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Water in Bilge

Hello! I am new to this forum. I am the proud owner of a 1998 280 Fiesta Vee. I have had the boat for 4 years. Since purchase there seems to always be water in the bilge area. The bilge will go off constantly if someone is standing on the swim platform. I manually empty the bilge, but it seems to always want to go on. Last weekend the bilge alarm started to go off while under way. It only went off when I was above 3000 rmp's. Any suggestions? Do I assume I have a leak? How can this be traced? I have done several visual checks in the engine compartment and other areas and there does not seem to be any leaks jumping out at me. Thank you! I love the boat!  

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    craigswardmtbcraigswardmtb Member Posts: 1,015 ✭✭✭
    edited July 2015
    If it's not obvious and it's more pronounced with weight on the back of the boat it's likely a small tear in the bellows. Check for water coming down the transom.  If it's bellows you will want to fix that quickly. If a tear gets too bad you have a potential sinking concern. 
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    PostDocPostDoc Member Posts: 9
    Thanks for the quick reply! I will go back to the boat this week and do more detective work and post my findings. Yikes, this may not be good!
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    craigswardmtbcraigswardmtb Member Posts: 1,015 ✭✭✭
    Are you in salt or fresh water? If salt check the steering arm swivel shaft area as well. There is a seal in there that fails on alpha and bravos. 
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    PostDocPostDoc Member Posts: 9
    I am in fresh water, but I will check that area as well. Boat is in the water, so some of the areas I need to check are problematic to get to/view through the engine compartment.   
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    howardramshowardrams Member Posts: 223 ✭✭✭
    I'm assuming you see the water and are not just hearing the pump turn on like maybe the float switch is faulty.  If enough has been coming in for 4 years to truly actuate the pump constantly and the water is effectively being pumped out, something's leaking.  If more comes in when the engine's running it could be a plug missing from the engine block, any of the many water hoses to the water pump, heat exchangers, etc., a rusted freeze plug, or god forbid, a crack caused by freeze damage.  That water would be pretty easy to see when the engine's running.  If you eliminate leaks from the engine and cooling system, then look to the transom as someone mentioned the bellows for the exhaust through the drive or other seals.  Some simple leaks can be water coming back in through the drain holes for the cockpit (sometimes those holes are close to the waterline and the hoses inside sag down low and crack).  Holes anyone drilled for the wires to a transom mounted transducer, improperly sealed, or for the trim tabs, and of course, fittings going through the hull like for seacock water valves for A.C. and/or head, and someone recently had a loose fitting that their drain plug screws into.  Don't know if your swim platform is bolted on or molded in; some have bolt holes that can leak.

    Not trying to scare you, just listing everything I ever heard of to check.   
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    PostDocPostDoc Member Posts: 9
    Thank you so much, I appreciate the detailed reply. I plan on checking everything you listed when up on the boat tomorrow. I now realize that this is a high priority item!!
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    PostDocPostDoc Member Posts: 9
    So, I have been up on the boat all day doing some detective work and here is what I found. I firstly drained all of the water out of the bilge area with a shop vac. I then observed on and off for the next few hours. I do not see any signs that there are any leaks from the transom or engine. After a about 5-10 minutes I started to see a small trickle coming from the direction of the front of the boat. I stuck my head in the bilge area as far as I could but could not see anything. On my boat, the bilge area is like a 12 inch wide channel that runs from mid ship to the bilge. The start of this "channel" is right under the steps to the cabin. This is where the macerator pump is. There are also two valves right through the hull at this spot. I cannot see where any of these are leaking. Is there anything (valve, etc..) that would be between the bilge pump and this macerator pump that could be leaking? I cannot get access to any other spots to look. It is not my fresh water tank and not any gray or black water either. Also, it was not raining at the time, and there are no leaks anywhere else on the boat--cabin etc... any ideas? It has now been 6 hours and there is about a half inch of water in the bilge......Thanks fellas!!  
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    MarkBMarkB Member Posts: 3,969 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Look at the shower sump under the mid berth mattress. Check the head through hull and strainer. You can shop vac those areas as well and keep an eye on it.  My air con strainer was dripping and that filled my bilge up quickly. Was easy to fix.

