Thursday, July 7, 2011

How many holes?

Bob over on Boat Bits has posted a sobering rant that every boat owner should read.  Here is a tease - a short test from the end of the post:
So here is a quick and handy test to see if you have a too complicated (spelled unsafe) boat...
  1. How many seacocks and thruhulls do you have?
  2. Do you know where they all are and how to get to them in a hurry?
If the answers to #1 and #2 require ponderation of any sort exceeding ten seconds you have too many holes in your boat.
But I'd like to amplify that a little.

It isn't just that you have to know where all the seacocks are and be able to reach them..  You must be able to reach and operate them when the boat is sinking:
  • It is pitch black inside the cabin because the batteries are shorted out.
  • You are at sea, in a storm (of course...); the boat is rolling.
  • The floorboards are floating.  This means that the bilge is under water - water that is now probably mixed with battery acid, diesel, and oil.
And under these conditions, you must be able to hold your breath, squeeze your eyes shut and submerge yourself into the water.  You must know where the valves are... by feel, and be able to operate them holding your breath, submerged in foul water.

Think you can?


  1. That is why I am removing 8 !!!! through hulls.
    I will have three left.

  2. I know where every single one of our four seacocks are situated (as I took part in putting them there myself) and I'd say there's a pretty good chance, that I'd be able to pass your test :-) We've tried to keep things as simple as possible.

  3. I have 6:

    * 2 are drains to sinks, well above the water line. I'm thinking of adding valves.

    The rest of these are in a bulkheaded compartment. Failure, at worst, means about 10 gallons of water in a place that can wait.
    * 2 anchor well drains, holding tank vent and head intake.

    The batteries, fuel tank, and engine are all on the bridge deck and drain to the ocean.

    Is it practical to bulkhead some of the fittings? The answer will be different for every boat, but since I have had a failure on this boat, it is something I would consider on any future boat. For example, although the boat I have is powered by twin outboards, the inboard version placed the engine in a bulkheaded compartment. Seems smart.

    And yes, the valves I have are hard to reach; dark or water would make little difference since I have to turn my head and hold my breath anyway!

  4. You all have me beat - I'm jealous.

    Drew, regarding bulkheading as a solution - with your usual engineering approach I presume that you have taken into account the boat's new waterline when the bulkheaded compartment is flooded, and thus will not run into the same problem the Titanic's designers had.



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