Shallow Bilge, Soggy Electrical System

Shallow bilges can easily flood and cause expensive damage to important electronics.

Ed Sherman

I've touched on this topic before, but ran into this photo just this morning while reviewing some of the photos I took this year while serving as a BOTY judge for Cruising World Magazine. The two flat looking red handles in the lower center of the photo are the primary battery switches for the boat in question. The glossy white fiberglass you can clearly see below those switch handles gives you a very clear look at the bottom of the sump, or bilge on the boat in question. Notice all the exposed battery cable terminals on the back side of the switches, all at approximately the same height as those switch handles. The bottom line here is that it won't take much bilge water to totally flood this compartment and cause major damage on the boat. WHAT WAS THE BUILDER THINKING?

Now, if you are the unfortunate owner of a vessel that is set up this way, I have to tell you that you need to make triple sure that the positioning of the float on your bilge pump is such that the maximum bilge high water mark falls well below all of this gear. That’s the least you can do. Truth be told, fixing this right really will require some significant re-design of the boat’s primary DC electrical system. ABYC is pretty clear in its Standards that cables and gear such as seen here at the very least be located “above the bilge high water mark”. I’m running into this sort of installation more and more it seems as builders struggle to find a home for all this gear. I’m saying this builder really didn’t try hard enough in my view. I remember the answer I got from one builder when I brought this sort of installation to their attention…his response? Our boats don’t leak so it shouldn’t be a problem. Right, and Hippos can fly too.