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Emergency Pumps

Last year I finished up a major project on my boat Keeper (Putting it all Together). Part of that project was removing the engines and among many other things removing the original seawater pumps and replacing them with a belt driven pump mounted in a different location.

To accomplish that, I had to design a new mounting system, locate a suitable pump that could be belt-driven, and design that drives the system. After a lot of study and designing, I came up with a system that has been trouble-free. The raw water pump I used is a big Jabsco pump that is used on a Caterpillar 3208 diesel engine, driven by a timing belt turned off a machined adapter mounted on the crankshaft vibration dampener. I had to figure out how to turn the pump at a slower rpm so it did not pump too much water through the raw water system.

After installing the pump and using it successfully my thoughts fell on having emergency bilge pumping capabilities. This pump is very sturdy and has a great reputation for reliability. It would not be very hard to come up with a system that would fit in my boat and still be useable. If I did it correctly I could also use it as an engine flush system and as a way to introduce non-toxic anti-freeze into the engines when I winterize them.

Originally I had thought about a permanently installed suction hose using bronze pipes and fittings. This is a common set-up on larger boats, but my boat does not have that type of room. I was talking with my new friend Dan about this. Dan lives in Florida and after seeing my posts about the engine modifications I had done to our engines, he contacted me about doing the same thing to his boat. He has the exact same boat and went ahead with the same modifications. Talking about the emergency or “crash pumps” Dan told me about some composite fittings that are also quick connect.

Once I looked at the fittings from the Banjo Valve Company, I knew that Dan had given me the answer. I could design a simple, clean system that would fit in my engine room and not block access to any components. I ordered the parts and started the installation.

The first thing I had to do was make space at the back of the engine room for valves that would operate the system. I had to move the engine overflow bottles, not an easy thing to do keeping them available. I was able to make four-inch stand-offs and move them outboard of the primary fuel filters. This gave me the room needed to mount the control valves. Each of these valves would have a quick connect fitting on top so a suction hose could be attached to the valve. It was important to have these valves accessible so the valves could be operated without having to enter the engine room.

A suction hose would also be permanently attached to the bottom of each valve. This hose would have to be connected to the main engine suction line by a “Tee” or “Y” fitting. This was very important to me to keep the hoses close to the engine stringers so I could still have room to work in the engine room. Banjo Valve Company has a “Tee” fitting that ordinarily I would have used. But again Dan came up with a “Y” fitting from a company called “TruDesign” that would keep those hoses close to the engine stringers.

After installing the valves and hoses I had to get the removable suction hoses set-up. These hoses are fairly flexible (similar to pool vacuum hoses) and are stored under the bunks in the cabin until needed. They attach to the valves using the quick connect fittings, and I can connect them to each other to make one longer hose. As it is now the shorter hose can be attached to one valve to reach the rear of the engine room while the longer hose attached to the other valve can reach the front of the engine room giving me two extra pumps to remove water from there in the event of an emergency. If needed, those emergency pumps can supply over six thousand gallons per hour of pumping capacity should it ever be necessary, in addition to the three electric bilge pumps mounted in the bilges. By connecting the hoses together with a quick connect fitting I can have one longer hose that can reach into the cabin or into the aft bilge.

Operation of all this is simple also. Let’s say I want to flush out an engine, the port engine. I would take the short hose and connect it to the port side valve. I place the other end of the hose in a bucket that is filled with water. This would also simulate using the pump to remove water from the engine room. I can then start the port engine normally, and then open the new suction valve. Until I close the valve on the sea strainer nothing will happen to the water in the bucket. Once I start to slowly close that valve, however, it will start to empty the bucket and empty it very quickly! By turning on the hose from the dock to fill the bucket, it just barely keeps up. And the marina has very good water pressure. When I am done I can open the valve on the sea strainer and close the new emergency valve. I tested all this out with no problems, and also connected both hoses and ran it out over the swim platform to see how it would do. No worries there as I ran the engine using that hose to simulate pumping from one location. I ran the engine for fifteen minutes with no issues.

This really was a simple project to install and there really is no reason to not have something similar. Even if it just buys time enough to save a life. Besides making it easier to flush or winterize your engines is not a bad thing to do. Even if you don’t use it yourself, making it easier for the service tech still saves you money!