Friday, March 26, 2021

Hickory Dickery Dock... The Boat Just Sank Like a Rock!

I am on at Atlanta for the NASCAR race and my phone rings. It's Dr. Donohue Waters, who lives next door to the community dock.  He says "Hey! I'm looking at my dock cam and there's a boat sunk at the community dock!" 

I reply, "please tell me it's not mine!" 

"Nope, it's not yours!"  

I feel a flood of relief.

I have an idea of which boat it is, but I'm not sure, so I call the dock club president. He already knows about it. And so does the owner. Towboat US is on the way for a salvage recovery. In short order, they raise her with an airbag or two, tow her away, and tally up a major bill that will have to be paid by insurance or out of the owner's pocket. 

Having your boat sink sucks, and is to be avoided if at all possible. 

For a boater, there are few sights more forlorn and sad than that of a sunken boat. Whether she's down on her luck, down by the head,  or completely upside down, a boat isn't supposed to be sunk. 

The first thing that comes to mind is that someone has made a mistake--and whether it's an error of action or inaction, it's bad. You've probably heard that a stitch in time saves nine. Well, when it comes to a boat, a few dollars and a few minutes of work spent now may save a boatload of money later. And later may come sooner than you think.

In the case of this vessel, I observed her laying significantly lower in the water a few weeks ago after days of heavy rain. I alerted the owner who came and got the water out of her. What he failed to do however was to take that near-miss to heart and make sure his stuff was tight and right. And while I was enjoying a NASCAR race last weekend, Savannah had a whole bunch of rain come down. 

Having a good bilge pump in working order, an automatic switch that will turn it on in the event of flooding, and a strong battery to power it are the keys to this not happening to you. The salvage bill for this event will be in the thousands of dollars. The electronics are ruined. The engine may be ruined. When it comes to a boat, out of sight must NOT be out of mind. In the event you are in the middle of getting your boat in good order when storms come, you may need to get your butt off the couch and go check on your boat. And take a good bailer. 

Folks often underestimate how little water it takes inside your boat hull to sink her. If you have a cutout transom, a few inches of water inside her, and your stern pointed in the wrong direction, that slight reduction of freeboard is what allows wind-driven waves to finish the job. It takes less than you might think. 

Sidebar: If your dock has a prevailing wind or wave direction, put the pointy end of your boat that way. 

We had to moor this little skiff with her bow toward the open water in Islamorada.
At night, the waves got big. If we had put her stern to them, she'd have sunk.

Even with a good battery and bilge pump (or two or more of each) you have to keep up with what's happening down below. In the case of a float switch, any piece of debris sloshing around might become lodged in the float and keep the pump running until the batteries run out of power. On the other hand, a piece of gear, like a throw-cushion (a type-4 PFD) or a loose fender might find itself interfering with the float operation. Then the pump, she no come on...

You have to attend to this stuff. Don't procrastinate.  Putting it off can end badly. Whether the bill is big or little, it's bad and it's sad and it doesn't need to happen. 

Talk about a crying shame...

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