Why is there a foot of water in the cabin?

Phil Herring

Dethroned Admin
Mar 25, 1997
4,859
Hunter 450 Bainbridge Island
Fortunately, most of us will never have the moment of panic when we discover water rising above the cabin sole. Could be a hull breach, a busted through-hull, a disconnected hose, maybe even a port left open on a close-hauled tack.

But if you have experienced flooding, what did you do? Tell us your tale and the aftermath.

sinking.jpg
 
  • Like
Likes: Simon Sexton
Oct 24, 2010
2,401
Hunter 30 Everett, WA
Not a foot, but one time about 4 inches. I came down to check on the boat after a week away and found it that way. The cockpit drain hose had a hole in it and there was no electric bilge pump. I bailed. It took a bit of time to locate the problem. Fortunately, it was raining so I was able to locate the problem. That boat used those cheap plastic corrugated hoses. I never did figure out how to run a bilge pump hose and wiring to that tiny bilge. I no longer have a San Juan 28.

Ken
 
Aug 2, 2010
442
J-Boat J/88 Cobourg
Wonderful evening with 15 kt steady breeze so we threw off the lines and headed out into Lake Ontario playing around to see how fast we could get her going. After about an hour of glorious fun my wife went below to get something and came up whitefaced to tell me water was over the salon sole. We were a long way from shore and I was concerned that if it was a big leak we would never make it back so I tacked and went below to figure out where it was coming from. I was fairly convinced it was siphoning into the galley sink somehow as we were on starboard and the galley sink was on the port side but of course by the time I got looking we had changed tacks. It turned out the bilge pump switch had cacked out and I figured the water was likely just below the sole when she was flat and level but the water was over the sole when heeled. First fixed the switch and then fixed the dripping shaft seal. Sure makes a good story!
 

pateco

.
Aug 12, 2014
2,207
Hunter 31 (1983) Pompano Beach FL
Busted hot water heater. Not a foot, but a couple of inches is still no fun, and bad for the sole.
 
  • Like
Likes: Daddio417
Sep 25, 2008
6,351
Alden 50 Sarasota, Florida
Our first sailboat with a cabin was an Ericson 27. After a Thanksgiving dinner, we crowded 11 family on the boat (we had sufficient life preservers) and went for a sunset sail.

My son went below for some reason and yelled up "dad, is there supposed to be water above the floor?".

I panicked but he didn't. Rather, he looked around and said "I see daylight coming through the transom". He tossed up a wooden bung which I put into the empty through hull hole where the plastic scupper drain was, waited for the bilge pump to do its thing and went sailing.

And the time, he was 11 years old. Panic never solved anything.
 
Jul 5, 2005
212
Beneteau 361 Sandusky Harbor Marina
My first "big" sailboat, a Catalina 25. It was a swing keel configuration, and I had a "professional" do Catalina's wing keel retrofit. That professional didn't do a very good job. After launch I motored it over to my slip and then went to pick up some lunch. Found water over the floor. The newly installed keel dropped a bit, opening a seam, and allowing the water in. Only had the manual bilge pump, so started pumping. Motored back over to the ramp and lost 3 quarters of the sailing season before I got the boat back from a different, competent, keel guy.
 

Jimski

.
May 20, 2015
44
Catalina 30 Seabrook
Went to the boat (Cat-30) to check on her during a bad storm to find angle deep water in the floor. The electric bilge pump float switch was floating at the top of the bilge.

Source of the water:
1) my windows are as water tight as a colander. We got about 8 inches of rain that day
2) packing nut on the prop shaft needed to be tightened
 
Mar 1, 2012
2,182
1961 Rhodes Meridian 25 Texas coast
Seven miles offshore in the Gulf, running before about 18 knots, heading in to Matagorda Inlet. Wife goes below and finds 6 inches of water on sole!! No float switch on bilge pump at the time (there is now!!). Turns out my newly installed bilge pump outlet was below the water line when running, and was back siphoning, merrily filling the boat. I now empties into the cockpit, 4 inches over the large cockpit drain, and now has a loop installed.

