PBO reader James Brooking is unsure whether he should fit an automatic bilge pump to his 25ft yacht. Our expert Tony Davies has this advice…


James Brooking asks: “I have a 25ft bilge keel yacht, it is fitted with a large Whale pump in the cockpit to service the engine compartment and cabin.

“I also have an electric pump with 5m of hose that can reach forward compartments, lockers and the lazarette plus a stirrup-type pump to reach into small spaces.

“A recent survey recommends I fit an automatic bilge pump but I’m wondering what the purpose of this is and if it’s an industry requirement?

“If a pump was fitted in the engine compartment it would serve to empty only a prop-shaft seal leak or raw water engine leak. I have no bilge as such – water would accumulate on the cabin floor.

“I don’t object to safety requirements but believe this could be overkill. In season the boat is used once or twice a week.”

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PBO boatbuilding expert Tony Davies replies: “An automatic bilge pump would serve to empty any water taken on while you’re away from the boat but having an auto-pump in just one compartment would make little sense – especially if you’re visiting often and can pump out anything that finds it way aboard.

“If the surveyor had suggested an automatic bilge pump that could empty every compartment that would have made more sense.

“In my previous steel boat I had three watertight compartments and just a small submersible pump in the engine compartment for maintenance purposes and no fixed bilge pumps anywhere else.

“Instead I had a huge submersible pump on a long hose and lead that could be dropped into any compartment in an emergency.

“As your system is pretty much the same as mine was I’d say that you have most possibilities covered during the season.

“It could be a different matter over winter, if the boat stays in the water and you rarely visit.

“An automatic bilge pump then might be a good insurance against taking on too much water, either through minor leaks, shipped waves or rain.”

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This feature appeared in the May 2022 edition of Practical Boat Owner. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a magazine subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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