VIDEO. How to save a leaky boat and its crew


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The Hanse 588 started taking on water while sailing towards Poole (Dorset, England). It was a quarter to five in the afternoon when the cruise passengers (three adults and a young boy) called the Coastguard who alerted the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution). A video of the intervention, complete with pumps to stem the incoming flow of water, was made by RNLI volunteers.

Watch the video!

Luckily there is the RNLI

Luckily there’s the RNLI, say the British and Irish. An acronym for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, it is a body made up of volunteers with a single purpose. To save lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service along the coasts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland: the RNLI, independent of the UK Coastguard (it lives off private donations), operates 238 stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 rescue units on the beaches of the UK and the Channel Islands. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its volunteers have saved over 142,700 lives.

Water in the bilge, what to do?

Let’s take a look at what happened in England to find out what to do in the event of a water leak in the bilge.

Whether cruising or racing, failure to manage water on board in good time is still one of the main causes of shipwreck. This is why it becomes essential to manage that moment with determination and confidence, but above all with a methodical and well-tested mental scheme.

Water on board

Never as in this situation can a distraction lead to irreparable damage. We explain how to manage the emergency in the event of water from the intakes. Then, once the problem has been dealt with internally, with the boat stationary and secure with a rope, go down and fix the problem from the outside with a cone and some pasta. The impacted socket will be easy to spot as the inner cone will stick out of the hull. Then proceed in the same way on the outer side with the cone and paste to seal. You can then finish emptying the bilge.

leaky boat
When you realize you have water on board it is usually because the level has already passed the floor and it is therefore very late. Contrary to what we would naturally do, do not change the trim of the boat. A change of tack (and the consequent displacement of the water level on the part of the boat that was still dry) could reduce the time we have available to act, or preclude a possible escape route.

boating how-to
Taste the water immediately to see if the source of my problem is internal to the boat (a freshwater tank could be damaged) or external (and therefore more problematic)

Switch on the bilge pump (if for some reason the bilge pump does not work, you will have to postpone the water removal part – at this point with a hand pump – to a later time and attend to the other steps first).

water in the bilge
Immediately launch a “Pan Pan” without hesitation, communicating that you have a water problem on board that I am trying to resolve but am not sinking. It is very important to understand the essentiality of this communication and not to get the timing wrong. This may be the last call before the water reaches the batteries (which are at the lowest point of the boat). From that moment on, you will have shared your problem with those who work at sea and can help you if the situation degenerates and becomes unmanageable.

leaky boat5. Now concentrate on the breach. If the problem has been generated by a blow taken while underway, go to the area you think has been hit, otherwise, if the boat has not taken any obvious hits, go straight to the sea intakes and start a sequential inspection job from bow to stern, saving time and making sure you mentally isolate portions of the boat. Toilets, log and speed transducers, sinks and lastly the engine compartment.

You may have two types of problem with the seacock: A. Open seacock and hose disconnected from the clamp (in which case you will close the seacock and concentrate on restoring the hose after draining the water from the bilge). B. Seacock blown over the through-hull (no need to close the valve).

In the case of situation B, retrieve from your grab bag a leak stop cone and a stick of three-component leak stop paste. It’s important to have both because the cone alone, with its smooth surface, won’t adhere perfectly to the generated hole, which is knurled, so the paste will do the rest.

leaky boat 2
Peel off a piece of leak stop paste, work it in with a little water and firmly wedge it in to seal the remaining cracks. In a few minutes the dough will be completely catalysed and hardened.



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