Sinking is among the worst fears of all boaters, but surprisingly, most sinkings are easily preventable. The fact of the matter is that sinking commonly results from a few simple mistakes, which we bring upon ourselves. You want to keep your feet dry? Then don’t make any of these boating blunders.
1. Anchoring from the stern. It’s a basic rule of boats: keep the pointy end facing the waves. Drop an anchor from the stern, and that pointy end goes in the wrong direction. Worse yet, the tension on the anchor line pulls the stern down. All it takes is one big wave, and you’re swamped. The solution? It’s simple – always, always, always secure that anchor line to a bow cleat.
2. Leaving the leaves. Leaves that collect in the cockpit may seen harmless enough, but actually, they can be a serious hazard. If water gets onto the deck, whether it comes over the bow or it falls from the sky, those leaves will wash right back to the scuppers. There, they can clog things up and that water can’t escape. In fact, clogged scuppers are a leading cause of sinkings as the dock, as well as in open water. Leaving your boat in a slip for a week or two allows plenty of time for scupper-clogging leaves to gather. Note – another main cause of at-the-dock sinkings (which happens four times as often as open-water sinkings) is rainwater that collects long enough for the bilge pump to run continuously, until it kills the battery. Avoid this problem by keeping your boat clean; when leaves clutter the cockpit clear them out immediately, and if you leave your boat in the water, keep it covered if at all possible.
3. Hose Blows. Behind being swamped by waves and/or being unable to evacuate water, the next most common way boats sink underway is from leaking underwater fittings. Hoses falling off of fittings is the most regular occurrence (fittings that break is also a problem, but a lot less regularly). A two-inch hole a foot below the waterline will allow in 78 gallons of water per minute, so just think about how much water you’d have in the bilge, and how quickly it would get there, if the hose fell off your livewell pump instead of the through-hull – and you were actually pumping water into the boat. The solution to this problem is simple. Perform regular inspections of all the hoses, hose clamps, and fittings on your boat, and if you find anything amiss, get it fixed immediately.