We like to keep the water on the outside of our boats, but inevitably water gets into the bilge. Either from rain leaks, wave inundation or a host of other reasons. Every boat should be equipped with a manual bilge pump. Here's my pick of the best currently available.

Every boat I’ve ever sailed on or cruised in has one or more of these pumps onboard. I’ve had hands on experience of all but one of these pumps. Choose a pump with the capacity to suit your boat but also choose one that can be used easily. You might have an internal pump where it fits in a cupboard for transferring fluids from one tank to another or you might need empty your bilges rapidly after being inundated with a wave. If you find yourself holed and taking on water, and if your electrical system has gone down, assuming you have one in the first place, you’ll be glad of a wise choice of manual bilge pump. Those with removable handles usually come with a lanyard to ensure it doesn’t go walkabout when you need it most.

The pumps are measured in Gallons per minute. The higher the capacity pumps require a fair bit of physical effort, so it’s a good idea to have two pumps onboard, one for every day use that’s light and easy, plus something for when the chips are down and you have a lot of water to shift. It’s amazing how much adrenaline can help when pumping water out to save your boat.

At a glance Editors choices: Best manual Bilge Pump

Patay Ocean Master Manual Bilge Pump (Lifeboat Approved) Best manual bilge pump for high volume capacity 

Whale Henderson Pump Mk 5 Best manual bilge pump ease of serviceability

SeaSense Hand Bilge Pump Best manual bilge pump for portability

Whale Gusher 10 Bilge Pump

Specifications:  up to 17 gallons per minute (GPM) Corrosion-resistant construction, ergonomic handle, efficient diaphragm design, Hose Size 38mm / 1-1/2″
Reasons to Buy: High capacity, durable, and offers different mounting options.
Reasons to Avoid: Larger in size compared to other pumps.

This Gusher pump is one of the higher capacity commonly available manual pumps currently on the market. It has a really solid metal body and the handle with the ball end is one of the longer ones available. This gives good leverage, but it does mean it can be difficult to operate in a tight space. Spares are easy to find and it is relatively easy to service, though you will need tools to access the diaphragm for servicing.

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Whale Henderson Pump Mk 5

Best manual bilge pump ease of serviceability

Specifications: 42 LPM (11 US GPM) at 45 strokes per minute, 66 LPM (17.5 US GPM) at 70 strokes per minute, bulkhead-mounted or deck-mounted, use with freshwater, saltwater, or waste: Hose Size 38mm / 1-1/2″
Reasons to Buy: robust and durable construction, straightforward to install and maintain, self-priming
Reasons to Avoid: might not be ideal for larger vessels or heavy-duty applications, requires periodic maintenance

The Whale Henderson Pump Mk 5 is a popular manual diaphragm pump designed for various marine applications, including transferring water, pumping out bilges, and handling waste. I have this exact model on my Rustler 31. It’s mounted in an impossible to access locker but it is really easy to maintain with service kits readily available at most chandleries. It has a decent flow rate, which is obviously affected by how fit you are. I recommend fitting it where you can move easily to get good access to the handle and for servicing access. Any leaves or other debris being sucked into it will need to be cleared out using the top cap which can be unscrewed. If only you can access it. Can you tell I’m a bit bitter about how mine was installed by the previous owner? It’s great value for money too.

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Whale Gusher Urchin ND9010 Manual Fluid & Diesel Transfer Pump

Specifications: 36 litres per minute/ 9.5 GPM, hose size 25mm / 1″
Reasons to Buy: Simple design, reliable, and suitable for small to medium-sized boats.
Reasons to Avoid: fixed handle cannot be removed

A smaller capacity but reliable manual pump. This one has a fixed handle so it needs to be mounted in such a way to allow the handle to have access at all times. This one is handy for header tanks or gravity feed tanks, day tanks etc and for  moving fluids around on a regular basis. It can be used as a bilge pump, and the diaphragm can be rotated to orientate the handle to the best position.

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Seaflo Bilge Pump

Specifications: capable of pumping approx. 12 GPM, Available in various sizes (up to 36 inches) Self-priming, easy-to-use, durable plastic construction, and comes with a removable foot for easy cleaning. Hose Connections:34.5 mm (1.36″)
Reasons to Buy: Simple design, reliable, and suitable for small to medium-sized boats.
Reasons to Avoid: mounting options are more limited than other models of pump

Similar to the Whale Urchin this Seaflo pump has a little higher capacity at 12 Gallons per minute but is also a small unit and takes up little space. The handle can be slotted on and off for use or left in place if using as a fluid transfer pump  indoors. two handle positions so you can find a position or access that works best.

