Bilge pump switches, tough boats, and safe 2020 wishes to all

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

14 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I guess it’s obvious that, at least temporarily, I’ve become an aging offshore lobster boat groupie, but here’s a good video — heavy soundtrack included — of what it’s like to haul and set a big trap trawl. Watch your feet!

    I’m still looking something similar shot way offshore in winter conditions, but note that this same videographer, Terry Boivin, has posted numerous excellent new boat running vids with walkthroughs that show some of the sophisticated systems installed:

  2. Christopher says:

    Ben for you and Ben S Happy New Year.

    Can you write what the boats use for such high antennas for MF/HF or VHF ?

  3. Christopher says:

    Thank you for your response .
    I use long antennas VHF Comrod AV90BI16-2 from a good supplier

    Antenna front from a German manufacturer
    Regards .

  4. Howard says:

    The Ultra switches use a magnetic reed switch to control power to a relay coil, the relay contacts then handle the high current switching for the Bilge pump. The voltage spec is for the relay coil. The Ultra switches are very robust and reliable. My previous Ranger Tug came with the electronic Johnson Ultima switches, 2 for Bilge pumps and one for the high Bilge alarm. 2 out of the 3 failed within 2 years. I used an an Ultra Junior to replace the failed Bilge pump switch and a Borel manufacturing reed float switch (low current) for the Bilge alarm. No electronics in the switches and now very robust. I like high tech but feel something as important as a Bilge switch should be simple, robust, and reliable.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Howard. Relay voltages were also mentioned in a reader email, and make sense to me. And I will admit that it will be a long time before we know how long the (seem excellent) Blue Guard switches tend to last, and that Gizmo has two almost entirely independent bilge pump systems for a common bilge area — only the highly monitored battery bank is shared — plus several high water alarms 😉

    • Colin A says:

      After working with a number of muiltiplex system and seeing several lockup the entire boats electrical system in a failure, I tend to agree simple is better on saftey systems. Also a bit easier to trouble shoot in the middle of nowhere. I remember sitting at a dock on a 36′ production boat with a multiplex system trying to figure out the float switch wiring with an actual diagram and it still taking an hour due to the convoluted nature of the install.

  5. Bill/WMS says:

    We have multiple USS Ultra bilge pump switches on Visions of Johanna and have had a good experience with them over 16 years. We have fortunately, not tested them in an urgent situation! I have replaced one of five switches at the 12 year point when I noted improper status lights – which I think was due to a cable/wiring issue but I cannot definitively recall. USS will not allow any break or re-connection of their wire leash and it was necessary to replace the entire assembly. I ordered a spare with the replacement and now carry it aboard. I would choose them again.

  6. Sparky says:

    I switched to an Ultra switch some years back as part of addressing a corrosion issue caused by a bad float switch. I like the Ultra. I do wish they would use tinned wire for their conductors, particularly given the price.

  7. Colin A says:

    I have spent alot of time replacing bilge switches when I was a tech. I also heard alot about peoples struggles with them when I was designing and selling electrical systems. In general it seems the Ultra are the only almost universally praised switch out there. I really want to like the electronic ones (I have installed a number of water witches) but I have experienced issues with a couple where dirty water leaves a film and them seem to stay activated and also where they stop working with freshwater (rain).
    All that said my own boats have rule float switches on them, but they are mostly day boats and an ultra would be a bit overkill on a 50 year old 19′ sailboat with a tight cabin and self bailing cockpit.

  8. Dan Corcoran Dan Corcoran says:

    How about the Johnson ultima (bilge pump) switch?

    • Jeff Zurkow says:

      Years ago, I installed Johnson Ultima switches on my own boat and several clients’ boats. All failed within a season or two. I now use only the USS switches that Ben describes above, and have yet to see a failure.

  9. Bruce says:

    Though the USS Ultra Senior switches are good products, do not count on the manufacturer to stand by the warranty. When I purchased mine it was sold with a lifetime warranty (now it is 10 years). Though mine was installed per manufacturer’s instructions and had never been submerged, when it failed the manufacturer refused to honor the warranty. Though I liked the company, this experience soured me on the company.

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