A Guide To Bilge Water – What It Is, And Why it is Harmful To Your Boat

Bilge water is something that sailors have been dealing with since ancient times. It is the liquids sitting inside the boat, but beneath the floor boards and under the engine. Bilge water enters from an array of different sources, including but not limited to Prop and rudder shaft packing, a weak or rusty hose clamp, dry rotted or damaged hoses, old and worn out thru hull fitting, mast drip, window or port hole leaks, air conditioning condensation sweat, engine exhaust leak, hatch leak, or a vent leak just to name a few. If you ignore your residual bilge water, you’ll have to deal with more serious consequences in the long run.

So the main question today is:

How can bilge water be harmful to your boat?

Here are just a few ways.

It Creates a Condensation Cycle

The average boat is fairly well sealed, to prevent water from entering the bilge in the first place, as a safety issue. Too much water entering the bilge too rapidly will cause the vessel to sink. But keeping the compartments well sealed also means little exchange of outside air with poor ventilation. Next, we leave the boat out in the sun, which radiates heat through both the deck and hull, warming the interior air. Warmer air accelerates the evaporation of the bilge water which can make things sticky and uncomfortable. But the real problems occur late in the day as the sun starts to set: Now the air below starts to cool, passes dew point and can no longer hold all the moisture it absorbed earlier in the day. Condensation droplets quickly form everywhere. On all of your equipment, on top of tanks, on your engines, on the electrical components, nothing is immune. You probably have raised a hatch in the early morning hours to see large drops of water running down the bottom side of the hatch, as its angle changes when it is being raised. Of course those drops of water were not limited to the bottom side of that hatch. This small amount of condensation droplets ages the entire boat rapidly and is outlined in the following sections below.


It Causes a Damp and Musty Odor

Bacteria thrive in dark and wet environments. If you have ever gone down to your bilge (which we hope you have) it is just that, a dark and wet environment. If you don’t attend to the water in your bilge, mildew will grow above the standing bilge water and mold can grow in the water. This leaves you with a boat that smells old and rotten. Plus, mold is very dangerous to your health. Those of us who have sensitive lungs, like the very young and the elderly, will likely notice the effects right away. Did your child miss school on Tuesday or Wednesday after a weekend outing on the family boat?

Bilge Water Can Create Rust

With that standing bilge water and humidity we have created the perfect environment to promote rust. While rust is mostly oxygen combining with steel, water and humidity plays a major role in facilitating this. The humidity attacks the finish and coatings on your engines and once rust starts to form, it spreads like a cancer, converting everything it forms on into a much less reliable platform.

Bilge Water Can Ruin Your Interiors

If mold and mildew in your compartments wasn’t already bad enough, it will eventually find its way up into the interior areas. A wet and humid bilge means a humid cabin. As that humidity continues to move up to the upper decks, you’ll begin to notice mildew growing in the carpet and upholstery of the cabin. Beyond your lower bilge compartments, other parts of your boat will become susceptible to mold. Wait long enough and it’s time to call the guys dressed in the hazmat suits to remediate the problems, or abandon ship!

Bilge Water Can Create An Uncomfortable Boating Environment

You end up running the boat’s air conditioning systems, not so much to control the temperature, but to use the AC as a giant dehumidifier. Simple, when the air is very humid, and you sweat, the sweat does not evaporate off your skin fast enough, so nature’s way of cooling you fails, and you become very uncomfortable. The last thing you want to feel when you are trying to relax at sea is to be hot and sweaty. If you leave water sitting in your bilge, you won’t get to bask in the experience that is dry boating! Plus, your guests won’t enjoy hanging out on your boat either. And what fun is a boat if it can’t be shared with your friends?

Bilge Water Covers Up Leaks

As if finding leaks on your boat wasn’t already hard enough, it becomes much harder when your bilge is filled with water. Many boaters pull their hair out trying to find leaks on their boats. When there’s a small lake down below, it masks the small leaks. But once that same lake is completely removed, the same small leaks start to leave visual trails, through the dry bilge, back to the source of the leak. Be it oil, fuel or water, all of the leaks are tracked intuitively just by following the trail through the dry bilge back to the source. Left unchecked, small leaks eventually become big leaks and then can become incredibly dangerous. The more they grow, the more of a chance you have of losing your boat to the deep blue. When your bilge is nice and dry thanks to a good dry bilge system, finding leaks becomes much easier. A leak-free boat is a boat that delivers peace of mind like nothing else.

Get Yourself An Arid Bilge System

The Arid Bilge System works like a charm. Simply place the bilge pickups, which are connected to the computerized, automated central vacuum unit, at the lowest points, and watch these pickups suck away all of the remaining bilge water. Once the unit is installed, it will remove the residual bilge water from all of your different bilge compartments up to 75 feet away, leaving them all bone dry. It is the most complete bilge system on the market, perfect for boaters who are looking to have a permanently clean and dry bilge solution.

If you’re interested in how Arid Bilge Systems work, make sure to check out our little video below!

Happy Boating!