If you suddenly discovered a leak in your boat, do you know — immediately — where the supplies are for dealing with it? Wood plugs, a hammer for pounding them in? Hull seal? Perhaps you’ve got other things, such as a rubbery Sta-Plug.
Could you grab what you needed in less than 10 seconds?
How about life jackets? Life raft? Ditch bag?
Do you have a bilge alarm so that you know when water is coming in — before it’s over the floorboards?
Does everyone on board know where everything is?
If the answer to any of these is no, please take the time to make sure you have the supplies (see my recommendations here), that they are in easy to grab locations and everyone aboard knows what is there, where it is, and how to use it.
Wood plugs of an appropriate size should be tied to every thru hull, but with a long enough string that they can be used without needing to be untied or cut off. In an emergency, just about anything can be used to pound them in.Other emergency gear should be located where you can get to it very, very quickly.
And thru hulls have to be kept accessible. No piles of gear on top of their lockers, or in the locker so that you can’t quickly reach the thru hull in an emergency. If water is coming in, you need to quickly find the source, not be moving stuff out of lockers. Literally seconds count.
The reason for this post? On the morning net two days ago, one of the other boats in the harbor reported that his bilge alarm had gone off the day before and he’d been able to find the problem and get a wood plug in place in less than 30 seconds. No danger of sinking, no water damage to his boat.
Too often, that’s not the case. In our first year cruising, a friend’s boat partially sunk at anchor. She was so panicked that she could not remember where anything was — the wood plugs, the thru hulls, anything. Growth on the bottom made it difficult for divers to find the thru hull that was letting water in. Tip: if you are ever in this situation, grab a t-shirt and run it along the hull from the outside — it will be sucked into the problem thru hull and then you can pull the t-shirt out and push in a wood plug. That’s how we found it, but as you can see, there was considerable water damage to the boat and the contents.