The Case of the Out of the Water Sinking Boat

All done!!!

I know there are millions of other things competing for your eye’s attention at this very moment so THANK YOU for your interest in my Blog.  Either you are a loyal follower, a curious boater or you are a web-crawling algorithm sniffing out stuff for your masters at GOOGLE  (oh won’t they be disappointed…)

Many years ago, we had a Ventura customer with a problem, his boat appeared to be sinking. He called me and asked if I could come take a look at his bilges but being the learned boat yard operator that I was, I suggested that he first pump his bilges dry. I told him to sprinkle baking soda over the dry bilges which is an old boater trick to find the source of leaks. He said that he would try the method and call me with a report the following day.

The next morning he called again and explained that the bilges were full again and that he could not see a trail in the baking soda. His boat had an interior cabin liner which inhibited his ability to look higher than the bilge areas which were completely submerged. ”Is it salt water?” I asked.

“Yes” he replied.

Well this was interesting I thought. When I visited the boat and investigated the packing gland, thru-hulls and keel bolts, I found nothing unusual. The clear water in the bilge tasted salty, yes I tasted it.

Knowing as all mariners do that salt water must reside outside a boat and not within it we hauled the boat out the following afternoon. There were no holes in her bottom and all looked normal.

I suggested we do as before, dry the bilges, sprinkle baking soda and inspect again in the morning. We all went home, leaving his boat swaying in the slings. It was a clear night.

The next morning I climbed the ladder only to see the boat’s bilges full once again. How could this be?  I was stymied.

The only source of seawater in a boat other than the sea would have to be a tank so I asked the customer where his holding tank was located. He did not know so I called the boat’s manufacturer and requested  a schematic via email. With the exact location of the tank known, the customer authorized some minor exploratory surgery. We had to cut a small hole in the fiberglass liner to inspect the tank.

This part of the boat had not seen daylight since Bill Clinton enjoyed Big Macs during his jogs. It was a mess of wet foam and swiss cheesed aluminum. The manufacturer had embedded the aluminum (yes aluminum!)holding tank in foam prior to installing the FG cabin liner.

I am not really sure what the moral to my story is but lets just say that if it tastes like seawater it doesn’t mean it came directly from the sea, the key word being “directly.”  If your boat has an aluminum holding tank make sure to visually inspect it and keep it dry on the outside otherwise you too may find yourself taking on sea water while swaying in the boatyard slings($$).

I look forward to helping you and your dock mates with your next survey! AK


This entry was posted in Marine Survey, Survey, Yacht Survey and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.