Why is there a foot of water in the cabin?

Sep 15, 2013
697
Catalina 270 Baltimore
My previous sailboat was an Irwin 23 with a swing centerboard. It was operated by a cable that went through a piston in a stuffing box. It leaked and one day i came to the boat and found about 6 inches of water above the cabin sole. I turned on the bilge pump and it took about 20 minutes to get it all pumped out. Water was leaking though the piston and stuffing box arrangement. I was able to slow the leak with a whole bunch of silicone grease. That day I went to the West Marine store (30 miles away) and got a float switch and installed it. If I did not visit the boat that day it probably would have sunk.
 

capta

.
Jun 4, 2009
4,320
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
Dawn, David and I flew from St. Thomas to Larnaca, Cyprus to pick up a nice 46-foot British yawl called Springtime, that the owner had left some months before.
After a few hours clean up and system checkouts, we found the galley sink to be clogged, but a quick palm plunge and all was well.
Dawn prepared dinner and we sat at the galley dinette for our first meal aboard. About halfway through the meal, Dawn noticed the smallest trickle of water worming it's way up from the galley floor hatch. I didn't give it much thought as I assumed Dawn had spilled a few drops of water on the floor while cooking, and anyway, the bilge was 4 feet deep at that point.
When I looked down next, the hatch was completely covered by the water and it was time to look into the hatch. Nothing but seawater! Now I knew we were in trouble. Damn, and it was a nice dinner, too.
Long story short, my hand plunge had separated a hose joint in the sink drain lines. The owner or his predecessor had run 25' hoses fore and aft from the sink drain, I guess to keep water from backing up into the sink when on one tack or the other. Hoses inside hoses with hose clamps! Complete idiocy!
Sadly, under the galley floor was a 300# multikilowatt DC generator for the anchor windlass, which had to be removed and reconditioned after that fiasco. All over a little palm plunge! A word to the wise about simple, quick fixes!
Needless to say, dinner got cold and dessert was a few tots of Greek Brandy.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2, 1997
8,171
- - LIttle Rock
There's one more way to sink a boat that no one has mentioned: shore water connections left connected with the water still on when leaving the boat or even after turning in for the night. The water pressure from faucets on most docks is several times higher than most boat's fresh water plumbing can stand, so it's necessary to install a pressure reducer valve at the connection....and whether the valve is the cheapest or the most expensive, there are only two kinds of pressure reducer valves--those that have failed and those that will. So you need to be aboard--and AWAKE!--to hear the first sound of gushing water when it happens. It was on this site a number of years ago that I read the tale from a member who had left the water connected to the dock faucet still on when he and his wife went to bed one night. Fortunately his bladder woke him up in the middle of the night (prob'ly from the sound of gushing water) 'cuz when he put his feet on the sole next to the v-berth, he stepped into calf deep water!
Not long after that, a sailboat owner in my marina left his on and running on a Sunday morning when he and his dog went out for a run. They were only gone about an hour when he came back to find several inches of water on the cabin sole.

Dock water is a wonderful convenience, but NEVER EVER leave the dock faucet on when you leave the boat--even to run an errand--or go to bed, even just to take a nap...better yet, disconnect the hose (most have quick connect couplings) from the boat. And always keep a spare pressure reducer valve on board...you WILL need it!
--Peggie
 
Nov 8, 2010
11,385
Beneteau First 36.7 & 260 Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
Dock water is a wonderful convenience, but NEVER EVER leave the dock faucet on when you leave the boat--even to run an errand--or go to bed, even just to take a nap...better yet, disconnect the hose (most have quick connect couplings) from the boat. And always keep a spare pressure reducer valve on board...you WILL need it!
good info. I'm wondering how common this system is in sailboats.... I never every really knew about until I sailed a winter (get this) down in Arkansas. None of the sailboats I saw had it, but all the houseboats did. Fortunately, they are harder to sink!
 

WayneH

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Jan 22, 2008
880
Tartan 37 Pensacola Shipyard, FL
I've got a Water Witch controlling my bilge pump. It comes on and runs for 14 seconds which is more time than is needed to empty the bilge. When the pump is running, there is a red light that is visible from the helm station and I always count the seconds until it goes off. Usually, the light goes off before I reach 14 seconds and everything is cool.