    Boat Name: King Kong

    "Boat + Water = Fun"

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    howardramshowardrams Member Posts: 223 ✭✭✭
    I assume you also ran the engine at the dock and watched for obvious cooling water leaks which may not be apparent unless your water pump's drawing lake water.  Just for 5 minutes or so.  Good news it's not flowing in through the transom.  I keep my 2 seacock valves closed as a precaution when I'm not on the boat and are also under the steps.  If one of yours is for the Air Conditioning, there is a twist-off filter screen canister that may not be sealing well.  Mine's only 6 inches from the valve but is a bear to get seated right without being a contortionist.  I don't have a macerator but if the hoses to that were leaking it would be smelly black water in the bilge.  My head has the manual pump that draws lake water in and flushes it to the black water holding tank.  The hoses to the toilet are usually continuous so there should not be other hidden parts in between the pump and the black water tank.  I always have about a 1/2 inch of water up around the seacocks too low to reach the bilge pump, and the rear is always dry.
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    PostDocPostDoc Member Posts: 9
    Ok, this saga continues..so I have ruled out all engine and transom leaks..it is definitely coming from the "top" part of that bilge chute that stars under the cabin stairs. I have put paper towels all around the seacocks, macerator and pretty much everything else in this area below the stairs. I let them sit for half a day and the towels are completely dry and yet I still have water coming slowly into that rear bilge area. It looks like the leak is somewhere from the macerator box to the rear bilge area. I can see (using my phone in camera mode) behind the macerator pump and there does not appear to be anything there that would cause a leak. It looks like a straight run from the macerator box to the rear bilge where the water is. Also, I have intentionally not run the sinks and pumped the toilet, so it is not coming internally (I don't think). Is there any thru hull fittings etc  in that area between the mac box and rear bilge....Saturday I plan on getting the snorkel mask and diving under the boat to see if I can see anything in that area...this is quite the case!! Thanks howardams or anyone else!!! I waxed her a little today hoping to get some good karma going!!     
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    MarkBMarkB Member Posts: 3,969 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Just making sure, it hasn't rained has it, or you haven't washed the boat either?

    Are you saying all water lines are depressurized (galley pump is off)? Empty?

    How many through hulls do you have? Where, and for what?

    Aircon - is it running? Where is the condensation going?

    With the bilge empty, how long before it fills up (how many gallons every 1 hour, 2 hours or 4 hours would you estimate?

    Boat Name: King Kong

    "Boat + Water = Fun"

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    PostDocPostDoc Member Posts: 9
    Hey Mark B, thanks for responding! You guys are awesome. No, it hasn't rained, and I made sure that the air con was not on. And I also did not use any sinks, toilets etc....I cleared the bilge at 7 am and then took out 2 gallons at 7 pm. What about the drain plug, is there a way to tell if this is not sealed properly?   No, it hasn't rained and I did not wash the boat. Re thru hulls, the freshwater lake I am on does not allow any grey water, so a lot of my thru hulls are plugged. I have one for my air, 2 for the rear and mid boat bilge and 2 direct drains. I can visually see all of these and none of them are leaking. Man, this is a tough one. Thanks fellas!
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    MarkBMarkB Member Posts: 3,969 ✭✭✭✭✭
    You have a problem that is 1 to 2 drips per second based on w gallons per 12 hour period.

    It's not huge. For the drain pllug cab you use food coloring to dye the water and see what is going on?

    Boat Name: King Kong

    "Boat + Water = Fun"

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    howardramshowardrams Member Posts: 223 ✭✭✭
    Good idea about putting food coloring in the lake behind your boat to check the drain plug seal, MarkB.  I understand PostDoc about those inland lakes that won't even trust you not to use your sinks so you had to plug a few drains?  Also as Mark mentioned I have no idea at all about where condensation drip from the A/C unit goes!  I do know the roof air on my camper drips condensation steadily on hot humid days.  Maybe if it was T'd in with a sink drain which you had to plug it could have built up even though you haven't used it lately?

    Just another thought:  My boat does hold a gallon or two of water in the triangle shaped compartment under the front cushion in the cabin.  It must work it's way it from the wet anchor rope, rain, and the vents or drains which are mounted low on the bow when running in choppy water.  I haven't got around to figuring out why that water never drains out, or how to keep it out.

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