Update on Bilge Pumps

by Sherri ~ December 19th, 2010. Filed under: Kayaking Equipment, Safety Equipment.

IMGP2836Back on August 4, 2010, I wrote a blog on pumps and paddle floats. One of the pumps I talked about included the Harmony High Volume pump.  I purchased two of these pumps at Canoecopia last March and used them in classes throughout the summer.  I liked the shorter length, high flow rate, and the slim foam float that covers the whole body of the pump.  However, both of these pumps have stopped working in less than one year’s time and they are now added to the list of pumps I won’t be buying again.

The pumps stopped working on two separate occasions when I was teaching kayaking to high school students in a swimming pool.  The pumps were being used to get water out of the cockpit of a sea kayak after the students had performed a paddle float self rescue.  The plunger shaft still goes up and down easily (unlike the Seattle Sports Paddlers bilge pump that I talked about in the August 4th blog), but it seems like the piece at the bottom of the plunger that creates the suction drawing water into the body of the pump has become dislodged and so practically no water is pumped through the body of the pump tube when the handle is pushed up and down.

My suspicion is that this problem has something to do with using the pump in chlorinated pool water since both pumps stopped working while being used in a pool.  I’m guessing that the chlorine is dissolving some adhesive that holds the internal pieces of the pump together.  Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any way to get inside the pump short of cutting it apart to try and fix the problem. If you own one of the Harmony pumps, I would advise you not to use it in swimming pools.

If you are looking to purchase a pump this year, I guess I would strongly recommend the Aqua-Bound Bilge Master as it seems to be the most durable of the current crop of pumps that I have used.  My old Beckson Thirsty-Mate bilge pump also is very durable having lasted over 20 years, but at 24″ long, it isn’t very convenient to carry in a kayak.  My old red and gray Harmony bilge pump with the red float collar has also lasted a good long time and continues to work.  I don’t believe that they are still available unless you can find an old one still sitting on the shelf at some store.  I am disappointed that the new Harmony pumps have not lived up to that standard.

I’d be very interested to know if anyone else has experienced this or any other problems with this particular Harmony pump, either in a pool or in natural bodies of water.

On a separate note, Merry Christmas to all my paddling friends, students, and blog readers!


5 Responses to Update on Bilge Pumps

  1. Russ

    I think the main problem is that many of the companies producing these pumps treat them as a convenience item, when in fact it is a a potential life saving device. They should be given similar importance as a life vest is given and the quality controls thereof.

  2. Sherri

    I would absolutely agree with you on that, Russ. Anyone who has read “Sea Kayaker: Deep Trouble” knows that there are several instances where things went from bad to worse as a result of a kayaker being unable to remove excess water from a cockpit and/or hatch. While none of those cases involved a broken bilge pump, this would be just one more opportunity for a bad situation to get much worse.

  3. Martin from Chile

    I have used NRS, Scotty, Harmony and Aquabound pumps for many years. Absolute winner, hands down, is the AB pump. Durable, well bilt, confortable and good also for long range shooting in water wars :).

  4. Samantha

    I found this posted in an Amazon review of the Harmony High Volume bilge pump:

    Poor design, breaks quickly, but you can fix it and it pumps great
    By Linda Day on June 5, 2014
    I was impressed when I got this pump because it pumped way more water — and much easier — than any previous pump I’d used with my sea kayak. BUT, as everyone says, it broke after about 10 uses, maybe less. I got mad. I pushed back the orange foam from the handle end, and gripped the gray plastic barrel underneath the foam with a large set of channel-lock pliers. Then I whacked the spout with a hammer until the glue bond broke and the pump handle and spout mechanism rotated freely, after which I could remove the pump end and plunger (I have photos, but there is no way to load them to these pages — but if you want to see the photos, send me a message and I’ll send you a link). The problem was obvious: The round rubber disk that moves the water was held to the end of the plunger only by a little plastic ring that was slipped over a wide plastic fitting at the end of the plunger, and there was nothing to hold the ring in place or keep it from coming loose after a few uses. What poor design! The ring should have screwed on, and so should the handle and plunger assembly; then it would be easy to disassemble and repair, and would probably last forever with occasional replacement of the rubber part. So… if you don’t feel handy, do not buy this bilge pump, because it is designed to become non-functional very quickly.

    Anyway, I sanded the two parts (the inside of the plastic ring and the outside of the plastic fitting on the end of the plunger where the two parts would go back together), then got some Devcon epoxy Plastic Weld, mixed it up, and glued the loose ring back in place so that the rubber disk was firmly held in place. When the epoxy set, I reassembled the handle assembly to the end of the barrel (note that the notch in the barrel has to be aligned with the spout on the handle assembly). Since the handle assembly was no longer glued to the barrel, I duct-taped the two together, and there’s no compelling reason why it should come apart. If it does, it could be glued together in the same way the ring inside was glued.

    So now it works again, and it’s a great pump and moves a huge amount of water with each upstroke of the plunger. I will update this review if the plastic itself breaks.

  5. Sherri

    Thanks for sharing the post. I wish I could see how she got the glue to break without breaking the pump. I finally just sawed through my Harmony pump to find exactly what Linda Day described inside. Fixing the plunger would have been doable if I could have figured out how to get the glued ends of the pump off without destroying it. It did work wonderfully for about the first day I used it. I would also suggest to Ms. Day that she use a screw to hold the handle assembly to the barrel as is the way the AquaBound pumps are assembled. I’ve never had any problem taking those pumps apart and reassembling them.

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