TECHNIQUE So you don’t end up with water at your throat, here’s how to fend for yourself


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cruising as in racing, failure to manage water on board in a timely manner still remains one of the main causes of shipwreck for boats. That is why it becomes essential to handle that moment with determination and confidence but above all with a methodical and well-rehearsed mental scheme.

Never more than in this situation can a distraction lead to irreparably jeopardize the possibility of getting away with the least possible damage. We explain how to handle the emergency in case of water from sea intakes. Then, once you have contained the problem internally, with the boat stationary and secure with a line go down and fix the problem from the outside carrying a cone and some paste. The impacted sea socket will be easily recognized because the inner cone will sprout from the hull. Then proceed in the same way on the outer broadside with cone and sealing paste. You can then finish emptying the bilge.

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

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)

Turn on the bilge pump (if for some reason the bilge pump does not work, in a small crew or solo crew you will have to postpone the water removal part-at this point with a hand pump-to a later time and devote yourself to the other steps first).

Immediately launch a “Pan Pan” without hesitation, communicating that you have a water problem on board that I am trying to solve but am not sinking. It is very important to understand the essentiality of this communication and not to mistiming it. This may be the last call before the water reaches the batteries (which are located at the lowest point of the boat). By that time you will have shared your problem with those who work there by sea and can help you in case the situation escalates and becomes unmanageable.

Now focus on the leak. In case the problem was generated by a blow taken in navigation, head to the area you think was hit otherwise, if the boat has not taken obvious blows, go directly to the sea intakes and start a sequential inspection job from bow to stern, saving time and thus being sure to mentally isolate portions of the boat. Toilets, log and speed transducers, sinks, and lastly the engine compartment.

You will be able to have two types of problems on the sea inlet: A. Open sea inlet and hose disconnected from the clamp (in which case you will close the sea inlet by devoting yourself to restoring the hose after emptying the water from the bilge). B. Blown overboard intake on the through-hull (no use to close the valve).

In the case of situation B, retrieve your grab bag a turafalle cone and a stick of tricomponent turafalle paste. It is important to have both because the cone alone, with its smooth surface, will not be perfectly adhered to the generated hole that is instead knurled, so here then the dough will do the rest.

Peel off a piece of turafalle dough, work it in with a little water, and wedge it vigorously to seal the remaining cracks. In a few minutes the paste will be fully catalyzed and hardened.

Luca Sabiu, 44, is Milanese by birth and “a citizen of the sea by adoption since the age of 5.” Recreational vessel commander, instructor with more than 200 students to his credit, ocean professional and solo sailor long on the front lines of marine safety awareness. He collaborates with the Living the Sail Nautical School, heading the Mastersail team of excellence: his offshore sailing training courses are a unique all-around experience.



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