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Bail And Wail

Got water?

February 24, 2009

When your boat starts to sink, you pray the automatic bilge pump kicks in and saves the day-tragedy avoided. But what happens when your dinghy gets swamped, your baitwell clogs up, or your bilge pump needs a boost? If your first reaction is to grab a bucket, know that there are many gadgets that make bailing a whole lot easier. Here’s a rundown on a few of our favorites.

Of the Cloth. If stowage is a problem, consider a 1½- or 3-gallon canvas bucket ($8 to $10; www.greenmountainproducts.com). Made from pre-shrunk 21-ounce cotton with a 2″ cotton web handle, it won’t mar your boat’s gel coat. The bucket is malleable, so you can bend its edges to get into those hard-to-reach places that a solid bailer always misses. Plus it scrunches down to fit in any locker.

Power Pump. Don’t rely on elbow grease. Get the WaterBuster electric portable pump ($50; www.attwoodmarine.com). Powered by three D batteries, this submersible pump has a 42″ discharge hose and can pump as much as 200 gallons per hour to a maximum height of 4′ for as long as 5 hours. It has a garden hose adapter if you need to reach deep into the bilge.

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Heavy Artillery. The new 5′ Bazooka Bailer ($45; www.taylormadeproducts.com) has three functions-bailer, boat hook, and power washer. Built from aluminum, it’s sturdy enough to handle boat hook duties. As a bailer, just put the tip under water and extend the handle. It will suck up close to half a quart of water and, when you retract it, shoot it overboard like a water cannon (good also for targeting perching birds and guys who speed in the anchorage). There’s also a larger 8′ model ($55) that sucks up a quart per pump if you need the extra length and volume. For washing, the √” Acme thread on the end will accommodate many accessories, even ones from competitors.

Hand to Hand. For small dinghies, try this yellow plastic hand bailer ($10.50; www.datrex.com). Scoop up rainwater or spray almost to the final ounce. It doesn’t rust, plus it comes with a lanyard, so you can’t accidentally drop the bailer over the side. It also clips to an oar lock or motor mount for ready access. And get this: When you take Rover ashore to do his business, it can double as a pooper scooper.

To the Last Drop. You’re down to the dregs and you need to get out the last drops of water. Time for a serious sponge like the Gigunda ($7; www.starbrite.com) or the Reggae ($10), which looks like a piece of 1960s shag carpet. Both use manmade sponge, but the scraggly part of the Reggae is made of microfiber, which allows it to absorb more water.

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DIY. Of course, you can make your own hand bailer for nothing. Just save any quart- or gallon-size plastic bottle (with a handle, of course) and cut the bottom to shape with a sharp knife or box cutter. Square bottles work best. Don’t forget to keep the cap or you’ll be bailing forever.

Old Faithful. If volume on a budget is what you need, use a bucket-a plastic one won’t scratch your fiberglass. Tie a short length of line to the handle to avoid tossing the bucket overboard. And remember, water weighs around eight pounds per gallon, so forget the oil drum.

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