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External step drainage on a cruiser stern


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Hi all. My boat has a cruiser stern with external steps, offset to one side. The bottom step is lower than the door opening, with drain holes into the bilge so rainwater is eventually removed by one of the bilge pumps.

 

However, I quite like having a dry bilge, so I've currently got a very low-tech washing up tub under the drain holes to catch the rain. Nice dry bilge, the deck boards are all new and the channels are big and drain towards the stern via two 2" square holes at gunnel level so nothing gets in. 

 

It's a bit of a pain to empty the tub though due to the location, so I've got a jury-rigged manual bilge pump to do it. Not that neat and still a bit of a pain! Rarely away from the boat for more than a couple of days but the tub has occasionally overflowed. The drain holes also get blocked, and it never drains completely. Any water that ends up in the side bilges is usually too shallow for the pump to pick up.

 

Thinking of cutting out a 100mm square hole from the bottom step and putting a piece of plastic trackway mesh over the whole step as a tread. This would lift out to allow for cleaning and unblocking. Under the hole, sealed to the step would sit a plastic drain hopper like this with the 4" pipe capped off to create a sump to catch leaves etc. A 1" PVC hose leading from the top of the hopper would go to the stern gland bilge so that pump can remove it.

 

Anyone done something similar? Or any other ideas? Thanks.

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11 minutes ago, cheesegas said:

Hi all. My boat has a cruiser stern with external steps, offset to one side. The bottom step is lower than the door opening, with drain holes into the bilge so rainwater is eventually removed by one of the bilge pumps.

 

However, I quite like having a dry bilge, so I've currently got a very low-tech washing up tub under the drain holes to catch the rain. Nice dry bilge, the deck boards are all new and the channels are big and drain towards the stern via two 2" square holes at gunnel level so nothing gets in. 

 

It's a bit of a pain to empty the tub though due to the location, so I've got a jury-rigged manual bilge pump to do it. Not that neat and still a bit of a pain! Rarely away from the boat for more than a couple of days but the tub has occasionally overflowed. The drain holes also get blocked, and it never drains completely. Any water that ends up in the side bilges is usually too shallow for the pump to pick up.

 

Thinking of cutting out a 100mm square hole from the bottom step and putting a piece of plastic trackway mesh over the whole step as a tread. This would lift out to allow for cleaning and unblocking. Under the hole, sealed to the step would sit a plastic drain hopper like this with the 4" pipe capped off to create a sump to catch leaves etc. A 1" PVC hose leading from the top of the hopper would go to the stern gland bilge so that pump can remove it.

 

Anyone done something similar? Or any other ideas? Thanks.

 

No, just put up with a wet  bilge. Life's too short.

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25 minutes ago, cheesegas said:

Hi all. My boat has a cruiser stern with external steps, offset to one side. The bottom step is lower than the door opening, with drain holes into the bilge so rainwater is eventually removed by one of the bilge pumps.

 

However, I quite like having a dry bilge, so I've currently got a very low-tech washing up tub under the drain holes to catch the rain. Nice dry bilge, the deck boards are all new and the channels are big and drain towards the stern via two 2" square holes at gunnel level so nothing gets in. 

 

It's a bit of a pain to empty the tub though due to the location, so I've got a jury-rigged manual bilge pump to do it. Not that neat and still a bit of a pain! Rarely away from the boat for more than a couple of days but the tub has occasionally overflowed. The drain holes also get blocked, and it never drains completely. Any water that ends up in the side bilges is usually too shallow for the pump to pick up.

 

Thinking of cutting out a 100mm square hole from the bottom step and putting a piece of plastic trackway mesh over the whole step as a tread. This would lift out to allow for cleaning and unblocking. Under the hole, sealed to the step would sit a plastic drain hopper like this with the 4" pipe capped off to create a sump to catch leaves etc. A 1" PVC hose leading from the top of the hopper would go to the stern gland bilge so that pump can remove it.

 

Anyone done something similar? Or any other ideas? Thanks.

Possibly a L/pool hull?

 

Seen a few with your idea of drain for the side step. Why not just put another bilge pump and float switch in a bucket under the drain hole?

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5 minutes ago, Tracy D'arth said:

Possibly a L/pool hull?

 

Seen a few with your idea of drain for the side step. Why not just put another bilge pump and float switch in a bucket under the drain hole?


Yep, 1992 Liverpool hull! Someone’s modified the engine bay though so the gland has its own little bilge with a pump  and the side bilges are linked with a piece of box section with another pump on the port side. 
 

