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Cautionary Tale

It's a whole lot easier to get on and off the boat at the marina if it is pulled up close to the finger pier. That's common practice, and when we leave the boat for more than few hours we line it out into the middle of the slip so that it can't contact the dock in any circumstance.

A friend at the boatyard recently prevented a sunken boat when a newcomer to boating left his boat griped up against the dock while he went home for a few days. Steve lives aboard his own boat, which is hauled out, and one Sunday evening, with no-one else around, water rising, saw the boat listing, with one gunwale hung under a bolt on a piling. Try as he might, he could not get the boat free. He called the owner, who exclaimed "there's an open through-hull just above the water line." Steve grabbed his collection of wooden plugs, disconnected the shore-power cable and boarded the boat, finding water over the settee on the low side. He crawled through the frigid water, eventually finding, well forward in the dark, cold and water-logged hull, water squirting out of a normally above-waterline through-hull with no hose or seacock behind it. He drove a wooden plug into it, which stopped the water. The owner drove the three hours from home and with Steve's help cut the bolt part-way with a grinder, enough to bend it to the point that between the two of them they could get the boat out from under it.

The boat owner then fished the wires to the unconnected bilge pump out of the water and attached them to the one battery that hadn't been submerged so that he could pump the boat dry and clean up the mess."

Shockingly, this is the second incident in recent months at the boatyard where a boat got hung under the dock. It happened to a big Bristol, which lost a length of toe-rail that tore away under similar circumstances. At a full-service marina like Matthews Point, with an experienced, diligent dockmaster who walks the dock twice a day, things like this are less likely to happen. At the very least, he will see what is happening and adjust the lines, and in the best case will provide advice and instruction to the novice sailor. At a DIY boatyard, we can't expect this kind of hand-holding. The boat owner was very fortunate that an observant sailor was willing to go to lengths to save his boat.

Line your boat out into the middle of the slip, and properly spring it, before you leave the marina. Don't leave a through-hull project partially done, and if you have to, cap it, plug it, or make sure some way that water cannot enter the boat through it. And never leave the bilge pump disconnected. If you have any concerns that you have done it right, ask, there are always some old hands who will be glad to help.

Text and Photographs by Paul Clayton.

Copyright © 2023 Paul M. Clayton