So one time, the Admiral and I were just taking the boat out for a spin around the buoys when I notice the light is on. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. hmm, I need to check on this. So I go below to pull up the floorboards. And water is coming out from under the engine bed. My first thought is SHAFT LOG!!!! So I tell the Admiral to turn around and head the the dock. While I empty the starboard cockpit locker to verify where the water is coming from. After getting the locker empty, (I can't believe how much stuff we have in there.) I finally get a chance to see where the water is coming from. The cold water inlet to the water heater has come off. The inlet nipple is too short and the hose clamp has lost its grip. (fixed) So the freshwater tank was being merrily emptied into the bilge. Which is a lot better than a blow shaft log.

And yes, I still count the seconds until the light goes off. You never know when it might be really serious.
 
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Mar 1, 2012
2,182
1961 Rhodes Meridian 25 Texas coast
I NEVER leave the saecocks open when I am not on the boat. I have had a number of boats over the years, and I always followed this practice.
Very happy I removed and glassed over every through hull on my boat below the water line. Do have two seacocks on deck drains which exit the hull above the boot top.
 
Jan 25, 2011
2,228
S2 11.0A Anacortes, WA
In Pt. Ludlow with my newly acquired S2 9.2 and newly acquired girl friend (1983)..Standing on the dock ready to go to dinner and we both hear the potable water pump running. Full blast. We get below and water all over the sole. We get the pump shut off and clean up the mess and we still make dinner. Next day we found a hose inside a hose and “clamped” that had parted. Acquired the necessary parts to fix and off we went..The sole was a parque over a plywood and by the next day, it had started to buckle and separate from the sole. Short story is I got a new teak/holly sole compliments of ins. co..
 
Dec 2, 1997
8,171
- - LIttle Rock
good info. I'm wondering how common this system is in sailboats.... I never every really knew about until I sailed a winter (get this) down in Arkansas. None of the sailboats I saw had it, but all the houseboats did. Fortunately, they are harder to sink!
In case you haven't noticed, I'm in AR... I'm guessing you were on Lake Oachita. However, I spent 26 years in Atlanta before moving to AR...my boats were on Lake Lanier, where there are several hundred houseboats.

The first ones were built on aluminum pontoons. It's pretty hard to sink those (although a pontoon can corrode enough to fill with water causing it to list enough to partially submerge the cabin), but it's not nearly as hard--nor that uncommon, either--to sink the "floating mobile homes on a barge hull" that litter the southern inland lakes and rivers as you think. A friend hadn't noticed when he left the boat to go home one Sunday evening that the generator's cooling water intake line had parted company with the thru-hull...he got a call from the YC manager early Monday morning that his 60' houseboat had sunk in its slip. Fortunately the water under the houseboat dock was only 4-6' deep, so it wasn't completely submerged. And over the years I knew of several that were sunk by dock water connections.
--Peggie
 

ToddS

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Sep 11, 2017
248
Beneteau 373 Cape Cod
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?
I would recommend to anyone that they close their seacocks. However, (do as I say, not as I do) in order to get to some of mine (engine seawater intake, and shaft cooling intake for example) I have to:
  • "unmake" the bed in an aft cabin with low headroom at the foot of the bed - removing fitted sheets, blankets, etc.
  • relocate cushions from said cabin into main cabin
  • remove large plywood panels from below cushions
  • lay across diesel tank (and plumbing and wiring) and reach into back of engine compartment.
  • shut off the valve
  • replace the plywood panel(s)
  • replace cushions
  • remake the bed while lying on it (again, with minimal headroom at foot of bed).
So, unfortunately, I've gotten lazy... and have been leaving some less-accessible seacocks open... shame on me, I know. Others that don't take me 10 minutes and leave me out of breath, I'm more diligent about.
 
