the engine well next to a 420hp diesel monster;
    2. The freshwater pump is next under the floor next to the fish box - if the fishbox is full and there is an issue with the pump, guess what (you have to go without or dump out the 1000lb capacity box)!!


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