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They say that it’s bad luck to begin a passage on a Friday. If that’s true, I’d have to assume that commencing one on Friday the 13th, yesterday, would have been extra bad, right? Well, we’re not suspicious, and even if we were, it was our belief that moving the boat from St. Anne back into Le Marin couldn’t hardly be considered a true passage. When I got around to doing my normal pre-passage engine checks though, I started to have second thoughts!

When we dinghied in to get some groceries the other day, I recorded this track using the iOS app that I recommended here. It’s similar to the track that we moved the boat yesterday.

Ready to check the oil, coolant, and make sure nothing was amiss, I popped down into the engine room. When I did so, I was given a bit of a start by the fact the there was considerable water in the engine bilge. When I say considerable, I mean up over top of the deep area of the bilge, and pooling just below the stuffing box. Under no circumstances could that be good!

Because of its location, my first (scary) thought was that the water was coming in through the stuffing box. Rebecca quickly reminded me that we had been operating our washing machine the day before, doing laundry, and she recalled that the bilge alarm/pump didn’t go on automatically as it normally does (the washing machine pumps the discharge water into the bilge, not ideal, but for the time being, it is what it is).

When we first purchased Frost, one of the things that drove me crazy was the fact that the electric bilge pump did not turn on automatically. A high water alarm would sound if the bilge filled up, but the pump would have to be switched on manually. That’s all well and fine if you’re on the boat, but what if you weren’t? Our electrician friend Simon was able to fix that with a small wiring alteration, and for the last little while, we have enjoyed having the pump turn on automatically when the alarm sounded. Something was obviously amiss though, preventing that from happening.

We first determined that the bilge pumps, both electric and manual, were working, and got rid of the standing water. When I studied the system, I was able to get the alarm/pump to operate via the float, but only intermittently. I definitely didn’t fix the problem, and that remains a priority. Unfortunately, it’s not in a convenient, or comfortable place to work, right up in front of the engine. It’s a spot for small, flexible, non-claustrophobic people only! As a stop gap until I do get it repaired, I installed one of these backup water detectors that were recommended by our friend Jason on Two Fish. They are available from Amazon for very little money, run off a 9V battery, have a remote sensor that you can place up to 6′ away from the alarm unit, and they are very loud! If you’re a boater, I’d definitely recommend picking up a couple.

These are available from Amazon for very little money, run off a 9V battery, have a remote sensor that you can place several feet away from the alarm unit, and they are very loud!

If your boat was sinking, wouldn’t it be cool to have one of these? Inflated with a simple shop vac, it was strong enough to lift the stern of this 44′ cat high enough out of the water so that both sail drives were accessible.


  1. Mike, do you know the name or make of that inflatable ‘thing’ under the stern of the FP cat? It looks brilliant and could solve several problems.



  2. We have some of those same alarms aboard Vector:

    You can actually mount the sensor and alarm unit even further apart than 6′ just by cutting the wire and splicing in some extra.

    Our washing machine, fortunately, pumps its discharge overboard directly. FWIW, you will probably find the discharge pump in your machine has enough head pressure to do the same thing. So by splicing a length of hose to the machine’s discharge hose you can run it up to a through-hull above the water line or maybe, for the short term, up to the deck and into a scupper.

  3. Its too bad you’re unable to find an alternative solution to “storing” grey water in your bilge. Don’t you find it smells? I installed a 35 gallon plastic tank, right next to the bilge and this is our grey water holding tank. In the beginning, the washing machine discharged into this tank, but before we left Canada, I re-routed the discharge to a new through hull well above the water line, with an anti-siphon valve inserted. Otherwise, I’d be pumping the washing machine discharge water twice, once into the tank, and once out. With respect to switches, I found that the “Water Witch” is the best switch for grey water, but having said that – even now, years later, I’ve given up on grey water float switches of every kind. I prefer to manually switch on the tank pump every morning as a matter of routine. As long as you mix grey water with bilge water, I think you’ll continue to have problems with switches. Its a shame that Amel hasn’t figured that out.

    • In Amel’s defense, the washing machine in question is not a factory item. It was installed by a previous owner. I have no idea how Amel’s newer boats are plumbed but I bet it’s not like this. The washing machine plumbing on Frost is obviously not ideal, and I may change it. For the record, the only grey water that goes into the bilge is from the laundry, and it doesn’t normally smell because, when everything is working, it gets pumped overboard. All of the interior bilges on Amels are dry.

      As for the actual wet bilge, it needs to have a backup electric pump in my opinion, another item on the to-do list.

      • Mike – we have been onboard several Amel 53’s where all the grey water, by plan, goes into the same bilge. Several Amel owners we’ve befriended have a common complaint. Your configuration seems to be one of the better ones.

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