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Bilge Pumps: Smooth Sailing
Even if your boat is motorized, it takes work to keep it afloat. Learn about one key component with Groupon’s look at the bilge pump.
From motorboats and jet skis to yachts and mega cruise ships, virtually all seaworthy vessels have a bilge. As the lowest compartment on a ship, the bilge often takes on water, whether through the propeller, small leaks on deck, or the captain’s slowly melting popsicle stash. Bilge pumps clear the area of excess water and spilled fuel in order to keep the ship in working order. Although it may seem counterintuitive, small sailing vessels can require more powerful bilge pumps than larger recreational boats, especially if they see a lot of rough water or host a lot of squirt-gun fights; it simply takes less water to imperil them.
Many bilge pumps are electrically driven centrifugal pumps. The pump’s rotating impeller—a sort of water wheel—draws water to its center and pushes it through a discharge pipe with the help of an attached diffuser, which constricts and channels the water to build up pressure and propel it through the discharge outlet. Centrifugal pumps must be fully submerged in water in order to work, but they can quickly clear the bilge of dangerous liquid.
Electrical pumps, however, are vulnerable to power outages. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a manual pump onboard. These pumps can clear about 20 gallons of water per minute, though they can be quite tiring to operate; accordingly, some experts recommend a motor-driven backup pump. No bilge pump, whether manual or electric, can prevent a boat from sinking in the event of a large leak, but they can buy valuable time.