Tool of the Day …. Pump Diaphragm

After the rough passage from The Abacos to Eleuthera all three boats in our little flotilla were bruised and battered. On Sanitas, the propane sensor was alarming and cutting off propane to the stove. This first occurred after the ingredients for dinner were chopped but before they were actually cooked. Doh! And more importantly, the bilge pump failed. Yes, that bilge pump. The one that drove Mike to stay up late every night in Marathon to ensure it was installed and working before we left Florida.

After pumping a 5-gallon bucket of dirty water out of the bilge by hand using a tiny portable pump (and dousing me with bilge water in the process) Mike started trouble shooting.

  • Sea grass clogging the input strainer? Nope.
  • Intake hoses clogged? Nope.
  • Output hoses clogged? Nope.
  • Thumb over the pump intake. Any suction? No suction.

So we took the whole darn thing apart. I have a lot of photos from boat projects so far of Mike lying on the floor in this same place and in a similar measure of contortion.

I am so impressed that Mike was able to find the source of the problem and to fix it! The diaphragm that performs the physical pumping is supposed to be held in place by a small metal cap. That cap had failed. Essentially this cap had bent in such a way that it no longer did its job of holding the diaphragm in place. But it was miraculously still sitting next to the diaphragm, instead of being lost somewhere in the dark corners of the bilge.

We jury-rigged a solution that should work until we can replace this specialized part. Mike re-flared the pin that holds the cap in place, using a #2 phillips head screwdriver bit. He pounded down on the head on the pin using a hammer onto the screwdriver bit until it was shaped more or less correctly and resumed its job of holding the diaphragm in place.

So far, so good! Of course while executing this project, we discovered that our back-up manual bilge pump doesn’t work. But rebuilding that pump will be another whole project for a later date.

4 thoughts on “Tool of the Day …. Pump Diaphragm

    • We’ve learned that we need to tighten the rudder packing gland ( I thinks that’s the right name) frequently. As in, every time we make a passage, otherwise it leaks quite a bit of water. After a rough passage, we had lots of water trickling through that entry point into the bilge. We still have lots of leaks!


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