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


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Past the point of no return


First off, that is not me in the pic, its my buddy Mel checking out the bilge in his new powerboat. A few days ago, I found myself in the “Mel Position”,  upside down, eyes bulging, staring into a dark place and “No”  I wasn’t strapped into an amusement park ride with my daredevil daughter.  I was simply trying to inspect a bottomless lazarette in a sailboat in Ventura Harbor.

My mind raced between the present and the past as I tried to escape what was rapidly becoming a panic attack. Memories raced through my mind of boat yard crew mates explaining the difficulties with access, ventilation or lighting of a particular project. Staring back at their sweaty and scraped condition, I remembered empathizing with their plight and following them out into the yard, up a ladder and down, down deep into the bowels of a boat to see for myself. I encouraged them to be patient, to do good work, and then retiring to my office satisfied that I was a good and understanding boss.

What many of our yard customers and most certainly many yacht designers had never contemplated was the sheer effort required to perform the most mundane and routine maintenance tasks in those tight spaces. In many instances accessing work areas requires “Houdini” like abilities to scrunch in shoulders, to writhe like a worm through a hole or opening and be capable of performing the entire procedure backwards when exiting. In addition to requiring contortionist skills, many routine tasks require not two but three arms (one of which to be double jointed) all the while possessing an IQ greater than 140.

“Ohh”, my muffled moan rang out over the water as I snapped back to the present. Upside down, writhing from my waste to my neck like a worm, my arms groped for a hold to rest my body. With none to be found, I writhed on.

My glasses, note pad and flash light fell away from me and with a “plink” they landed somewhere in the abyss beneath my head.  Then it occurred to me that it was a Monday afternoon and I was alone and I would very well die right there and then.

“Don’t panic. Keep it together. Is this the way I am going out? Upside down? Feet and ass in the air?” My mind raced.

After all attempts at pushing myself out of this position had failed, my body gave up and like a sack of potatoes, I tumbled down into the dark abyss. I rolled over onto my back, nothing seemed broken and I was fine too. I turned my gaze upward towards the blue sky 4’ above. I couldn’t help but laugh.  I sat there at the bottom of that lazarette and pondered my fate. I looked up at the inconceivably small opening through which I had passed and asked,  “Am I going to fit?”

Anacapa Isle Marina has been kind to allow me to present a slide show presentation on Friday March 27th at 630(pm) at PBYC. The topic being of my own choosing. I would love to see you there.

Please give Andy a call should you require a marine survey or if you need to locate a three armed genius yard worker. 805-901-7339

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One month in


My Dad on the Montalvo, 1955 Cortes Bank

My first call came in three weeks ago and I felt great to be called to action!  A loyal Anchors Way customer from many years ago needed a survey for insurance and I was ready to help. He is lucky he called me and not a moment too soon because I saw things on that boat that scared the “bejeezers” out of me.

As I looked at my first assignment I was reminded of a story my Dad told me about my Uncle Warren’s first boat. Warren was one of my favorite family characters. When I was young I thought he was the saltiest guy in the world with a cigarette on his lip, a dark wool Greek fisherman’s cap flopped to the side of his head and the darkest brown complexion no Irishman could ever possess. He had taught me my first lessons how to sail and how to work. “A good sailor never leaves anything undone” he would say to me. He showed me that flying kites and sailing could indeed be accomplished simultaneously along with trolling for Bonita but I digress.

My Dad was working on the fishing vessel Montalvo (Spaniard) in the summer of 1954. He and cousin Art Killion were anchored in Prisoners Harbor and the sun was going low behind the island. It was a typical windy summer evening and the Montalvo pivoted in the breeze on her anchor dug deep into the sandy bottom. Dad was excited because he had been waiting all day for his Uncle Warren and his two cousins to arrive from Santa Barbara in their new powerboat. She was new to them but certainly not new as nothing on the boat post dated the Roosevelt Administration, not even close.  As my Dad recollected, the only new thing on that old boat were the smiles on Jeff and Bryan’s faces as they came bolting around the point separating Pelican and Prisoners Harbors.

As the windy lane’s white caps rolled by atop walls of blue green water, the wobbly wake of Warren, Jeff and Bryan’s little boat spit them down and into the anchorage, followed by her whisping steamy exhaust blowing to leeward down towards Chinese Harbor.

During his life our Uncle Warren had owned many different boats and had sailed to exotic places, but this being his first boat, it lacked many of the attributes we so admire and love about watercraft. She was powered by an old WWII surplus engine and carried a  depression era washing machine spin drum strapped to her transom which had been ingeniously “repurposed” as a live bait well.

Looking at that little rag tag boat as my Dad waved and hollered to his arriving cousins, Art asked him if he thought Warren loved his boys.

“Sure he does”, my Dad replied.

Art shook his head confused and amazed as Warren pulled alongside, cigarette hanging on his lip, Greek fisherman’s cap flopped to the side of his head, tan as a mockasin and a smile that stretched channel wide.

I chuckled to myself and continued on with my survey.

Call me at 805-901-7339 if you need a quality vessel inspection performed or if you just want to know if Warren bagged a bonita on the way across that afternoon.




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