Bilge water mystery

K2MSmith

Member III
hmmm - might even work for us lake-dwellers if it's sensitive enough.
I expect that our lake water has more salts of various types that rainwater would ever have.
I believe it also measures pH. so combined salinity and pH compared to rainwater might enable you to differentiate, but I'm not 100% sure. Send me some lake water and I'll try it :) I have tried tasting it (not recommended) but I can't really tell. I've drank/inhaled enough toxins in my lifetime that I don't want any more.
 

windsurferman

Junior Member
Bilges get wet. It's one of the reasons they're there.

It points out the importance of a good bilge pump system that is regularly maintained and tested.

From the looks of your picture I would guess the water was coming from your packing gland. Try putting a dry paper towel underneath your stuffing box and see if it gets wet. Put the towel on a block or a board so it is out of the puddle.

Packing and adjusting your stuffing box is well worth learning and not very hard if you are handy. There is a just right point between minimal dripping and low friction. Better a tiny bit loose than a little too tight.

I am old to Ericson's but new to this forum and if you search for "stuffing box" you'll get a lot of good info.
 

ddoles

Member II
While I haven't tried it, I have heard of an interesting technique to find mystery leaks. Sprinkle a small amount of talcum powder around suspect areas such as through hulls, hose fittings, etc. Come back in a couple days and if there is a leak you will easily spot water tracks through the powder.
 

K2MSmith

Member III
Bilges get wet. It's one of the reasons they're there.

It points out the importance of a good bilge pump system that is regularly maintained and tested.

From the looks of your picture I would guess the water was coming from your packing gland. Try putting a dry paper towel underneath your stuffing box and see if it gets wet. Put the towel on a block or a board so it is out of the puddle.

Packing and adjusting your stuffing box is well worth learning and not very hard if you are handy. There is a just right point between minimal dripping and low friction. Better a tiny bit loose than a little too tight.

I am old to Ericson's but new to this forum and if you search for "stuffing box" you'll get a lot of good info.
I haven't been at the boat last few days, but I'll try that. I did replace the bilge pump recently myself (with a Rule 800 gph). I am not completely happy with the height of float switch (too high) but it's working OK and I tested it by putting water in it - works. I also have a habit of checking the bilge pump every time I go to the boat by toggling the float switch manually or flicking the switch on the panel. I developed this habit as a checklist item when I used to belong to a sailing club.

I'll try your suggestion on the paper towel on a block idea. the actual drive shaft where this bronze packing gland coupler is located is dry when I grab it, but maybe it leaks when the engine runs (?).
 

cdesopo

Member I
We've found water entering the bilge through a leaking portlight. It drips onto the teak ledge under it & from there it goes into the 'special compartment for sea boots' which I assume is designed to drain into the bilge. I realized only recently this accounts for some of my mystery bilge water. Our other suspect area is the joint around the top of the anchor locker.
 
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windsurferman

Junior Member
I haven't been at the boat last few days, but I'll try that. I did replace the bilge pump recently myself (with a Rule 800 gph). I am not completely happy with the height of float switch (too high) but it's working OK and I tested it by putting water in it - works. I also have a habit of checking the bilge pump every time I go to the boat by toggling the float switch manually or flicking the switch on the panel. I developed this habit as a checklist item when I used to belong to a sailing club.

I'll try your suggestion on the paper towel on a block idea. the actual drive shaft where this bronze packing gland coupler is located is dry when I grab it, but maybe it leaks when the engine runs (?).
It is supposed to drip a little while running. Use the tool at the top of the page to search the forum for "stuffing box" and "packing gland". There seem to be some really smart and knowledgeable people here.

You can't keep all of the water out of a boat but you don't have to let it stay.
 

jtsai

Member II
After anchored out for Hurricane Florence in 2018, I chased after mystery water in engine bilge for few months in my prior boat, a Sabre 28. The water was isolated in bilge under engine oil pane; the main bilge in saloon was dry. More strangely, the empty water bottle placed under the Racor water/fuel filter used to drain water from the clear canister (which never happened) was full. However there was no sign of water ever on the cabin floor no water stain on furniture. Since the color and taste of the sampled water (shown in the photo) appeared to be brackish river water, I assumed the worst and chased after possible sources near or below the waterline: shaft, thru hull fitting, exhaust etc. The wind was 90 mph at where boat was anchored during the hurricane so something must have jarred loose. However the chalk line trick and dry paper towel at suspect areas did not reveal the source. For months, I continue finding small amount of water in the engine bilge.

