By: Bill Jennings
The question today is – are you prepared to handle water unexpectedly entering your boat? There is no shortage of articles on how to find and fix boat leaks, but if water entry occurs while boating, you really need to be prepared.
Most boaters have experienced water entering their boat. It can result from stuffing a bow rider into a wake, or it can result from wave tops spilling over the gunnels. Situations like these are usually short lived and you can usually avoid them by changing direction and speed. But what about continued water over the side or a leak below the waterline?
Water moves very quickly from high pressure to low pressure. For aircraft, outside low pressure wants to suck air and stuff out of the plane. In boats, outside high pressure wants to push water and stuff into the boat. The lower the hole, relative to the waterline, the greater the pressure pushing water into your boat. If you feel your feet getting wet and you are still in the boat, you need to act quickly. The amount of time available for a boat operator to respond to sudden uncontrolled flooding depends on the size of the hole and its location. For example, a one-inch diameter hole, one foot below the waterline would have a flood rate of about 20 gallons a minute.
Because battery operated bilge pumps can fail, safety regulations dictate that you carry a bail bucket. Many boaters meet this requirement by carrying the smallest allowable bailer, because “a big bucket is ugly and hard to stow."
Let us compare a one-quart bailer and a 2000 gallon per hour bilge pump. Using your one-quart bailer to equal the output of your bilge pump, you would have to fill and empty your bailer 133 times a minute, or over two scoops per second. This is going to be rather tiring. Below waterline leaks will just get worse and they need to be stopped quickly or your boat will sink.
By far, the most common cause of leaks in boats is the result of wear and corrosion. Through-hull fittings for drains and live well intakes, wash-down through hulls, screw holes for transducers and even the mounting bolts for your outboard can wear themselves into a leak.
To be properly prepared to address water in your boat, check your bilge pump regularly and keep its intake free of garbage. But -- also carry a good size bucket and in it place a tapered wooden plug kit, rags, waterproof putty, nylon ties, fiberglass tape and duct tape. Such items, along with the few tools in your emergency tool kit will allow you to control flooding. Of course, you must still try not to run over rocks.