Want a good insurance policy? Get a bilge pump. Boats leak.
I have never had to use my Bilge Pump. Neither have I had to fire my flare gun, shoot my fire extinguisher, toss my life ring or call "May Day" on my radio...but anyone of these could happen one day...including springing a leak. I think the bilge pump is one of the most over-look safty items on the small sailboat. And it should not be because of cost. You can install a good system for around $100. You probably pay at least that much every year for boat insurance.
Essentually there are three parts to a good bilge pump system.
1. The Pump
2. The Drain
3. The Control Circuitry
The hand pump shown at left is a recent addition to the Christopher-Jin. During the Spring of 2009 I took on some water in the cabin, over a foot. I had removed the Winter Tarp and some leaves had clogged the scupper drain near the bottom outlet. I had also left open the galley drain and guess where the Spring Showers went! Down the scuppers and out the galley drain and into the cabin!!! After struggling with a small hand pump and a bucket and sponges I went out and bought the new hand pump.
I recommend purchasing your bilge pump and accessories form a good manufacturer, like Rule or Jabsco. Be sure to test your pump regularly. The control circuitry is simple but don't skimp here. You want a unit with a good quality switch, a pilot light that indicates that the pump is working and it should have its own fuse.
The control panel should have its own fuse because it should be wired ahead of all other switches, mains, and fuses or circuit breakers. This assures that, short of a battery or shore power failure, the pump with turn on when needed.
The control panel should have a 3 position switch, Auto-Off-Manual. The Manual position is used for testing of the Bilge Pump as well as allowing you to turn on the Bilge Pump in the event of a Float-Switch malfunction. The Auto position allows the Float-Switch to turn on the pump as the water level in the boat rises. The OFF position allows you to preform maintenance work on the wiring of the Bilge Pump or Float-Switch.
REMEMBER TO ALWAYS RETURN THE CONTROL SWITCH TO THE AUTO POSITION AFTER TESTING OR PERFORMING MAINTENANCE ON THE SYSTEM.