Heads bilge pump

Inevitably, water sometimes appears in the bilges and needs to be dealt with. Sponging out is laborious and time consuming if there is a substantial amount – I recently struggled to replace the log impeller blank and took on quite a lot of water into the bilge.

There is also a sensible recommendation in the World Cruising (ARC) guidelines to have ‘a second manual bilge pump operable from below decks’.

Applying myself to this challenge, I came up with the following simple solution:-

Silicone cast into a paper cup around a removable spigot so that a 25mm O.D. pipe can be firmly inserted.
Tapered ‘bung’ wedged into the toilet bowl.
I actually 3D printed this strum box and fitted a non return valve but I have since discovered that Whale do a small top entry strum box-strainer with a non return valve for £17.99.

This arrangement works incredibly well and is cheap and reliable. Just pump the heads as usual and ‘voila’ dry bilge! It is now just stowed to be deployed whenever required.

In my business, we use silicone to manufacture moulds and there is often too much produced on the basis better too much than too little. This excess would usually go to waste so I have given instructions that any leftover should be used to make these bungs. The excess silicone is simply poured into a paper cup around a boss where it sets, the cup and boss are removed and that is the ‘business end’ of the system. I have supplied some fellow Southerly Owners (that attended the SOA ‘laying up supper’) with bungs but they slowly continue to be produced.

If any yacht owners are interested and would like to provide their address, I will send them a bung and they can subsequently pay the cost of the postage and whatever they think it is worth once they have tried it. You may have to be patient if there is a lot of interest…

Email: hejira.sailing@gmail.com

7 thoughts on “Heads bilge pump

  1. Brilliant solution! Having an older boat a little water in our bilge is the norm not the exception – damned if I can track its source(s). The boats pumps leave around 5 litres that travels to all corners of the boat. Our solution is a small pump on a battery drill. Nick’s is so much neater – I wonder if he accepts commissions for dodgy silicone plugs and printed strum boxes?

    1. I’ve turned up 3 inserts and left an ongoing instruction with our casting department to use up any surplus silicone when casting moulds to produce more ‘plugs’.
      I can get one to you at some stage, all you will then need is a length of 1″ OD pipe and the whale top entry strum box – you don’t actually need the strainer element.

      Whale EAN no: 766478586506
      Stops debris entering suction hose. Fitted non-return valve prevents rainback. Removable straining plate for easy cleaning. Available in top entry for deeper bilges or side entry for shallower bilges. Suitable for 1 inch – 25 mm and 1 1/2 inch 38 mm hose. It is fitted at the end of a suction hose deep in bilges allowing maximum amount of water to be pumped from bilges.

  2. Interesting article Nick and a very practical solution that could be of use to all Southerlies since their configuration is such that the forward bilges never drain down aft properly, implying that bilge water is nearly always present around the mast step. Istana has always suffered from this problem until last year when we finally solved water ingress up forward when the stem head fitting was removed for the first time since build in 1989. Beneath it was a large hole partially and irresponsibly sealed with bathroom type silicone (Northshore again 30 years on!).
    Over the years we set up an alternative solution to yours by inserting a 2-way diversion valve into the forward heads overboard shower tray drain pump hose. Onto the additional inlet of the 2-way valve we have a 1 metre length of hose which we can use to drain all the various pockets of bilge water. It works very well, but I agree that your solution would work faster for removing larger volumes of water in an emergency and unlike our solution will not block the overboard pump filter with mess from the bilges.

    1. See the reply to Brian above John. I could bring you a ‘plug’ to our next off season, 135 lunch. Incidentally, I have also cast onto a 2″ tube for really fast bilge pumping! This may not suit others as the 135 heads system is different to most.

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