Skip to main content

High Water Alarms

Two ways you'll know if your bilge pump system fails. One of them isn't pretty.

Some boaters install a second float switch wired to an alarm. This one sells for about $72.

No matter how much we use our boats to fish and cruise there is one place where they spend lots of time: at the dock. A boat is four times more likely to sink at the dock than at sea. Protect your investment by making sure your bilge system is operating properly and your high-water alarm is fully functional,

and loud.

Every boat is unique in design and you should know your vessel's idiosyncrasies.

I have had a number of boats over the years and they all had some peculiarities related to water drainage

off the deck, around in-deck hatches, and from the livewell—well you get the idea. One even had a slow leak that took months to find and fix. Oftentimes poor design or modifications over the life of a boat will alter drainage water flow in critical areas. Investigate your own boat and know its vulnerabilities.

For instance, my 25-foot center console had a large in-deck livewell with a drain plug in the bottom and a large overflow exiting via the transom. It took a near sinking for me to realize the potential disaster

of leaving the drain plug out with the overflow open. I had another vessel that had a self-bailing deck as long as no one was on the boat or there wasn't too much equipment aboard, but once a little weight was added—no longer self-bailing.

Lots of flats boats fall into this category.

A large charterboat I owned had cockpit deck hatches that allowed water to drain directly to the bilge, not normally a problem but couple that with some heavy rain and a faulty bilge pump and you can see the issue.

Protect your boat and yourself from unpleasant surprises by caring for your bilge pumps, bilge switches and their related electrical gear in the proper manner. Added protection, normally mandated by your insurance policy, should be a bilge high-water alarm—which can be as simple as a float switch coupled to a loud horn.

Each time you head out to sea, or at least once a week when your boat is sitting at the dock, or pre- or post-storm, you will need to check certain things related to your bilge and high water alarm. Here is a list:

1.Make sure all needed drain plugs are properly secured in place.

2.Make sure all deck drains and scuppers are clear of debris.

3.Make sure all deck hatches are in place and properly secured.

4.Make sure your bilge water is clear of debris that could interfere with proper float switch operation.

5.Make sure your battery system is fully charged with no current leaks.

6.Make sure your bilge switch is properly

positioned for automatic operation.

7.Check to see that all electrical connections

to your bilge and high-water alarm are corrosion free and properly secured.

8.Carefully examine all the hose, hose clamps, and fittings connected to your bilge pump for leakage or corrosion.

9.Make sure your bilge pump is mounted


10.Make sure your bilge drain hose is properly secured and supported. (They get very heavy when filled with water.)

11.Operate your bilge pump and check for proper operation using both the manual

switch and float switch.

12.Check for proper operation of your high-water alarm system. The louder the better.

High Tech in Play

As I said before, a high water alarm can be as simple as a float switch and a horn or it can be much more sophisticated. A variety of monitoring systems from companies such as Boat Nanny, Marine Guard, GOST, and several others can be installed with high water sensing as well as a number of other sensing and security capabilities.

These systems will notify you directly via text message or email should an alarm go off on your boat. For those of us who are away from our boat while it is docked, these automatic notification systems can be a very important added feature. FS

First Published Florida Sportsman August 2013

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

The Inception of the Custom Hydra-Stepp

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

Custom Fiberglass Interior and Seating Install

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

Lower Unit Gear Oil Change and Spark Plug Inspection

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

Tips for Servicing Your Outboards Lower Unit

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

How to Install a Thru-Hull High-Speed Pickup Livewell Properly

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

Jackson Coosa FD Walk Through

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

The Ultimate Hobie Mirage Outback Kayak Build

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

How to Reinforce a Fiberglass Transom for Outboard Engine Bracket

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

Flush Mounting Electronics for a Custom Dash Panel

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

SIONYX Nightwave Marine Camera – ‘See the Light'

Tie your line to leader in under a minute.

How to Modify Double Uni Connection for Heavy Leader

Florida Sportsman Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

Preview This Month's Issue

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Florida Sportsman App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Florida Sportsman stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Florida Sportsman subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now