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Assume Makes An Ass Out Of U And Me


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So Saturday afternoon we arrive at the boat as a sort of pre-holiday warm up.

You know that boat smell? Ours is a kind of distant engine, background diesel and locked up tent kind of smell.

This time I could smell, well wet kind of smell.

As we enter straight in the bedroom there is a small gap along side the port end of the bed that is really too small to walk but makes an ideal place to store odds and ends, tools and in my case, work cloths.

Under the window there was a small puddle of yellowish water.

First thought, leaking window or leaking holding tank. Copious amounts of blue roll later and the leak grows visibly while we watch.

OK leaking water pipe? Nope, the pump is not running.

The only thing I had really to mop this mess up was a big syringe that puts oil into gearboxes. With the help of Mrs Cheese, I removed 4 gallons of water that was actively running in as I sucked it up.

Needing more investigation, I left the better half battling on, and I went to the engine hatch on the stern.

Now I own a Bermuda 35, a flattie which has an engine room in the back in its own section with a drain to the prop tunnel which is home to the bilge pump.

A thing about this design is that rain water drips its way around the engine room hatch into the engine room floor and eventually, drains into the lower bilge. As a bonus, the front well also drains rain into the prop tunnel and from here, auto bilge pump does its thing.

Upon opening the hatch, I saw at least 2 inches of water covering the floor and due to full tanks on the port side of the boat the water had sloshed, when added to our weight, to lap against the bulkhead and found its way in to the cabin.

This was my first mistake as I, due to my blue water sailing experience and fear, I leaped to the conclusion that my duel raw water intakes or through hulls had leaked or split letting in the river Ant.

I called out to the Enemy to show her and with great intelligence, she got in touch with Mr P Richardson who offered the boatyards pumps but first of all, Have I checked the bilge pump?

Nope, the pump was not running but why would it? The trouble was in the back.

As She Who Must Be Obeyed started making arrangements with Paul (yard boss) I lifted the mattress and bed bottom more to see if the water was under the bed which it wasn't.

While I was there, I decided to lift the hatch that covers the prop tunnel and the lower bilges.

It was full up, the water was that deep.

Realization began to dawn on me as I made my way to the bilge switch.

We will pause here to describe this bilge switch. Its a push/pull switch, either off or on with about 5 mm movement. It sits on the right hand of the helm with its twin the water pump switch. Up is on.

It was off.

As soon as I turned it on water started to exit, and it did for the next 15 minutes.

The flood waters receded, the engine room drained and the bedroom was saved.

My mistake?

I assumed that the leak was in the engine room.

I assumed that the bilge pump was on.

The last time I used the boat in anger was at least 8 weeks ago and I’m guessing its rained a lot since then and its not beyond imagination that I accidentally turned off the pump.

The boat had filled from the front, then flooded the engine room and then onto the cabin.


This boat needs to handle rain water 24/7. Not a problem on shore power but its tendency is to fill.

So its fail-safe state is fail, its built in.

The switch needs “safeing” Now its unable to be turned off accidentally by a bright yellow cable tie around its stem. Will be changed to an on/auto switch. Note, no off.

High water alarm will be fitted.

Another bilge pump with pipe to hand to be available in emergency with jump leads to battery.

Better means of mopping up water. Bailing scoop?

Big thank you to Richardson's.

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Been there and done that on a Calypso, not a nice experience. The leisure batteries were drained by a fault and the boat filled up to floorboard level. Saucepans take ages to empty a bilde.

As a belt and braces measure I fitted a second auto pump higher up and wired to the engine battery on the basis I would rather have a flat start battery than a submarine. I have done the same on the present boat.

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Every boat that I have owned has always had a Whale manual bilge pump fitted to drain the lowest part of the bilge.

I like the reassurance you get when you give it a few strokes as you pass and all is dry.



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Thanks for sharing it happened to us Rule auto was left on but the senser on the side of the pump got dirty and never activated 

Front and rear well covers fitted and clean the touch sensor regularly was our plan. Touch wood.

We were lucky it never touched the floor. 

Kindest Regards Marge and Parge 


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Thanks for posting. I have always wondered what would happen if a pump failed or batteries were not on to power said pump. I'm amazed more pumps don't fail judging by the amount of older boats there are and the state some of them are in. I suppose its possible to have two pumps fitted, one being a back up.

We went to look at a boat that had been for sale and the vendor had switched the power off completely. On entering the boat the agent immediately put the power on and the bilge shot the water out at what looked to a very strong flow. I looked under the floohatch in the saloon of the boat and it wouldn't have been long before the whole boat would have been flooded.

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Thanks for posting this cautionary tale Cheesey. I've spent part of my morning updating the Moonlight Shadow Boat Manual. We realised recently that we had a bit of confusion as to the settlings of our bilge pump switch, a potentially serious misunderstanding around which setting was 'off' and which was 'auto'. When we realised the potential confusion we also posted off emails to our members.

Such a small thing, but with potentially disastrous consequences. 

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At the start of the first lockdown the last thing I discovered on closing the boat up was a knackered bilge pump, just what was needed! I nipped the stern glands up a bit till drips stopped and got a replacement ordered and told my boss any van jobs in Norfolk were mine, luckily it wasn't that long before I had a genuine reason to be driving very close to the marina and there was no way I wasn't dropping in to sort it.

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We had spent the  day on our Fairline Mirage entertaining  friends. The following day we left the boat on  its mooring in Ely marina very early in the morning and travelled  back to London to attend the 1st birthday party of our granddaughter. Returning back to the  boat very late into the night we actually passed where we lived and being tired after a very full and energetic  day I suggested that instead of going all the way back to the boat we spent the night at home  and returned in the morning. Tony said he'd rather push on back to the boat and so we did.  On arriving aboard I went straight to the aft cabin and found myself paddling in a few inches of water!  Inspection  revealed  a considerable amount of water in the engine bay. We had no idea where this had  emanated from or why  the bilge pump had apparently failed. We could see neither the source of the leak  or the pump.We started to pump out the water overboard and finally could see the source of the leak was the stern gland and the reason the pump had failed was that the previous owner had fitted a replacement bilge pump leaving the old disconnected one in situ. The float switch on the new  pump had become trapped under the  old pump preventing it from rising with the incoming water. Tony freed the float switch enabling the pump to do its job which quickly dealt with the water, although neither of  us slept very well that night. Next day saw a trip,to the chandlers for replacement stern gland packing and stern gland thoroughly packed. Also old bilge pump removed to prevent recurrence. We were left with the uncomfortable thought that if we had done as I had suggesteded and left our return till the next day the boat would have probably sunk.

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