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Patay Ocean Master Manual Bilge Pump (Lifeboat Approved)

Best manual bilge pump for high volume capacity

Specifications: Robust construction, 135 LPM (29.6 GPM / 35.6 US GPM), suitable for heavy-duty use. Hose Size 38mm / 1-1/2″
Reasons to Buy: Durable, efficient, and offers very high pumping capacity
Reasons to Avoid: more expensive compared to other options.

This beast is the most powerful pump I can find for the UK market and understandably this one comes Lifeboat approved. You’ll need deep pockets for this but what price to pay for getting your boat out of deep doo-doo. It can pump 135 litres per minute, or 35.6 of your US Gallons PER MINUTE. I could empty my water tank in less than 60 seconds which is pretty dammed impressive.

The Patay Ocean Master pump is made from a polyester coated aluminium body with a stainless steel pump handle. It is robust and suitable for heavy duty use in the marine environment, making it suitable for workboats and larger leisure craft.

The double diaphragm pump is easily serviceable as access to the pumping chamber.  I personally love a bit of kit that is designed for use without tools. To quickly unclog this, just unscrew the unit by hand using the hand wheels.

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Edson Aluminum Compact Manual Lever-Action 18 GPM Pump

Specifications: Robust construction, 18 gallons per minute, suitable for heavy-duty use. Hose size 1.5″ Inlet & Discharge
Reasons to Buy: Durable, efficient, and offers high pumping rates.
Reasons to Avoid: more expensive compared to other options.

The second highest capacity pump in our lineup, but also the second most expensive. You get what you pay for! For our US readers, this Edson Pump is made from Aluminum or also available in bronze, these Edson pumps are the most powerful manual pumps available. Edson also make 30 GPM models of the pump, which puts it on a par with the above Patay pump and they all come with super long handles of at least 18″, with the larger capacity pump handles measuring in at 32″!
They are easy to maintain with spare/replacement diaphragms available on the Edson site. Those with traditional wooden craft can rejoice with this type of manual pump. With handles this long you can mount the pump low down and simply stand to pump.

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Attwood Manual Bilge Pump

Specifications: Up to 8 GPM, Compact, ergonomic T-handle for easy pumping, corrosion-resistant, and suitable for small to medium boats.
Reasons to Buy: Lightweight, affordable, and easy to store.
Reasons to Avoid: Not as high capacity as some other models. doesn’t come with hose

The Attwood manual pump has a really easy to use handle, the easiest of the three  of this type I have listed. The only downside is that it doesn’t come as standard with the extra hose if you want to pump to a bucket. It’s got a good barrel grip though and feels sturdy to use.
As per all of the pumps in this group, they come in different lengths. They are an absolute necessity for emptying your dinghy or rib bilge area after a massive downpour of rain.

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SeaSense Hand Bilge Pump

Best manual bilge pump for portability

Specifications: Handles up to 8 GPM, Corrosion-resistant, lightweight, and compact design. Comes with a 72-inch hose.
Reasons to Buy: Affordable, easy to use, and suitable for small to medium-sized boats.
Reasons to Avoid: May require frequent maintenance.

The great thing about the SeaSense manual bilge pump is the long flexible hose that comes as standard and the hose clip on the barrel to help keep the hose form flailing about like an octopus arm when it’s not in use. The shaped T-handle gives a decent grip, though not quite as good as the D shaped grip of the Attwood.
For kayaking, canoeing, inflatable tenders, ribs and tight locker spaces in cabin boats, these pumps are brilliant.

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Beckson Thirsty-Mate 318

Specifications: Available in various sizes (up to 36 inches) Self-priming, easy-to-use, durable plastic construction, and comes with a removable foot for easy cleaning.
Reasons to Buy: Simple design, reliable, and suitable for small to medium-sized boats.
Reasons to Avoid: May require some effort for continuous pumping.

This handy manual pump is really easy to use, just poke into the area and point the hose into a bucket or over the side if your boat is small enough. I use a  pump just like this one to empty an awkward bilge space on my 31 foot sail boat. Rain water collects in a really small area under a bunk and this is ideal for such a task sucking it dry in seconds.
I do find the hose to be a bit of a wild thing sometimes and can be difficult to make sure it stays in my bucket, but it’s really simple and does the job really well. Just beware of that flexible hose. It’s like a baby elephant trunk spraying water all over the place if you aren’t careful.

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