August 16, 2006
In a recent press release from BoatU.S., on behalf of Virginia Sea Grant, the organization's news room has issued information that may prove advantageous in helping to prevent the sinking of your outboard powerboat. Having spent more hours than I can count aboard boats, the one given that I always trusted was that it would be very hard to actually sink your boat.
Of course I am aware that treacherous storms and hurricanes can sweep a vessel away and the storm surges during these events may just prove too stressful on lines. Surely everyone is aware that the Titanic was advertised as unsinkable, but that tragedy occurred close to a hundred years ago, long before the innovative technology of today's world.
BoatU.S. would like to address the concerns of power boaters with outboard engines and has written a four-part series via Seaworthy magazine that looks at the causes of recreational boat sinkings and how the damage could have been avoided. Researchers from this group looked at the claims files in their insurance archives and identified several reasons why the outboard vessels sank.
It still seems strange to understand that most vessels sink while tied up at their own dock. I have vivid memories of trips with my father to check on the way our boat was handling a particular storm and he and I always went down to see how much water the boat had taken on after a bad rainy period. Constant surveillance became a part of my built-in proactive security system when boats were involved. Obviously, lots of people travel far and for long distances, leaving the rest to chance.
What the BoatU.S. group confirmed was that nearly half the outboards that sank were victims of heavy rain or snow. Strangely, almost all of these vessels had self-bailing cockpits. The results are as follows:
Sinking at dock because of rain/snow — 47%
Underwater fittings —20%
Above the waterline fittings — 10%
Poor docking arrangements — 9%
Water over transom — 9%
Sinking while Underway/Water over
transom — 32%
Live well plumbing — 20%
Drain plug — 16%
Struck a submerged object — 12%
Other — 12%
The editor of Seaworthy, Chuck Fort, noted that, "If you want to reduce the risk of your outboard powerboat sinking at the dock, use a good-fitting boat cover to keep out precipitation." Bronze fittings below the waterline can be advantageous. Honesty from the seller to buyer could mean a big difference, especially if the seller informs the buyer that plastic fittings below the waterline could degrade and crack in a short timeframe.
Looking into this whole issue at the present time is a wise thing to do, remembering that we still have three more months to deal with hurricane season.