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Old 01-31-2003
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Disaster Averted

So over the last week or so I started to notice a small increase in the water collecting in my bilge. Since my refrigeration drains into the bilge - at first I thought - no worries - it is probably just more moisture in the air this week.

Then about 2 days ago I became more concerned as I was sitting in the salon and heard the bilge pump kick off - water must have risen higher than usual...

A quick check of my through-hulls indicated they were dry and secure...

Perhaps the recent flush-out of my water tank had resulted in an unknown leak springing open in the foot pump or water lines? No - everything checked out ok...

I started looking around and noticed a reguler dribble coming from the direction of the engine compartment. At first it appeared as if the water were coming from under a layer of fiberglass - perhaps a crack in the hull? But how?

Opening the lazarette in the cockpit, I climbed into the hold and started feeling around with my palm to see if I could determine where the leak was coming from...and my tension only mounted higher when I felt my hand splash into a huge puddle under the fuel tank...

Then I move the flashlight [or torch, as my girlfriend calls it] back further into the darkness.

There...

A steady drip...

Falling about 8 inches...

From the rudder stuffing box.

Memories of reading about various rudder post failure stories flash through my mind. Boats have been sunk by such failures.

Images of coming home to my boat sitting on the bottom rise unbidden.

A quick walk over to my neighbor - Greg (we both own an Islander 32) - for a meeting of minds...perhaps I can tighten the bolts on the stuffing box further to suspend the leak?

Back to the boat.

Pull out my trusty set of Sears Craftsman wrenches [thanks Dad for teaching me about having good tools]

Crawl into the hold.

I was skeptical that this would work - (I mean, those bolts looked pretty solid already) - but imagine my amazement when I realized that all 4 bolts on the stuffing box appeared to be loose. Now how did that happen? Engine vibration? About 2 turns on each bolt and the dripping stops.

Relief.

I am reminded of the advice given to me by an excellent marine surveyor here in California (Matt Shulz, ''mattschulz@shulzsurveyors.com'') - "...be sure that you do your own inspection of the boat every month so that you''ll notice when something begins to change". Thanks Matt - I''ll certainly increase my vigilance level.
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