Thanks. Don’t know why I didn’t think of adding a 3rd pump! Not keen on putting in another skin fitting, but I could tee into the port side pump’s outlet hose with a couple of non return valves? 

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8 minutes ago, cheesegas said:


Yep, 1992 Liverpool hull! Someone’s modified the engine bay though so the gland has its own little bilge with a pump  and the side bilges are linked with a piece of box section with another pump on the port side. 
 

Thanks. Don’t know why I didn’t think of adding a 3rd pump! Not keen on putting in another skin fitting, but I could tee into the port side pump’s outlet hose with a couple of non return valves? 

 

Long story short, in 2001 we bought a sunk/recovered boat that had extactly the same set up as yours.

The drain hole had become blocked with leaves and the water continued to flow down the steps until it overflowed the lip and filled up the cabin - the boat sank.

 

When we bought it it still had the polythene on the matresses, cling film on the fridge and cooker door, pots and pans still in their packaging.

The boat was a 2000 year 'Millenium' boat and virtually brand new.

We bought it for £15,000

 

Do EVERYTHING you can to keep the drain hole clear, or you may end up in a similar situation.

 

It is a very poor design.

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Just now, Alan de Enfield said:

 

Long story short, in 2001 we bought a sunk/recovered boat that had extactly the same set up as yours.

The drain hole had become blocked with leaves and the water continued to flow down the steps until it overflowed the lip and filled up the cabin - the boat sank.

 

When we bought it it still had the polythene on the matresses, cling film on the fridge and cooker door, pots and pans still in their packaging.

The boat was a 2000 year 'Millenium' boat and virtually brand new.

We bought it for £15,000

 

Do EVERYTHING you can to keep the drain hole clear, or you may end up in a similar situation.

 

It is a very poor design.


Yep, fully aware of this flaw. I got the boat for a very good price as the holes had become clogged and water overflowed into the rear cabin, rotting most of the doorframe and everything within 2’ of the door! 
 

First thing I did was drill the holes out to 12mm so it can’t happen again. Binned the wooden step cover too, so I can see the holes all the time. 
 

Scary that it can sink a boat too! Thanks for the story. 

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I've had a similar arrangement on my new build, except the door is in the centre. I didn't want a hatch, so the steps are, same as op's, on the outside. Boatbuilder added a piece of metal across the engine housing thus making a bilge under the engine for oil etc and another bilge under the bottom step to catch any water. Into this, I've fitted an automatic bilge pump which removes any water and my engine bay stays nice and dry.

 

When the boat was newly in the water, I hadn't fitted the bilge pumps. On the first day of rain, I was surprised how quickly the catch box filled up. I had the bilge pump, but not the skin fittings, so I rigged it up into another drain pipe as op suggested, it was a total failure! Once the skin fittings arrived I fitted them, fitted the pipe and have left it now for almost 3 years with no problems, just clean the step out each time I go and check under the deck boards to make sure it's still dry.

 

I would suggest you do it right first time, then you'll have piece of mind.

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1 minute ago, Kendorr said:

I've had a similar arrangement on my new build, except the door is in the centre. I didn't want a hatch, so the steps are, same as op's, on the outside. Boatbuilder added a piece of metal across the engine housing thus making a bilge under the engine for oil etc and another bilge under the bottom step to catch any water. Into this, I've fitted an automatic bilge pump which removes any water and my engine bay stays nice and dry.

 

When the boat was newly in the water, I hadn't fitted the bilge pumps. On the first day of rain, I was surprised how quickly the catch box filled up. I had the bilge pump, but not the skin fittings, so I rigged it up into another drain pipe as op suggested, it was a total failure! Once the skin fittings arrived I fitted them, fitted the pipe and have left it now for almost 3 years with no problems, just clean the step out each time I go and check under the deck boards to make sure it's still dry.

 

I would suggest you do it right first time, then you'll have piece of mind.

Thanks for the advice. I've ordered the parts to build a sump directly under the bottom step with its own pump and skin fitting. I'm going to make a 120mm hole in the bottom step and bolt/seal the sump to the underside of the step and pop a pump in there. I'll also make a couple of holes in the sump higher than the bilge pump's activation level so if it fails or gets overwhelmed, the water will drain into the engine bay first rather than filling up the step. It'll have a piece of plastic grating over the whole step to keep leaves out and stop you getting stuck in the hole. 

