Long term, you need to find it and fix it. But what can you do RIGHT NOW to protect whatever's being dripped on?

Boat Leaking in the Rain?

To say the past week has been rainy would be an understatement. It has poured. And poured. Over 7 inches of rain.

And that has shown that we have a few leaks to take care of. I know, we’re not supposed to admit that our boats leak. But they do.

At first, when we found a new leak, we’d grab a towel and place it to catch the drip. Then we realized that the rain was soaking through the towel and whatever was underneath (say, a bed or the floor) was still getting wet.

Obviously, the long-term solution was to find and fix the leak. And Dave did an excellent job of that. Any time it stopped raining long enough, he was out rebedding deck hardware.

But what could we do while it was still raining?

We bought a very cheap ($1.97) shower curtain that we could put down under the drip. By keeping the edges up, we could contain any water and wipe it up easily. Since it was big, we could catch drops whether they fell straight down or ran across a hatch or trim and then fell down.

Not exactly elegant, but it worked – and it folds up pretty small, so it’s easy to tuck away. I’m sure it’ll also get used as a drop cloth for a project  or two . . . and it’s a lot tougher than the very thin but similarly-priced drop cloths sold in the paint department of places such as Home Depot.

PS. I think this would be really useful to have aboard if you’re going to be in areas where tropical storms are possible. In 2003, we had 22 inches of rain in 24 hours from Tropical Storm Ignacio!

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18 Comments
  • Kevin Hernandez
    Posted at 12 December 2015 Reply

    Plastic bag over the leak (outside of the boat). Towel on top laid out flat. Weight on top of everything.

  • Jan Bogart
    Posted at 12 December 2015 Reply

    Pots and pans, beverly hillbilly’s style.

  • Cathy Colley
    Posted at 12 December 2015 Reply

    We have one persistent leak above our radios where we can’t find the source, dog piddle pads work great!

  • Stephanie Ellen
    Posted at 12 December 2015 Reply

    When we had a sailboat. .. this is when I went berserk. .. leaks always formed over my face as I slept!

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 12 December 2015 Reply

      Oh no! Hard to put anything over your face to catch it!

  • Julie
    Posted at 12 December 2015 Reply

    A boat tip I learned 30 years ago… maxi pads. I don’t know I could have lived without ’em. As a temporary solution you can just tape them over the leak and they hold an amazing amount of water.

  • Carolyn Brown Fuller
    Posted at 12 December 2015 Reply

    Had a leak that dropped on my head when I slept. Duct taped a zip lock bag to catch it.

  • Christine Dumaine Springfield
    Posted at 12 December 2015 Reply

    I have 2 shower curtains for exactly that! Ok, one is being used as a drop cloth for varnishing too.

  • Meridee
    Posted at 15 December 2015 Reply

    We taped 6′ long wooden v-shaped molding up under the window ledges to catch the drips in and run the water Rube Goldbeg style into water buckets.

  • Carolyn Shearlock
    Posted at 19 December 2015 Reply

    Got an email from Jane with another use for the shower curtain:

    Carolyn-The companionway on our Tartan 40 is neither water nor air tight. Last fall and winter were cold, cold, cold and wet, wet, wet on the Intracoastal so I too purchased an inexpensive shower curtain and used it to seal the companionway. My usual technique was to close the doors, drape the top part of the curtain over the doors then draw the cover closed trapping the shower curtain at the top. The rest of the curtain is flexible enough to tuck around the doors and the top of the steps. Works great if you’re going to be below for a while and is not too hard to dismantle when you have to go on deck.

  • Debbie
    Posted at 08 April 2016 Reply

    We are using baby diapers. They work great and can be stuffed into small spaces or, if you trim off the leg elastic, you can lay them flat areas like in my dishes cabinet. There is a small leak that always seems to make a puddle in my cereal bowl?

  • Wayne Foster
    Posted at 07 June 2017 Reply

    Carolyn, do you or Dave have any tips on tracing the leaks? Even more important would be instructions on rebedding the deck hardware. Thanks

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 07 June 2017 Reply

      Our experience in tracing leaks is that it tends to be trial and error. Depending on where it is, we trace the wet spots back, up and through . . . it usually involves removing panels and hardware. As for rebedding hardware, it depends on the item but generally involves removing it, cleaning it and where it was attached, taping off the area for sealant, spreading the sealant, reinstalling the item, removing the tape and waiting for the sealant to cure. We do not like to move or tighten anything after the cure, as it will break the bond somewhere and allow water in again. Depending on the location, we use butyl tape instead of sealant.

      It’s hard to give exact directions for any particular item — but getting it clean is critically important. In addition to acetone, we use a lot of very fine wet/dry sandpaper.

      Here’s an article by Don Casey on rebedding hardware: http://www.boatus.com/boattech/casey/bedding-deck-hardware.asp

  • Cheryl Geeting
    Posted at 07 June 2017 Reply

    Yep, we just went through 10 days of rain during our first 3 weeks of living aboard .. a shower curtain was used for leaks!

  • Samantha Kahn
    Posted at 07 June 2017 Reply

    Jeez, tell me about it. Good idea for the tarp. I’v been using a towel but will get something a bit more sufficient.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 07 June 2017 Reply

      We’ve had several downpours today and just getting another one now. But we’re fairly lucky — Ft. Myers and Everglades City (100 miles north) have been deluged — EC had 10″ a couple of days ago.

  • Ann Snider
    Posted at 07 June 2017 Reply

    We’ve been keeping a few dollar store shower curtains on board for just this purpose. I don’t mind tossing them if I need to and they are thicker than the thin plastic drop cloths you can purchase. I don’t care if it gets stained or anything which is great and like you said, they take up almost no room!

  • Amy Domaratzki
    Posted at 07 June 2017 Reply

    We’ve had more rain up here in Ontario Canada than we’ve had in 70 years (even longer in some places). I’m focusing on the bright side – I’ve been able to identify all our leaks before we move aboard in July.

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