Leaves, Twigs, Scuppers, and Sinking your Boat

Last Saturday I hitched up my boat, hauled it to the ramp, and set out in the pre-dawn hours with a weather forecast of sunny skies and calm winds. As usual, the forecast was off. Way off. In fact, as we cleared the river and hit the bay, the alleged five-knot west breeze was blowing out of the north-east, at 20-knots. Ouch.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a huge deal. My boat’s more than capable of handling a stiff three-foot chop, and by running to the far side of the bay, I can tuck into the lee and start casting. But I had failed to give proper weight to one thing which, in all honesty, I had thought of and dismissed out of a combination of carelessness, laziness, and that weather forecast – my boat was full of leaves and twigs, as is often the case at this time of year.

Usually, prior to a trip like this I’d take a few moments and clean the boat out when I hitched it up and prepped for fishing. This time, I didn’t bother. Fast-forward to coming around the point and being hit by an endless series of whitewater mounds. Within a few minutes water was spraying over the bow and within a few miles, when I looked behind me to check and make sure the scuppers were draining, I saw a six inches of water piled up against the transom.

Yep, you guessed it – the scuppers were clogged with those leaves and twigs, and the cockpit wasn’t draining. What had begun as an inconvenient faulty weather report was now a dangerous situation. Fortunately, it was an easy fix. I slowed down and blasted the scupper drains out with the washdown hose, and luckily, they cleared out without any additional effort. In a few minutes the deck was dry and I was able to scoop up the remaining leaves and twigs, and throw them overboard. But if the clogs had been tougher to clear, the situation could have deteriorated rapidly. At best, I would have had to scrub the fishing trip, and run back to the boat ramp. At worst, I could have completely swamped and/or sunk my boat, due to my own carelessness and laziness. In the future, I’ll pay a lot more attention to those leaves and twigs – and I hope everyone else will, too.

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