On a mission to enlighten people about bilge pump capacity

Published on November 12th, 2013

The mission of the 2013 Fall Salty Dawg Rally was to assist cruisers in their transit from the Mid Atlantic region of the U.S. to the Caribbean.

The Rally got under way last week from Hampton, Va., Beaufort, NC and other ports with boats in the 116 strong fleet departing between November 2 and 8. A strong front, which had been forecast to pass over the mouth of the Chesapeake early in the week, slowed and grew more intense as it passed over the bulk of the fleet on Wednesday night and Thursday.

One of the boats that could not handle the conditions was Ahimsa 4, a Morgan Out Island 416 owned by Bruce Grieshaber and Rebecca Meinking. On Thursday (Nov. 7), the crew sent out a distress signal, stating they were taking on water approximately 230 miles east of Virginia Beach and was in need of assistance. By Friday at approximately 1:30 am, a US Coast Guard Jayhawk helicopter hoisted four people from the Ahimsa and took the boaters back to Air Station Elizabeth City.

Noted author and blue water sailor Donald M. Street Jr., who is on a mission to enlighten people about bilge pump capacity, shares his opinion on the incident…

The Ahimsa was lost because her crew could not keep up with the ingress of water. What were they pumping with? Most probably with the standard two 10gpm pumps that builders install on boats that they claim comply with ISAF safety regulations specifications.

Despite what builders, designers, salesmen, owners, and scrutineers for the various racing organizations and rallies say, the vast majority of boats racing off shore and taking part in Rallies DO NOT comply with ISAF Offshore Special Regulations, Rule 2.03.1(e) which states that “All equipment required by Special Regulations shall …be of a type, size and capacity suitable and adequate for the intended use and size of the yacht.”

What is a suitable sized pump for a 40 to 50 foot boat sailing offshore?

Neither British nor Norwegian Lloyds, nor the EU, British, and US boatbuilding associations, nor the US Coast Guard specify the size of manually operated bilge pumps that must be installed. The only organization that specifies the pumping capacity required in relation to the size of the boat is German Lloyds.

They specify a pump of 27gpm on boats of 40 feet and over.

RORC, CCA, race organizers for Sydney Hobart and Transpac, along with the various Rally groups, all say their scrutineers are checking boats to make sure they comply with ISAF safety regulations.

Obviously the scrutineers are not strictly enforcing ISAF rule 2.03.1(e).

If they were actually enforcing the rule, we would be hearing from skippers complaining that they cannot find a large capacity pump to comply with ISAF rule 2.03.1(e) as the marine supply stores had been bought out and no pumps were available. .

I say this as when you look at the organizations I have contacted, the number of boats that should have been inspected this year, the number is almost one thousand.

If even half the boats were inspected, and if the rules were enforced, I do not think the present marine supply industry could begin to supply the number of 27gpm manual pumps to bring all the boats taking part in offshore races and rallies to compliance with ISAF 2.03.1(e).

If the scrutineers were strict we would be hearing of skippers complaining that they can not find a big manual pump as they are all sold out!

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