Bilge Alarm!! | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Bilge Alarm!!

Are you sinking??

Every once in a while you hear a story like this...

A sailor on watch pops down to get a cup of tea and finds the floorboards awash.


Waking up in his bunk the sailor puts his foot out to find he is ankle deep in water...


A couple out on deck at night enjoying a romping sail start to feel the boat is a bit sluggish... they find the boat has taken on so much water they can’t trace the leak since everything is awash... the boat sinks and they abandon ship...

All of these stories are true but in most cases I believe they could have been prevented.

One of the most common causes of sinking is simply some sort of leak that went undetected until it was too late. A hose clamp fails, a hose bursts, a pump back-syphons, an anti-syphon valve sticks, a thruhull fitting cracks... you get the idea. Modern boats are somewhat complicated and many things COULD go wrong.

The main point is that many of these potential leaks is small and easy to deal with IF you know you have a problem. Unfortunately most boats do not let you know you have that problem! A beautiful little Rule Automatic bilge pump will deal with a certain amount of water coming in to the bilge. It will continue to try to keep up with the leak but it is so quiet that you will likely not hear it and never know you have a problem.

A bilge alarm can solve this! And for a VERY affordable price it is the cheapest insurance you can buy!!

Bilge Alarm Options
Broadly speaking there are two types of bilge alarm. Water detectors and bilge-pump alarms. One will detect water that is getting to a dangerous level. The second detects when you bilge pump has activated itself.

Water detector
Bilge alarms can be a simple water detector. It sounds an alarm if water is detected in the bilge. Then you have to decide how to install it. You could set this detector above the level of the automatic pump. This means basically to set a water detector so that it will sound when it gets up above the bilge pump. So in effect you wait until the bilge pump is overwhelmed and then sound an alarm. For very wet boats this might be the right solution but it does sound a bit scary...

Alternatively it can be set up to detect ANY water in the bilge by putting it below the level the bilge pump will activate. Then you will hear the alarm whenever water enters the bilge. It depends on the type of boat you have whether you might prefer this. Our first boat "Two-Step" had a very deep bilge and all water would drain to this small space where the bilge pumps were located. Pour 1 litre of water into the bilge anywhere and it would drain down to this bucket-sized bilge where it would set off this alarm.

Bilge Pump Alarm
Another option is to connect a loud alarm to let you know the bilge pump has been activated. This is my preferred solution and I have installed these alarms on all our boats. It is really quite simple and inexpensive - the ones I installed on Distant Shores II cost less than $4 each. What a DEAL for such super insurance!!

Here is how its done...

Basically all you have to do is connect a beeper or buzzer to the manual side of the typical bilge pump control. This means any time the pump has power then the alarm will sound.

Optional - I also added a switch to turn the alarm off again. In the event the bilge pump DOES come on and you are busy trying to find the leak, you might want to turn off the alarm. I installed the switch inline with the alarm. Easy and made the price more than $5 total!!
blog comments powered by Disqus