Dec 2, 1997
8,171
- - LIttle Rock
You may be making it a lot harder than it needs to be. I'd slide the mattress with all its bedding far enough off the end of the berth to access the plywood panels--to WHICH I'd have previously done whatever is necessary to remove them and cut them in half (or better yet, at the place that creates a big enough opening to provide access to the thru-hull without having to take the whole bed apart). Close the seacock, replace the access panel(s), slide the bedding back up onto the berth...done! A bit of a PITA still, but a whole lot easier than the way you've described. The ability to get in therewith a minimum of aggravation to do it regularly will also let you inspect hose clamps, check hose condition (very important if hoses are approaching--or especially if already past--10 years old), and alert you to when the seacock needs lubrication...the kind of preventive maintenance that's kept many a boat off the bottom.
--Peggie
 

ToddS

.
Sep 11, 2017
248
Beneteau 373 Cape Cod
You may be making it a lot harder than it needs to be. I'd slide the mattress with all its bedding far enough off the end of the berth to access the plywood panels--to WHICH I'd have previously done whatever is necessary to remove them and cut them in half (or better yet, at the place that creates a big enough opening to provide access to the thru-hull without having to take the whole bed apart). Close the seacock, replace the access panel(s), slide the bedding back up onto the berth...done! A bit of a PITA still, but a whole lot easier than the way you've described. The ability to get in therewith a minimum of aggravation to do it regularly will also let you inspect hose clamps, check hose condition (very important if hoses are approaching--or especially if already past--10 years old), and alert you to when the seacock needs lubrication...the kind of preventive maintenance that's kept many a boat off the bottom.
--Peggie
All good suggestions in theory... and I'm sure I could make some small improvements to my ways... but it is not as easy as your suggestion... below is what my layout looks like...

and the engine intake seacock is under the port-side berth about 4 feet back from the pillows/head end of the mattress. maybe a foot or two so off the centerline of the boat, and the shaft cooling intake seacock is slightly farther aft, and on the port side. Both berths have about 18 or 24 inches (I'm guestimating) of "headroom" down in that bottom half, making the tucking and untucking of sheets extra fun. The mattresses are split into two asymmetrical halves, but due to the low headroom at the foot of the bed, you can't just "fold" the inboard half over onto the outboard half... and tilting the head-end of the mattress up to get back under there isn't useful either, as the forward half of each berth is tankage (fuel on one side, water on the other). My previous boat had the intake in the front of the engine compartment under the stairs, making it a 10 second job... this one, not so much. Ironically, this boat has GREAT access to everything in there... if you're willing to disassemble and reassemble, but QUICK access only to the to the engine itself, I have a child sleeping in each berth, which further complicates accessing during early or late hours when they might be asleep. Ideally, I'd move the engine intake throughhull to be under the companionway stairs, but that's a bigger project than I'm going to take on. You're TOTALLY RIGHT that I should close/open/inspect more... I should lose 20 pounds, and spend more quality time with my kids, and never exceed the posted speed limits. too... I'm just sharing one person's experience/explanation as to WHY everyone doesn't always just do something that's seemingly so simple.
 
Dec 2, 1997
8,171
- - LIttle Rock
Wellllll...shucks. It SEEMED like a good solution anyway. Have you considered replacing all that bedding with a 2 person sleeping bag. Not necessary to zip 'em, and rolled up inside a nice bag that matches your color scheme they make a great bolster pillow. Sheets are optional, but a lot easier to fold up each morning than all that bed making in a tight space.
I should lose 20 pounds, and spend more quality time with my kids, and never exceed the posted speed limits. too.
I agree about the 20 lbs and more time with the kids, but IMO speed limits are just reasonable suggestions. I actually said that to a cop once who'd pulled me over and asked me if I knew the speed limit on that street. Fortunately he had a sense of humor 'cuz he totally cracked up when I answered, "Yes...and it seems to be a very reasonable suggestion, so I made sure my speed stayed reasonably close to it." (I really wasn't going THAT fast) He let me go with a warning that in the future I needed to consider speed limits to bit a bit more binding than just a suggestion.
--Peggie
 
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Jul 29, 2004
396
Hunter 340 Lake Lanier, GA
"Not my boat, boss's boat" as Capt Ron said. Actually a Sunsail chartered Beneteau 42 out of St. Vincent about a decade ago.