One day while washing the deck, I discovered the deck side drain which is a PVC elbow was allowing water dripping on quarter berth. After this is addressed, the water never reappeared. I can speculate how this leak could end up in engine bilge, but cannot figure out how it got to the spare water bottle under Racor filter. Also, stagnate rain water in boat bilge can acquire appearing and taste as outside water.
 

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K2MSmith

Member III
A follow up... I’ve found two sources for the water “leaks”. There is a little puddle that forms near the mast step and adjacent the small front hatch that accesses the depth / speed transducers. I bought a salinity tester and that puddle is fresh water , so I am guessing it’s dew/rain from the mast . Not sure if that puddle finds it’s way to the bilge or not, but not as concerned about this one ..

The second source is definitely the packing gland . This time I ran the engine and put it in reverse ( at idle ) a few times . Went below with the head flashlight and I can see the drip at about 1 drip every 5-7 seconds . So that’s where that puddle is coming from . It looks like that puddle can run into the bilge. I checked all thru-hulls by running my fingers around the hull / fitting interface and they seem watertight.

I’ll do a little research on previous threads in this . I’m not sure if any drip is considered “normal” , but it’s enough to put 1/4 - 1/2” water in the bilge over a week or two which I’d rather not have . it’s salt water so it also rusts the keel bolt washers . I’m not confident in my skills to adjust it , since the idea of creating a more serious leak gives me chills .
 
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racushman

O34 - Los Angeles
FWIW I have had good luck with creating a "poor man's dripless" solution by using the teflon impregnated flax in a standard packing gland. I've found there is a sweet spot on tightness where it does not drip in the slip, while underway it drips once every 20-30 seconds. At this level of tightness the gland will get warm to the touch underway, but not hot. This results in negligible amount of water in the bilge.

I read about this somewhere about 20+ years ago, and have used it successfully since. My O34 came with a dripless seal, but I don't think it's really any better than the old fashioned gland with the teflon flax... simpler and easier to maintain.

Also, I have successfully changed the flax while the boat is in the water... less water comes in than you would expect, and no problem as long as you have a working bilge pump.
 

windsurferman

Junior Member
I checked my packing gland the other day, I haven't adjusted it for a while. It dripped about every minute when not running and every 11 seconds when the shaft is spinning. The drip has a path to the bilge. the bilge pump does it job. I'm not worried about it.

IF your handy. It would be worth hiring a good mechanic (they don't advertise, ask a sailor you trust for a reference) to repack your gland. While they are there have them service your diesel including changing both of your fuel filters, bleeding the air from your fuel system, changing the oil and filter, adjusting valves, changing impeller, anodes?, and checking anything specific to your make and model.

Offer to pay the mechanic extra to watch and ask questions. Take copious notes and start to evaluate how much you can actually do yourself, what special tools you need, and a list of urgent and recommended upgrades.

Buy your engine maintenance and service manuals. The more publishers the better. Have spare maintenance parts.

I have a 27 footer and am very handy. I used to work as a marine machinery mechanic on nuclear subs for the navy. I still paid a mechanic $500 to show me how to service my engine 15 years ago after I bought my boat. Expect to pay more today, a good mechanic should be taken care of.

If your not handy...

I told an old friend that you should be handy or have some money if your going to have a sailboat. He corrected me, "You better be handy AND have some money if you want to have a sailboat."
 

K2MSmith

Member III
I checked my packing gland the other day, I haven't adjusted it for a while. It dripped about every minute when not running and every 11 seconds when the shaft is spinning. The drip has a path to the bilge. the bilge pump does it job. I'm not worried about it.

IF your handy. It would be worth hiring a good mechanic (they don't advertise, ask a sailor you trust for a reference) to repack your gland. While they are there have them service your diesel including changing both of your fuel filters, bleeding the air from your fuel system, changing the oil and filter, adjusting valves, changing impeller, anodes?, and checking anything specific to your make and model.

Offer to pay the mechanic extra to watch and ask questions. Take copious notes and start to evaluate how much you can actually do yourself, what special tools you need, and a list of urgent and recommended upgrades.

