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Breaking auto-bailer during beach launch?


New Member
Hi everyone,

I beach-launched my 1984 Sunfish for the first time yesterday, and broke the auto-bailer twice. The pins bent out enough to let the ball escape when I first set it in the sand from the trailer. I replaced the ball and gently bent the pins back, and it worked fine while I was out, but when I came back to shore, the beach must have knocked one of the pins out and I lost the ball for good.

Has this happened to anyone else, and is there a way to avoid it? (I never dragged the boat backwards, by the way). And to fix this, has anyone tried replacing the pins with some glue-in nails, or do I need a whole new bailer assembly?

Thanks in advance,


Well-Known Member
I completely smashed the housing of my auto bailer and put it back together with Marine Tex. I have it as a backup and bought a new one. This is something you can custom fix with nails or some other kind of material for pins. You could also just plug the hole and sail...


New Member
Yeah I'm definitely ordering a cockpit drain plug and bringing a milk jug bailer just in case. I will try replacing the pins with something else, but it looks like I'll have to pay the $26 plus shipping for the 5 plastic balls from sunfishdirect.

signal charlie

Well-Known Member
Staff member
It happens to everyone, the way to avoid it is to not set the boat on the bailer. Skipper taught sailing and that was a big learning point for the group. Another way to avoid it is to use a dolly.

Is that the original bailer? I'd buy a new bailer part or complete bailer, keep the bashed one for spares.
I wish someone would make a plug you could put in the hole that the bailer assembly goes through. Not the plug for the bailer but a plug to replace the bailer.

It just seems like a matter of time before the bailer is damaged.

Besides, I have sailed a couple sunfish and neither had working bailers. Just used a plastic cup to bail out the cockpit.

Charles Howard

Active Member
Never had a problem with a plastic bailer. As stated keep on the right side or use a dolly. Seals well, usually sail with it open, only on light days do I put the plug in.

Breeze Bender

Breeze Bender
Once you’ve busted your bailer once you’ve learned a lesson the hard way. Many have done it, myself included. I doubt you’ll do it again. You could glass over the hole, use a freeze plug, a rubber stopper, a cork... but it’s much nicer to sail with a proper bailer than to spend time with a plastic cup.

beldar boathead

Well-Known Member
Agree that the bailer is good to have working. If you ever sail in high winds and big seas, frequent stopping to bail would steal the fun from the day.


Well-Known Member
A freeze plug is available from most auto suppliers: about $5. Big washer inside! :confused: 5/16ths-threaded plastic knob eases insertion and removal.

For a bailer, cut the top off a water bottle. Hold between thumb and forefinger to bail. Won't hurt your foot if you step on it. :cool:


Well-Known Member
I use one of those flip top, black rubber plugs. Easy to remove and shove in...even under sail. If you're booking...just leave it out. I also have the old DesPersia metal bailer which is useless....so I shove the plug in when things are basically dry. If I get a good wave...the plug pulled for a minute or so, takes care of business.