Sailing lession: What to do when water leaks

Have you ever been in a situation that you entered the vessel and flooring was flooded? If not, you’re lucky. I tell you, is not pleasant. First tought to go through your mind is that you must be sinkingif . This is partly true, but only if you stand around and do nothing. Most of the causes of water intrusion into the vessel is completely banal. Therefore it is necessary not to panic and fix the problem as quickly as possible.

What to do

Sailing lession: What to do when water leaksFirst of all you should start by pumping water out from the hull. If you have an electric blige pump, switch it on. Even better, if you have the engine through a belt-driven pump. These are very strong, but you should check if there are no obstacles for starting the engine, of course, to the extent not already switched. The worst thing is when you do not have any electrical alternatives and you must do all your pumping manualy. But even this will be better than nothing. Define a member of the crew that will be pumping the  water out of the vessel. You will have to examine all the possible points of water invasion but if the vessel is large you will also need a assistant. Skipper must, for safety reasons, turn towards the nearest port or peaceful bay, where if necessary he  would beable to strand the vessel and thus save the vessel from sinking.

Searching for the point of water leakage

Your next step is to find the cause of water leakage. As I mentioned, it is usually very trivial, and quickly solved. I suggest that you first go trough all of the toilet facilities. It often happens that the toilets without vacuum valve installed tend to return water through the outlet pipe and the water then flows through the vessel shell. Send your assistant to check the engine compartment. Very often the point of water entry is the seal on the tube of the propeller shaft. Even in sailboats with a S drive, the possibility of water intrusion is great but the water will, in case of a broken rubber, slowly percolate into the hull and this damage is not so dangerous. It is very dangerous, if the rubber on a fixed axis is broken. In this case we must push it back in its place by hand and we need to call proffessional help. The next step is to check all drainage valves. Each sink has a tube connected with a valve that is installed on the drainage element. It can happen that any of these tubes can be detached, fractured or the clamp holding it in place has detached. The solution lies in the immediate closure of the valve. Then we will be able to replace the defective pipe peacefully. We must know where the main drainage valves are positioned therefore it is best if we take a look at them before we go on our trip. Other dangerous water leakage points are sensors such as the depth gauge and speedometer.These also need carefull inspection. If we can’t locate the leakage here, we have to look in place where the keel is fixed to the boat’s hull. The problem is that it is unlikely we will see how water penetrates because the screws on the deepest part of keel of the boat are submerged under water. This will require to reach with your hand under the joints and to feel the joints in order to determine where  the water penetrates. If you have not hit against the bottom leaking of water will not be criticall. Repearing it is impossible. It is necessary to proceed to the nearest port and continue to drain water out of the boat. The last option is a hole in the hull, which could not have been incurred otherwise than by having a strong impact with some solid object floating, so that the crew would already be aware of the collision. In this case, of course,  it is necessary to locate the damage and to improvise a temporary restoration.

Sailing lession: What to do when water leaksTemporary restoration of a trough hull hole

A small hole can beired with a piece of cloth. Usually the holes resulting from impact with the object which swam in the waterare located at the water line. In this case we have to distribute the weight of the vessel so that the vessel will be inclined as much as possible and the hole will be pabove the waterline. Transfer all luggage, food and beverage stocks and if you have two water tanks pump the water from the one that is on the opposite side of the hole. The crew should also be careful where they move and sit. Indeed it can be uncomfortable, but it is still better to sit on a dry seat than swim in the sea. If you have found a large hole, it is best to use the seat cushion, which is pressed into the hole. The pillow must not be too wide, but it also must not be too small. If necessary, cut it so that it corresponds to your hole size. Then we need to fix it in place because the water pressure wants to eject it. To fix it we can use a piece of wood. Suitable for this kind of job is your seat or bed cover, or even a drawer or door. Some suggest that as a solution you can use an inflatable life jacket, if you have it on board. You can insert the jacket into the hole and than start the ampoule. If the hole doesn’t have too sharp edges (which I don’t believe), the jacket will inflate and seal the hole. Very often it happens that the hole is inside the bed, cupboard or drawer. In this case, fill the space with cushions, pillows, sheets, basicly with everything you have, and close the space. If you were lucky you just saved your boat from sinking. If not …

Sailing lession: What to do when water leaks

What to do when we can’t seal the hole

If the worst has happened and we can not patch the hole and the water intrusion is bigger than we are able to pump out, it is necessary to continue to make everyeffort to pump out the water and keep the vessel above water as long as possible. In the meantime we call for help via radio stations and drew attention to ourselves with fireworks and torches. We must prepare a life raft or dinghy, if we have one.  also have to prepare some bottled water and some food just in case if we wouldn’t be found quickly. Skipper has to try to get to the closest safe port or bay, or at least any kind of shalow coast, where it is possible to strand the vessel. In the meantime every effort must be made to continue to pump out water. It is adviced to stay on the boat as long as possible because it would still be more secure option as staying in a small tender boat in the middle of the sea. Even the rescue vessel is more likely to see a bigger boat than a small raft. Maybe you still could manage to get to the shore. You would not believe how long it takes for the sinking boat to be full of water and realy sink.

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