'Twas the last full day of the charter and we were supposed to be back to base by 4pm. Had a late and too-long lunch at one of the restaurants around Admiralty Bay, Bequia. Started heading back and decided to motorsail to get a better angle to Blue Lagoon at the southern tip of St. Vincent. We were doing well until a crew went below and popped back up to say "Dad, there's water over the floor!"

I pulled the throttle back to idle and dove down the companionway, finding an inch or so above the floor in front of the steps. No automatic float switch on that boat, so flipped the manual switch to start dewatering and trying to decide whether to turn back to shore (we were maybe a mile out from the bay) or what. Water was salty so started looking for the problem at back of the engine suspecting the shaft log. But after pulling some engine access panels off, found a cooling hose that had split near the hose clamp. Shut down the engine and closed the seacock. Sunsail base sent a go-fast boat with this lucky guy who leaped aboard and
DSCF1621.JPG
managed to cut the hose a little shorter and get it back on the nipple. I don't remember his name, but he was a Scot in the Windward Islands and it was really hot down by that engine, so he earned his mechanic stripe that day.

Lesson learned was to listen to that different noise out of the exhaust and check out the cause instead of assuming it was just the higher than previous throttle setting. Too much excitement for a charter. They comped us a couple of air conditioned rooms at the base that night. :)
 
Dec 29, 2008
798
Treworgy 65' Custom Steel Pilothouse Staysail Ketch St. Croix, Virgin Islands
Headed out of the marina, and round the breakwater onto Lake Erie, with the family and grandkids for a day anchored out nearby. Probably had 3-5' waves outside the breakwall, but where we were heading was in the lee of the waves. All of a sudden (isn't it always?) the forward bilge alarm lights and buzzes! I had the helm to the admiral and hurry down the steps into the pilot house and then down the steps into the main cabin and forward to the forward cabin. Lifting open the hatch to the forward bilge, sure enough, the bilge has water in it, the pump is running, and I see water streaming down the side of the hull in the bilge! There is a bunk on this side of the cabin, and I lift the mattress to open the storage lid below it, and see water running down the side of the hull there. So, I pull the mattress out from the side and see water puddling at the side below the mattress. about that same time, we dive into another wave, and I see the porthole open slightly and water pour in through the screen. The port had been dropped, but not dogged down, and every time a wave hit the side of the bow, water was pouring in through the porthole.

Easy fix, but it took my pulse awhile to settle back down. Usually, the Admiral automatically checks all the portholes as we are preparing to leave the dock. She also did in this case, except she had not been aware that this porthole had at some point been opened (we rarely open the forward cabin ports), and just glanced at it without noticing that it hadn't been dogged down. Normally she checks each one with a batton, but hadn't climbed over the bunk to do this one on this one occasion - and it bit us. Only real damage was having to pull out the mattress and linens onto the deck to dry out. Lesson learned.
 
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Dec 10, 2003
148
Hunter 30_88-94 Edmonds, WA
Departed on an all day motor trip from Seattle to San Juan Islands. Wife went down to put tea water on and water was up to the sole. Pumps were working. Shut down engine, close through hull, and used hand pumps as well....got a tow back to the marine.

Turned out the fresh water impeller housing set screw had worked its way out. Found it in the engine pan afterwards. Screw is no more than 2 mm diameter. Amazing how much water leaked in about 30 minutes. Easy fix, never had a problem since, but use threadlocker on the screw now.
 
Jan 10, 2018
241
Beneteau 331 Halifax
Thanks for the threadlocker advice...never thought of that.
This is why we all should close the engine seacock when not on the boat (and the others as well).
Maybe I'll close it when cruising when I am just sailing for a long time.
 
Dec 2, 1997
8,171
- - LIttle Rock
Fortunately, they are harder to sink!
Actually they aren't. Dock water pressure is a lot higher than any boat plumbing can accept...which is why it's necessary to have a pressure reducer on a dock water inlet thru-hull. And there are only two kinds of pressure reducers...those that have failed, and those that will fail. Leaving dock water connected and running while away from the boat has sunk many a houseboat in a matter of hours. I was on Lake Lanier north of Atlanta when I lived in Atlanta...I remember one summer when dock water connections sank an average of 4 houseboats a WEEK!

--Peggie