But it made for a very interesting few minutes :)
 
Jul 7, 2004
8,058
Hunter 30T Cheney, KS
This has been on my mind ever since I replaced my shaft seal with a dripless. It works great, but I sure wouldn't want to come out to the docks some day and see my mast sticking out of the water!
Our Hunter has multiple,tiny, shallow connected bilges so I would want the pump to start pretty early. I'd like a warning buzzer but I don't have one. What's the best type of switch to use in this situation? It has a float at the deepest point, but even so the bilge is half full before it is high enough to kick the pump on.
 
Dec 1, 1999
2,391
Hunter 28.5 Chesapeake Bay
"Survey says..." Bought a beautiful mid-80s Catalina 27 many years ago and had it surveyed out of the water followed by a sea trial. Boat really did well on both counts. Since the boat was in the water, I decided to sail it to my home port marina about 25 miles away. Nice trip with no apparent problems as I got to know this boat. I tied her up, made sure all the seacocks and hatches were closed, and went home. I couldn't get back to the boat for about 2 weeks and when I did it found a couple of inches of water in the cabin. Gasp. Looked around but could find no apparent reason for the flood. Luckily, I could have the boat immediately hauled. Turned out stuffing box hose under the clamps was rotten and could not be seen by visual inspection. This was a great sailing boat which I owned for a total of 6 weeks as it was then totaled by Hurricane Isobel. Stuff, and stuffing boxes, happen no matter how careful you are.
 
Jun 4, 2004
812
Hunter 340 Forked River, NJ
Another story about water on the sole - not a flood but a fair amount. We had been motoring across the bay when the
engine RPM started to drop off slightly and come back up accompanied by a unusual amount of black smoke from the exhaust. My wife was down below in the galley and yelled that there was a lot of water all over the floor. I went down below and opened the top of the engine cover and was greeted by a steady stream of water coming from the eninge vented loop which had broken. After a while and the vented loop taped and not leaking, the exhaust was clear and the RPM's normal. We slowly returned to the slip. No more black smoke ever back at slip with engine up to full throttle. I replaced the entire vented loop.
 

Rick D

.
Jun 14, 2008
7,013
Hunter Legend 40.5 Shoreline Marina Long Beach CA
Wooden boat (26 T-Bird). Came in after a race. My newly installed bilge pump kicked on just as we were leaving. Shallow bilge. Turned out that I hit a timber (I think) and a seam opened. Boat hauled, repair done.
 
Dec 2, 1997
8,171
- - LIttle Rock
Interestingly, none of you experienced the most common cause for boats sinking in their slips: thru-hulls left open when no one is aboard. More than one owner has learned the need for a vented loop in the toilet intake the hard way when sea water flooded and then overflowed the toilet bowl thru-hull an open inlet thru-hull, sinking the boat. But overflowing toilets aren't the only thing that can sink a boat. The average working life of any hose --not just sanitation hoses--is about 10 years because over time rubber and plastic dries out...the hoses become hard, brittle and prone to cracking and splitting. Really old hoses on any open below-waterline thru-hull can sink a boat.
--Peggie
 
Nov 26, 2012
1,557
Hunter 34 Berkeley
I have a good friend who sailed a Nacra 5.7. One beautiful summer day he launched the boat and realized shortly thereafter that he'd forgotten to put the hull plugs back in. The boat was sinking so he quickly turned it around, got the trailer in the water and under the boat and managed to haul it out of the water before it sank completely, Whew! Only one problem: The trailer was not built to carry a boat full of water. The trailer collapsed instantly as soon as the boat was up the ramp. It was sad thing to see. The steel structure went to the ground on both sides of the axle.
 
