Plumbing, Bilge, Part 1: Analysis

The plan for the installation of the new bilge pumps
Bilge pumps are essential parts of any cruising sailboat, even a pocket cruiser such as the Ericson 25. Without them, your boat can sink. Even with them your boat can sink, if you've not plumbed them correctly or wired them correctly. Even then, you'll run into trouble, if you've not taken into consideration the issues of size and placement. In this posting, the first in a series of postings on my work to install and plumb the new bilge pumps for Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25, I analyse the problems I faced that led me to purchase the items I purchased and plumb the pumps I plumbed in the most logical manner possible for my set-up and my needs on this boat.
I purchased this boat in October 2009 after I had made two different visits to see her.
During my first visit, I inspected the bilge. It was located in the area just forward of the galley.
In the diagram below, I have indicated with a red rectangle the deepest part of the bilge, where the pumps were located.
The bilge contained two pumps. It also contained a disgusting, oily liquid that reeked of gasoline.
The owner stored his gasoline tank for his outboard motor in the starboard side cockpit locker. The fumes from this tank over the years had condensed and formed an oily residue not only in this locker, but also in the lazarette, and of course the bilge. A surveyor who accompanied me on my second visit to the boat said that he didn't know how this guy had not blown himself up long before this time.
On this second visit that I made to see the boat, the oily water had miraculously disappeared from the bilge. Nevertheless, the view was still not pretty. The wiring for the electric bilge pump was a rat's nest of wires, and there many no-nos present - household wire crimps and black electrical tape.
The electric bilge pump at least worked, but I wondered about its condition given the sludge in which it had long been sitting. Another thing was this - it was not secured in place. Nothing was keeping it from tipping over or turning upside down.
The second bilge pump was a manual one. The pump was located elsewhere. This was simply the strum box - the device that blocked foreign matter from clogging the hose. The fitting that joined the strum box to the hose was in horrible condition, as was the hose. Do you see the crack in the end of the hose?
Now let's take a look inside the lazarette, just like I did during my two visits.
The hose for the manual bilge pump was routed through the lazarette and up through a hole into the port side cockpit locker.
The small hose for the electric bilge pump was also routed upward into the cockpit locker, but it entered the locker in a different location. In the picture below, you can see it on the far right.
During my first visit I checked out the port side cockpit locker, and this was what I saw - a mess of tools and plastic bottles.
Mixed up in this mess was the the manual pump. It was covered with dirt dobber nests, and it looked like it hadn't been used in years. More disturbing was the fact that this owner didn't even have a hose leading from the pump to the overboard discharge through-hull. See the hole in the background? That's where the hose is suppose to be. Yes, that's water. Evidently this was not a cause for concern to this owner.
Upon my next visit, this locker, just like the bilge, was in remarkably better condition. This did not mean, however, that the problems were solved. As far as the pump was concerned, the owner had simply rigged up a piece of rigid PVC to close the gap between the pump and the through-hull.
He insisted that I check out the pump itself to see that it worked. Yes, you could work the handle up and down, but that didn't mean the pump itself worked. There wasn't any water in the bilge to pump out at this time.
After I had transported the boat by trailer some six hours from North Carolina to my home in Charleston, South Carolina, I began to create a list of essential repairs. The plumbing system was at the top of the list, but so were a lot of other things - the centerboard, the rigging, the electrical system - you name it.
Eventually I was able to focus on the plumbing. In terms of the plumbing of the bilge, I began by investigating the existing set-up and its relationship to the original set-up as described in the original Ericson literature. Let's begin with the through-hulls for the two bilge-pump hoses. These were located on the port side of the transom.
The original equipment list that came with my boat indicated that the original owner had purchased the two available bilge pumps at that time - an electric one and a manual one that was manufactured by Whale Marine.
The shop manual for the Ericson 25 indicated that the Whale brand pump, for the most part, had been installed according to the factory specifications. There was a 1-1/2 inch nylon through-hull on the port side of the transom.
