So lets say you are on your way back from Bermuda to the states. You are about half way and about 300 miles from land in any direction.
The weather is clear a perfect 20 knots and you are making great time.
A crew member decides to go below for a soda and reports that their is 6" of water above the sole.
The first thing you do is check the taste of the water and it is salt water.
What would you do and in what order?
As an alternate lets say you heard a large bang on the hull and noticed the water a few minutes later. How would this changed situation affect your actions?
Another alternative would be the loud bang during a gale with about 35 to 50 knots.
How about the same to issues above but in the middle of long island sound about 10 miles from land?
What I'm really looking for is when is the appropriate time to call for help. The reason I am looking for comments is that I suspect different captains may have different points of view that I would like to hear.
1. Sometimes boats go down in seconds just barely time to put out a mayday.
2. Sometimes something easily repairable has happened like a speedo that has popped out and just has to be pushed back in.
3. Weather makes a big difference.
4. Distance out makes a big difference.
5. It is hard to report your situation if you haven't checked out what the situation is.
6. Number of people aboard and skills makes a huge difference.
7. If you spend too long assessing the situation or attempting a repair you may loose your battery and be stuck with hand-held vhf with its very short range.
I'm interested in how experienced captains make their decisions and even more interesting if you have any experience to tell and if you would have done something differently.
Usually when that happens I just wake up.
The first thing I would do is radio a Pan Pan with my fix and the fact that I'm taking water - update to follow.
That way at least someone knows where I am and that I have a problem.
Then I'd set about the other stuff like where is it, what is it, how do I fix it, etc.
If the water is coming in that fast that you haven't time for a pan-call, make it a mayday and get ready to leave.
START THE ENGINE. If, like I intend to do, you've put a Y valve and a hose into the bilge you can start pumping the boat out.
Depending on the number in crew issue a PAN PAN (VHF and SSB)while someone tears the boat apart looking for a leak (the broken speedo/depth sounder, torn hose, etc.)
If still sailing, TACK. MAYBE you can get the cause of the leak out of the water or at least lessen the pressure.
Shorten sail so you can heave to or at least sail more comfortably.
If you still haven't found the leak assess how long you have and prepare to abandon. Send out the MAYDAY. Use your Epirb AND your Sat phone. Call your Epirb contact to let them know you are indeed sinking (the CG will call them) and then call the nearest CG rescure station (you DID preprogram the # for the Coasties, right?)
Someone looks below to assess extent of damage while someone shortens sail and gets the boat under control w/ minimal movement
If in the loud gale scenario, TACK immediately. It could have been a fitting on the windward side. (you would not believe how loud something is that fails even on a small boat!)
Definitely send a PAN PAN on the VHF. Turn the boat towards the nearest piece of shallow water. MAYBE you can find a shoal to drive her up on as a last resort and minimize the damage if you can't find/stop the leak.
I'm sure I'm leaving out a few things I would have thought of but figured I would just jump in as that's pretty much what you have to do in this situation.
Best thing is to discuss these scenarios ahead of time w/ your crew and come up w/ all the different variables/answers.
I play the "WHAT IF" game lots of times and not just w/ sailing.
Stop The Boat!
First: Stop the boat. Heave to or strike sails and lay a-hull.
Hydrostatic pressure on any leak below the waterline increases significantly with movement through the water. By stopping the boat, you can significantly reduce the influx of water and gain time for any other actions necessary (pumping, radioing, abandoning, etc).
After that, do all of these as close to simultaneously as possible (depending on crew contingent):
-Begin de-watering boat (pumps, manual and electric)
-Start engine if safe to do so (after confirming engine systems are not source of leak, but before wearing down batteries with pumps)
-Locate source of water ingress and attempt to patch/stem
-Evaluate boat status -- minimal flooding under control and decreasing, steady state, or still filling despite pumping?
- Communicate position and status
- Precautionary abandon ship preparations
Stay calm. Don't give up!
The first thing is to put out a mayday. This may be your only chance to get a message out. There is immediate danger to life and/or property so the mayday is appropiate. At this point the mayday should be informational and include position speed and direction of travel. State your intentions (check for leaks, etc) and let someone know when your next contact will be. Don't be late getting back to your contact - they will be sending help if they do not hear from you. i don't think it matters if there is a gale, 300 miles out, or 10 miles out - the danger is aparant and real so the mayday is the way to go.
That's not to say I'd be all that calm if it happened to me....
(Full disclosure here--I'm ex-USCGR, so I tend to think a lot about the rescuers in these situations)
Pan Pan and a direct call to the CG explaining your situation and position. Worst case is that this will make their job easier. If there is a boat or chopper out there cruising around they might just turn in your direction anyway.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but if you send out a Pan Pan that states you may be taking on water, won't the CG reply and set up a line of communication? i.e.: A call back time in XX number of minutes?
If it's summer time and your 10 NM out in LI sound there will probably be a Sea Tow boat on the way even if you don't request them. Heck, you might have Sea Tow and Tow Boat US fighting your the right to pump you out :D (not flaming them, that's how they make a living).
If the engine bilge pumps and that guy swinging a bucket with a wild look in his eyes can't keep up with the water then take a deep breath and call in a mayday.
Great question, And just reading the scenarios gets my heart pounding !
I was in a similiar situation,this is what I did to get through it.
The situation was, I had departed Annapolis,MD. summer day,5-10knt. winds,1ft.waves sunny, was motorsailing,from the galley the crew informs me there is 2-4" of water on the galley sole. I gave the helm to my 1st. mate went below to see .
Grabbed my emergency portable pump and put it to work. Then opened the engine compartment to locate the source.
As it turned out , the main bilge had failed and was siphoning back into the
bilge,due to the proximity of the bilge through hull being near the waterline on the stern,when I motor the stern squat's just enough to submerge it. Alot of water comes through a 1" hose!! I shut down the through hole valve which stopped the siphon. After which I replaced the failed pump installed an anti siphon valve and made a note in the repair book to move the location of the through hull .
There were a number of other vessel's nearby and I was towing the dinghy, but the thought of sinking was still a bit more excitement than I would prefer.
Definetly a scenario that needs to be considered and planned for,because when it happens it is frightening.
Am I correct in understanding that water was coming in through the bildge pump? I'm curious how you detected that, as I assume that means water is coming in through the bilge pump intake, which would usually be at the bottom of the rather big and growing pool of water.
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