Mar 29, 2017
575
Hunter 30t 9805 littlecreek
Sailing the Chesapeake at night came apon roge wave felt more Like I fell off world and slammed into bottom of a trough. Maybe it was a submarine wave because I saw no ships around. But after I recovered in cockpit my son came up from sleeping in cabin to tell me all wet down below. The cushions were floating. And I saw I split the hull to deck joint and was sailing along with a big open mouth for front of boat
 
Nov 1, 2017
587
Catalina 25 Tall Rig Watergate Marina, Kemah, TX
We had closed the boat up for the weekend after we first bought her. Part of our shut-down procedure is locking the pop-top down tight so the proper amount of pressure is applied to the gasket in between the roof and topside to keep the elements out of the cabin. Someone (probably my brother) had supposedly forgotten to lock the top down tight enough, and we had six inches of rain water covering the cabin floor the next weekend. Good times...
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
2,671
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
Fortunately, most of us will never have the moment of panic when we discover water rising above the cabin sole. Could be a hull breach, a busted through-hull, a disconnected hose, maybe even a port left open on a close-hauled tack.

But if you have experienced flooding, what did you do? Tell us your tale and the aftermath.

View attachment 155973
I have experienced, flooding, and that, is unforgettable. It's an old story heard many times so I won't bore with the details.

I'd go under Phil's 'hull breach' as hitting a submerged ledge gave us a hole below the cabin sole about the size of a size 7 shoe. Water was above the sole in a minute or two. But that's the hard part to remember, the time frame we experienced.

I can still vividly remember the feeling: Time speeding up all around me. My family shocked (but not overly panicked), the water rising so fast down below, drifting free after the impact (we bounced over the submerged ledge), tic-toc-tic-toc-tic-toc,... There was simply no time to think, to plan. I felt like I mentally couldn't keep up with the situation speeding ahead of me.

Fear, panic, shock, maybe all the above, I think we just reacted. We were all fairly calm, amazingly (shock I think, especially our young kids), but had no control over the situation. There simply wasn't enough time.

I started the engine (we were under sail) and headed for the nearest land, an island about 1/4-1/2 mile away.

Alls well that ends well. We saved Xmas (Cruising World 2004), patched her up and floated off at the next high tide. With a coast guard cutter following close behind, we got the boat into slings of the nearest travel lift, and we all finally exhaled...

Here's my take away: In the event of a hull breach, a sheared thru hull or popped hose on a large diameter hose, except for pretty minor flooding events (head left on, cracked hose,...), there isn't a bilge pump or 'save your boat' article that is much help. They go down too fast!
 
Nov 8, 2010
11,385
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
The only time I've gotten appreciable water in in any of my boats was a few years ago, in BlueJ. I left the cabin windows open after a fun sail, and it rained the next three days. Normally the boat is perfect dry, and when I opened the companionway four days later (I did't see the windows!) I could smell the water and dampness. What a mess.
 

TomY

Alden Forum Moderator
Jun 22, 2004
2,671
Alden 38' Challenger yawl Rockport Harbor
But overflowing toilets aren't the only thing that can sink a boat. The average working life of any hose --not just sanitation hoses--is about 10 years because over time rubber and plastic dries out...the hoses become hard, brittle and prone to cracking and splitting. Really old hoses on any open below-waterline thru-hull can sink a boat.
--Peggie
I found water around the galley sink drain seacock. I thought the seacock was leaking but after running my hand around in back, I thought I felt cracks in the hose. Sure enough, the hose, no more than 10 years old(and high quality), had several cracks - invisible on the back side. It was leaking, but would in time, would open up more and maybe the pressure from a wave or wake would part it.

I wasn't too alarmed because, except when we're on the boat, I close all the seacocks (except the cockpit scuppers-I check those hoses and clamps, continuously), upon leaving the boat.

I had a fried tell me he leaves a few open all season. When I looked alarmed, he said he figures lots of people do when they are hard to get to.

So: Is it true? Do you leave any seacocks open (cockpit scupper excepted), when the boat sits at dock or mooring for weeks at a time?