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Could I suggest some non-slip around those steps? I have seen 2 people who had broken legs when they got onto the deck from the starboard side and mistakenly stepped into the step hole, hitting the first step and sliding off onto the second.

We used one of these shells for a hire boat build.

Mindful of the danger we welded a curved rail from the bulkhead down to the gunwale so that you could not step onto the deck in the area of the steps.

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2 hours ago, Tracy D'arth said:

Could I suggest some non-slip around those steps? I have seen 2 people who had broken legs when they got onto the deck from the starboard side and mistakenly stepped into the step hole, hitting the first step and sliding off onto the second.

We used one of these shells for a hire boat build.

Mindful of the danger we welded a curved rail from the bulkhead down to the gunwale so that you could not step onto the deck in the area of the steps.

External steps into the cabin are the work of the devil!

Once crewing a boat with them I stepped from the landing straight down the 'ole.

Didn't break anything but it hurt!

Made worse by the fact we had just come out of the pub after a lunchtime pint and there were lots of people around in the beer garden.I felt a right arse!

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Guess I’m lucky so far as I haven’t fallen victim to the hole and neither have any guests yet. I’ll replace the grip tape when I paint the steps though, might put some grip haztape around the top too. 

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Is the bottom step high enough to fit a couple of skin fittings and connect those to skin fittings in the side of the boat to gravity drain out? I guess the hull skin fittings would end up too close or even below the waterline?

Edited by blackrose
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The step is just below the waterline unfortunately, so gravity isn’t much help here. The new skin fitting will be at the same height as the other two, an inch below the deck boards. 
 

2 hours ago, blackrose said:

Is the bottom step high enough to fit a couple of skin fittings and connect those to skin fittings in the side of the boat to gravity drain out? I guess the hull skin fittings would end up too close or even below the waterline?

 

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Thank you cheesgas for starting this thread, and to you others as well for your suggestions. I’ve had exactly the same problem and have never been able to fully resolve it during the 8 years I’ve owned the boat.

 

I put an additional bilge pump on the engine bay floor of the section under the step, but as has been mentioned, it only removes water to a certain level. The idea of placing it in its own sump (even a bowl would do probably) is such a simple solution and I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing that. Duh!

 

Many thanks everyone.

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All the above posts demonstrate that there is no real cure for crap design!

 

I remember seeing boats like that when we were looking for our current boat - cruiser stern - and rejecting them.

 

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15 minutes ago, Machpoint005 said:

All the above posts demonstrate that there is no real cure for crap design!

 

I remember seeing boats like that when we were looking for our current boat - cruiser stern - and rejecting them.

 

 

But as a newbie you don't know what is good design and what is bad design, once you've bought it you are are pretty much stuck with it until you decide / can afford to upgrade.

 

If more people asked for advice before buying then the pitfalls could be explained to them.

Buying it and then asking 'what can I do about xyz' is a bit horse / stable door.

 

 

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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49 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

But as a newbie you don't know what is good design and what is bad design, once you've bought it you are are pretty much stuck with it until you decide / can afford to upgrade.

 

If more people asked for advice before buying then the pitfalls could be explained to them.

Buying it and then asking 'what can I do about xyz' is a bit horse / stable door.

 

 

Appreciate what you're saying but I knew the design flaw before I bought it as the overflowing bottom step problem had already occurred. I wanted a cruiser stern and after seeing a few boats (and being on one for a week) with internal steps and sliding hatches, I realised I preferred the external steps despite the potential drainage issue...I also don't mind modifying bits. This one also had removable boards over the whole deck rather than just one in the middle over the engine which lets in a bit of water but it makes maintenance a million times easier. 

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1 hour ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

But as a newbie you don't know what is good design and what is bad design, once you've bought it you are are pretty much stuck with it until you decide / can afford to upgrade.

 

If more people asked for advice before buying then the pitfalls could be explained to them.

Buying it and then asking 'what can I do about xyz' is a bit horse / stable door.

 

 

 

On the other hand almost every boat will have its own problems, perhaps not as fundamental as steps which drain into engine bilges, but there will always be something the builder didn't get right. On mine it's inadequately sized gutters & downpipes around the cruiser stern deckboards. They're fine for a shower and moderate rain, but in a downpour they get overwhelmed and spill over into the engine space where it floods the top of the port side uxter plate. My engine room bilges are dry most of the time as I keep about 5 nappies on the uxter plate and have to replace one or two of them every month or so.

Edited by blackrose
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