Just trying to keep the boats afloat
If 2008 is going to be a happy new year for recreational boaters, I think you will agree that fair winds, following seas, biting fish, and a boat that stays afloat will go a long way in making it a reality.
Naturally, no one is likely to help much with the first three items, but BoatU.S. -- the Boat Owners Association of the United States -- has issued an advisory to its 650,000 members on why sailboats sink and has provided five tips on how to prevent it from happening. Fortunately for powerboat owners, much of the advice applies to them as well.
BoatU.S. found when studying its past insurance claims for sailboats that had sunk, they could be divided evenly into two broad categories: those that sank at the dock and those that sank while underway.
"However, when it came to sinking underway," BoatU.S. Marine Insurance Director Bob Adriance said, "a sailboat's deep draft became the obvious factor." Striking a submerged object was found to cause a full 40 percent of those types of losses.
Avoiding submerged objects is certainly the best preventive measure, but when such a strike has occurred, BoatU.S. advises boaters to immediately inspect their boat's bilge and keel bolts or centerboard pennant and hinge for damage. And, to be safe it added, they should inspect them again perhaps an hour later.
The next two most common reasons for sinking underway were broken prop shafts or struts (16 percent), and damaged or deteriorated fittings below the waterline (16 percent).
"Prop shaft corrosion seems to be a bigger issue with sailboats than with powerboats as auxiliary sailboat engines are not run as often, which allows corrosion to set in," Adriance noted.
Running aground (8 percent), leaking stuffing boxes (8 percent), storms and knockdowns (8 percent), and above-the-waterline fittings (4 percent) accounted for the rest of the boats that sank while underway.
As for boats that sank while moored at the dock, the most common -- 44 percent -- were found to be the result of deteriorated, or damaged, or corroded fittings such as intakes, seacocks, and drains below the waterline.
BoatU.S. recommends owners inspect all fittings, hoses, and hardware at least twice a year. And, when possible, have two marine-rated stainless steel clamps on all hose ends. Any hoses showing signs of deterioration should be immediately replaced.
Stuffing box leaks were No. 2 on the dockside sinking list (33 percent), although, paradoxically, BoatU.S. noted that at rest, stuffing boxes should never leak. If leaking persists after the packing gland nut has been tightened, the packing must be replaced.
Leaks around keels and centerboards accounted for 7 percent of the dockside sinking and another 7 percent were attributed to rain water accumulation. Above-waterline fittings, back-siphoning heads, and dockside fresh water hookups accounted equally for the remaining 9 percent.
So for worry-free boating in 2008, you should follow these suggestions from BoatU.S., and you might want to look into its insurance as well.