What to do if your boat takes on water

Let’s face it; no one wants to be on a boat that’s taking on water. But if it does happen, it’s worth knowing what action to take, so you can reduce the possibility of an all out catastrophe.

We’ve blogged our top tips for coping with this situation (in order of priority!).

No Worries

  1. Get life jackets on

To be on the safe side, make sure your crew put life jackets on straight away. Once you’ve done this, grab your ditch bag, which contains all the important items you need in case of emergency. If you haven’t got one sorted already, get it together, stat. It should contain signal flares, a waterproof handheld VHF and a personal locator beacon at the very least.

  1. Call the coast guard

Use your onboard radio to contact the coast guard and report your situation as soon as you’ve donned your jackets. Make sure to tell them how many people are on board your vessel, your location, and the nature of the situation (to the extent that you are aware). Make the call, wait ten seconds, and if you haven’t received a reply, make it again.

  1. Identify the leak

While someone is making the distress call, get the rest of the crew to focus on finding the leak. If the cause is a burst hose, it may be possible to simply close the seacock. If the hull is cracked, jam or wedge wads of material (such as clothing or towels) into the crack. Use a knife or some other kind of instrument to wedge the clothes into the crack until the leak is stemmed.

  1. Get out your crash pumps

If you’re operating an inboard or stern drive, you can probably disconnect the raw-water intake hose from the engine and then use it as a crash pump. To do this, drop the crash pump into the bilge. Just make sure you get someone to keep an eye on the water level. You’ll need to throttle back as it drops so the engine doesn’t run dry or overheat.

  1. Slow the flow

Once you’ve taken the measures outlined in steps 1 to 4, take some time to slow the flow of the leak. If it’s located on the port side, transfer your crew and any movable gear to starboard side. Trimming may not necessarily push the leak above water level, but it will certainly slow the flow to an extent, as the leak will be higher.

  1. Point your boat to shore

It may not be the ideal situation, but grounding your boat on a beach or sand bar is far preferable to sinking. Just make sure you’re not headed for high surf or jagged rocks that could make your situation even worse.

  1. Don’t leave the boat

If your boat does capsize, it is essential that you stay with it. A boat is far easier for searchers to spot than individuals dotted in wide expanses of ocean. Also consider that you’ve already stated your co-ordinates to authorities, so staying with the boat increases your chances of being found. If you can, climb onto the capsized boat to reduce the likelihood of exposure.

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