PS Advisor February 15, 1998 Issue

PS Advisor 02/15/98

Bilge Pump Cycling
I added a counter in my bilge pump electric line. Every time the pump cycles, the counter counts. When leaving the boat I make sure that the counter is reset. When first arriving, I check it. If I have a leak, the counter tells the number of cycles the pump ran. Before the counter was installed, I would visually check the bilge. Seeing no water led me to think all was OK. But the pump could be working without me knowing it. Now I have peace of mind knowing the pump has not run.

After a recent sail I checked the counter and to my surprise, it counted 35 cycles. The bilge was then checked to find very little water. The pump must cycle when the boat heels. Now, when we sail I turn the pump off to avoid unnecessary pump starts. But I must remember to turn it on before leaving the boat.

I imagine that many false pump cycles is not good for the pump. Maybe that is why I had to replace my old one before the counter was installed.

Your comments please.

Art Michaelsen
Westminster, Maryland


We like the idea of using an event counter. We think that you ought to check the pump while sailing to see if you can determine what’s causing it to turn on. Possible causes could be water sloshing in the bilge, reverse siphoning when (and if) the hose outlet is submerged, leak from a water tank, cutless bearing, rudder stuffing box, etc. Give the helm to someone else, open up the bilge and watch it. We’re curious, too.


Second Forestays and Downsizing Portlights
My wife and I own a Midship 25, a center-cockpit, swing-keel sloop weighing about 4,000 lbs. I am contemplating adding a bowsprit for two main reasons: two smaller headsails as opposed to one large genoa, and also as a place to have two anchors at the ready. The jibs would be roller reefed/furled with the present forestay acting as the staysail stay. Is there a way, other than by trial and error, to determine a proper length?

I would also like to replace some fixed ports with opening ones. However, my fixed ones seem to be larger than any available stock sizes. I have seen in upgrading books how to enlarge existing ports, but have yet to come across any information on downsizing. Would a solid piece of wood be acceptable, perhaps with a spline 9/16" deep and the use of good epoxy?

Bradley Cutter
Reading, Massachusetts


Regarding the conversion of your sloop to a cutter rig, only a yacht designer/naval architect could really calculate for you the effect of your proposal on handling. But we can say that adding a forestay in front of the existing stay will move the center of effort forward, probably resulting in lee helm—not desirable. However, if the forward sail was used mostly off the wind, it would be tolerable.

If you want to divide the foretriangle without affecting the balance of the boat, your second stay should be an inner forestay. But on a 25-foot boat, that means a pretty small staysail and Yankee. Cutter rigs are more sensitive to sail trim than sloops, and don’t go to weather as well, so while trimming will be physically easier, the results may not be satisfying.

Were the boat ours, we’d leave it alone. A roller furling genoa of, say, 130%, furled down to about 100% will still give satisfactory performance. That should be easily manageable on your boat.

As for downsizing ports, occasionally you see smaller opening ports set into the larger fixed port. This may look a bit odd, but the only other alternative would be to remove the fixed port, glass in the opening, then cut new holes for the new, smaller opening portlights We would not use a block of wood, which will not bond as well to the surrounding cabin sides as well as a fiberglass patch will.

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