Buy your engine maintenance and service manuals. The more publishers the better. Have spare maintenance parts.

I have a 27 footer and am very handy. I used to work as a marine machinery mechanic on nuclear subs for the navy. I still paid a mechanic $500 to show me how to service my engine 15 years ago after I bought my boat. Expect to pay more today, a good mechanic should be taken care of.

If your not handy...

I told an old friend that you should be handy or have some money if your going to have a sailboat. He corrected me, "You better be handy AND have some money if you want to have a sailboat."
List Marine in Sausalito serviced the engine about a month after I closed the deal back in May and he did a pretty good job of showing me around the engine (which I really knew nothing about a marine diesel prior to that). I’ll have to check the invoice but I’m pretty sure the service did not include repacking the gland. They changed me about 1100 for the service and they changed all the filters, fluids etc. I had to change the seawater pump impeller myself recently. I am not sure if they changed that in the service but the part failed (the hub insider rotated from the rubber impeller vanes). It was pretty easy/accessible to change so now I know how to do that myself and I bought spares.
 

windsurferman

Junior Member
When I bought my boat I moved it from Alameda to Oakland. While motoring over I looked down into my cabin and saw water on the floor. The bilge was full of water! Luckily my boat had a Whale Gusher manual pump and I was able to quickly drain the water. The stuffing box was the culprit.

That's when I hired the mechanic and started building my bilge pump "system".

It's good to know your boat and to be able to fix (almost) anything that goes wrong. Self sufficiency is part of being a sailor.
 

K2MSmith

Member III
When I bought my boat I moved it from Alameda to Oakland. While motoring over I looked down into my cabin and saw water on the floor. The bilge was full of water! Luckily my boat had a Whale Gusher manual pump and I was able to quickly drain the water. The stuffing box was the culprit.

That's when I hired the mechanic and started building my bilge pump "system".

It's good to know your boat and to be able to fix (almost) anything that goes wrong. Self sufficiency is part of being a sailor.
Although I test my bilge pump/float switch as part of my normal "checklist", I've actually have not tried the whale gusher manual pump yet on this boat, so your story does inspire me to test it next time I'm at the boat (and maybe cleanout the pickup while I'm at it.).
 

1911tex

Sustaining Member
That's a good idea for all of us. Many originals don't work and need their membrane replaced.
Interesting...my whale gusher for the bilge did not work either (It was grody) so a year ago I purchased a new W/P...however, never installed it...I guess I need to have my personal membrane replaced as well!
 

windsurferman

Junior Member
nteresting...my whale gusher for the bilge did not work either (It was grody) so a year ago I purchased a new W/P...however, never installed it...I guess I need to have my personal membrane replaced as well!
Not necessarily. If the diaphragm is still in good condition you might just have an obstructed valve. As you can see from the diagram I have attached there are two little pieces of "rubber" that act as backflow valves and allow the pump to pump. Sometimes something gets stuck in one of these valves and stop it from working. After removing a clipped off piece of zip tie I try to make sure I don't let any little pieces of plastic fall into the bilge.

One other whale gusher tip. You don't have to completely remove the pump (big hassle) to inspect the inner workings. You can loosen the big hose clamp and see what might be obstructing your pump.

Good luck.
 

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1911tex

Sustaining Member
Not necessarily. If the diaphragm is still in good condition you might just have an obstructed valve. As you can see from the diagram I have attached there are two little pieces of "rubber" that act as backflow valves and allow the pump to pump. Sometimes something gets stuck in one of these valves and stop it from working. After removing a clipped off piece of zip tie I try to make sure I don't let any little pieces of plastic fall into the bilge.

One other whale gusher tip. You don't have to completely remove the pump (big hassle) to inspect the inner workings. You can loosen the big hose clamp and see what might be obstructing your pump.

Good luck.
Absolutely no problem...did not have the exploded view of a W/G which will go into my fix-it file and am sure it will assist others as well !!! Thank you!!
 

windsurferman

Junior Member
My boat came with the Gusher. I added an automatic Rule 500 gph system with a dedicated thru hull. I tested the Gusher the other week and I would estimate that once it gets primed it will output 4 or 5 times as much water as the electric rule.

Output with the whale does depend on how fast you can pump, but you don't have to worry about draining your battery. I hope I never need to use it.
 
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