 Likewise, the pump was located on the face of the port side cockpit locker.
 The side view of the pump as seen from within the locker was identical to mine.
 The plate for the exterior of the pump, as seen from inside the cockpit was also the same.
Likewise, the hose for this manual pump was routed in a similar fashion - from the transom, through the pump, down into the lazarette, and down into the bilge in the galley area of the main salon. In the diagram below, the "sump" to which they refer must be the strum box, i.e., the bronze fitting on the end of the hose that blocks debris from entering the hose.
As far as the other bilge pump was concerned, i.e., the electric one, there were some similarities and differences between the shop manual diagrams and what actually existed in my own boat. In terms of the similarities, my hose followed a similar path from the port side transom down to the bilge. Beyond this, however, there were mostly differences. First, I did not have a bronze through-hull in my transom, and I definitely did not have a pump mounted on the aft side of the bulkhead between the galley and the lazarette. I also did not have a Perko brand sump, i.e., strum box, at the end of the hose.
As you can see in the diagram below, this Perko brand pump in the shop manual was quite different from the Rule brand pump that I found in my bilge. Why was my set-up different? My guess is that the dealership that conducted the outfitting of my boat decided to use a pump and a set-up that were suitable to them at that time and place. An acquaintance of mine in Charleston used to outfit Ericsons as a teenager at the boat dealership in Charlotte, North Carolina. He told me that the boats would arrive at the dealership in a bare condition. He and others would then install the optional parts and pieces.
This helps to explain the variation we see in the picture of the Ericson 25 below. Notice that the two through-hulls on the port side of the transom are higher than they are on my transom. Perhaps those who outfitted this boat decided that it would be better for them to be as high as possible within the cockpit locker.
At any rate, in terms of my own set-up, I saw no reason to depart from the norm, as far as the routing of the hoses was concerned. I did, though, want to put anti-siphon loops of some sort in my hoses in the cockpit locker. In my diagram below, you can see these loops indicated by the hump in the hose near the transom.
One thing was certain, I just had to get rid of that existing manual bilge pump hose.
And I had to get rid of that electric pump. It alone was insufficient for the size of this boat.
To replace it, I purchased a Whale brand Super Sub 650 GPH (Gallon Per Hour) pump. This would be the primary bilge pump. The Blue Sea Systems brand switch that I would wire to it would always be set to AUTO, i.e., "automatic," so that this pump, by itself, would remove any water from the bilge, whenever it rose to a certain level and caused the float switch within the pump to rise.
I also purchased second bilge pump - a Rule brand 2000 GPH Heavy Duty pump. This would I call my emergency bilge pump. This also would have a Blue Sea Systems brand switch. It would be pointless, however, for me to keep this switch on AUTO, because this pump, unlike the Whale brand pump, would not have an automatic float switch within it - a float switch that would activate the pump. Instead, I would, in emergencies, manually flip the Blue Sea Systems switch to ON. This would activate the pump and help to remove the water that the Whale brand pump couldn't remove by itself.
In the picture below, we see the set-up that I envisioned with these two new pumps and with the refurbished strum box of the refurbished Whale brand manual pump (in the cockpit locker). The yellow, Whale brand primary electric pump would be the one that was always on duty - always ready to pump out any water that settled in the bilge from condensation or from modest leaks here or there.
The Rule brand emergency pump would be high and dry, unless of course there was an emergency. It was my hope that I would never need to use it. Why did I opt for the 2000 GPH pump for this boat? Because this was the largest pump that would fit into this space. The manual pump, of course, was simply an assistant to the electric pumps. Just was was the case with the emergency electric pump, it was my hope that I would never need to use it.
Now that I had figured out my set-up for the new bilge pumps, I could focus more closely on the new hoses and the routing of them through the lazarette and the port side cockpit locker. That is the subject of my next posting.
This ends this posting on my research on the new bilge pumps that I would install on Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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