Maintenance Pointers and Notes from Southport – Pumps

This week, we’re talking about pumps- how to keep them happy and operational for as long as possible.

A typical Southport will have at least half a dozen pumps: macerators, bilge pumps, fresh and saltwater, and livewells. Each of these pumps is suited for a different thing, so there are a few different types: diaphragm, impeller, and then the macerators.

Taking care of pumps is important, and while the expectation isn’t that the pumps will last forever, they can be made to last longer with proper upkeep

  • Bilge Pumps- these are easily the most important pumps on a Southport, or any boat for that matter, so they deserve proper attention. Southports have two bilge pumps: a 1000 GPH daily pump used for evacuating casual bilge water, and the much larger 2000 GPH High Water pump. These pumps work in conjunction to keep the boat dry of water, with the High Water pump kicking in when the standard pump is overwhelmed. If you find yourself in a situation away from the dock where you need one or both and they aren’t working, a minor inconvenience could turn into a major disaster. Take good care of these pumps. Check their operation before leaving the boat (especially on a mooring), and regularly check the float switches to be sure there is no debris that would keep the switch from coming on or shutting off. If the float switch seems a little uneasy in it’s operation it is worth further inspection and maybe replacing. Better safe than sorry.
  • Use it or lose it. More than once I have shipped replacement pumps to owners who didn’t use a macerator for a whole season, and then when it came time to winterize, the pump had seized. Running pumps regularly will keep them in good working order and the internal components lubricated. It’s a good practice to run each pump 1-2 times a month, just to get it spinning.
  • Don’t expect the pump to get every last drop out of a fishbox, tank or compartment. Depending on where the pickup is and the geometry and location of the tank/compartment, the pump might leave a little bit behind, and while you are holding the button down as the pump spits out a little bit of water here and there, the motor is getting closer and closer to overheating and burning up. When the stream turns into a trickle or intermittent burps, the job is done.

In the next post, I will talk about engines and some often overlooked routine maintenance items every skipper should keep in mind.