Bilge Pumps

Twenty years ago, when I got my Boston Whaler Montauk, it was equipped with an automatic bilge pump. The pump did not have a float switch, it sensed for water every 2 1/2 minutes and drained the boat. This is how the dealer configured the boat, and it made sense when keeping the boat on an Loon Lake.

That first Summer, however, I kept the boat trailered and used it on the Hudson River. The Hudson is a big water, south of The federal dam in Troy, NY. It is known for its current, tide, wind, and ocean going vessels, tugs and barges. That first Summer, I took a wave over the bow of the Whaler. Lots of water in the boat, which then handled like a full bathtub. Waiting for the bilge pump to kick in seemed like an eternity.

A couple of years later, the bilge pump quit and need replacing. I opted for a different version; one that was automatic, but that I could also switch on, as needed. Planning ahead for another big wave. I have had that configuration on the Whaler until this year.

This Summer, when I put the Whaler on its slip at Coeymans Marina, I noted the bilge pump was laboring. I decided to replace it. The only readily accessible pump was just automatic. I put it in, it rained that night, and the pump performed perfectly.

I was not comfortable with the configuration, however. In passing conversation with Paula, I mentioned that, although it was unlikely I would ever need it, I was going to add a second bilge pump, but one that I could switch on, at will. I had not had to do this in twenty years, but knew I would feel and be safer if I added the manual pump.

I ordered the pump and parts and installed it a week ago Friday. Partly because of the safety culture I have grown up and worked in around water. You don’t get to accidents, or rogue waves. I still always wear a PFD while on the Whaler.

So yesterday, I was out on the Hudson, most of the day. Took my Son’s family out for a quick spin before dinner. No wind, rising tide. More weight in the boat, riding lower than normal.We started down river, with two large barges and tugs coming up river. As we passed the first barge, I turned into the waves created by its wake. This barge was moving very slowly, as it passed the marina, the wake was still somewhat large, and we rode through the troughs. We got sprayed a bit. The second barge was going faster, and it’s wake was larger. We turned into the wake, but still took a wave over the bow. I had my Son move to the stern, to shift weight to the back of the boat, and for only the second time ever, hit the manual bilge switch. The boat drained in a minute, and I took the family back to our slip.

I am so glad I listened to myself and installed the second manually operated bilge pump.

The Hudson can be mercurial. That’s one of the reasons I keep the Whaler in the water at a marina, instead of trailering it. I use it more, and don’t need to deal with the ever shifting current, tide and wind. Let alone large vessels.

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