Saturday, December 26, 2015

Water in the Bilge - Trinidad to Grenada

Heard on our overnight passage...... "Why is the bilge pump running?"  "There it goes again."  "That can't be good." 

In all honestly, we had noticed it running a few times back at the dock in Trinidad but we checked it and chalked that up to pre-departure chores - cleaning strainer, changing the coolant, ect....

Anyway, we discovered "active water" in the bilge on our passage as part of our routine log entries.  It wasn't gushing or rushing in aka we weren't sinking but the pump was running way too much meaning water was coming in from somewhere.  But where?  Internal or external?  The million dollar question!

The first thing we did was shut off the automatic bilge pump.  WHAT?!!  Yes, we shut it off!  This would allow us to monitor the amount of flow.  Plus we wouldn't burn up the pump but mainly so we could know how much was coming in.  If you leave your automatic bilge pump on, you never know how much is coming in because it always pumps it hope.

Then we moved to hourly checks.  The flow did not warrant more frequent monitoring at this point.  The next thing was to check the obvious thru hulls, intakes, shaft....nothing.  Hum?  Ok.  Monitor and think.  Three hours later, still coming in.

The next thing was to check if it was fresh water or salt......except it wouldn't really be fresh water since we are talking about bilge water.  It's more GROSS water.  So before tasting, Tom did another check of the obvious culprits.  Nothing,  ugh!

I was on the helm thinking through other possibilities like a hose issue or breech in one of our water tanks.  Tom came up and said he might know the source.  Note -The thought of tasting bilge water can really kick your brain into high gear!  When our freezer quit working, Tom removed the bad part, disconnecting some hoses.  He grabbed a flashlight and hopped down into the cockpit locker aka The Hole to check.  Sure enough.  Water was flowing into the boat from that intake/hose.  He reconnected the broken part to the hoses and the leak stopped.  Whew!  We did continued to monitor just in case but soon we were able to go back to our regular monitoring schedule that goes with log entries.  


  1. Water in the bilge underway is always scary. OTOH, fringe benefit: you probably needed little help staying awake for your overnight passage!

  2. Whew! Glad it was nothing serious -- and that no one had the dubious pleasure of tasting the bilge water. I am sure you were relieved!

  3. To avoid tasting bilge water -- take a plastic (Solo?) cup fill it with known fresh water. Float it in the bilge. If it sinks, the bilge is fresh, if it floats the bilge is not fresh, but it may not be entirely salt. It the cup is jerked out of your fingers by the flow, its really disturbing. Kidding aside, next time you are in Kansas with Dorothy and Toto, buy a fish tank hydrometer that's good for fresh and salt. ~$8. (Just got back from Kauai.)