Published: April 2012

Four Reasons Why You Need To Inspect Through-Hulls And Hoses
Reason #1, Hoses clamped to threaded fittings: This boat took on water at the dock when this cooling-water intake hose leaked (Claim #0209490). The hose is clamped to a threaded fitting, which is almost guaranteed to damage the hose and cause a leak; hoses must be clamped to a barbed surface. Any critical below-the-waterline fitting should also be double-clamped.

Reason #2, Improvised connections: This photo shows how not to tap into an existing hose. Proper fittings are available to do such a job; in this case, the smaller hose could have been attached to a T-fitting inserted into the larger hose. The boat partially flooded when the small hose came off the cockpit scupper hose and rainwater from the cockpit leaked into the bilge, overwhelming the bilge pump (Claim #0115239). If you’re not sure how to devise a system, call a boatyard professional.

Reason #3, No seacock: This Asian-built trawler has a through-hull fitting without a seacock — when the hose clamp broke, there was no way to shut off the flow and the boat flooded (Claim #0501202). Every through-hull must have a proper seacock that can be closed in the event of an emergency. Don’t forget to exercise your seacocks a few times a year to keep them from seizing. Finally, tying a soft wood plug tied next to each seacock gives you a quick remedy, should a seacock fail.

Reason #4, The hose isn’t attached: A 39-foot boat almost sank shortly after it was launched last spring. The previous winter, the marina had winterized the various systems but had neglected to reattach the water intake hoses at the air conditioners. The boat’s owner turned on the AC units while the boat was underway and the unit’s remote pump immediately began pumping water into the boat, which nearly sunk.

“Professionals” will sometimes make mistakes, including serious ones, and you can’t assume that just because the yard winterized the boat last fall, you can forgo your spring checklist (Spring Launching Safety Checklist). Among the various onboard systems, all hoses and through-hulls need to be inspected before leaving the dock in the spring.

Wearing Your Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
A Florida man who was scrubbing the bow of his 43-foot trawler with a mop — a routine job he’d done hundreds of times before—leaned a little too far over the lifelines and tumbled into the water. A woman, the only other person aboard, threw a cushion over the side, but the man couldn’t swim. She then raced aft to get a boat hook, but in the few short seconds she was gone, the man disappeared. Divers recovered his body later that afternoon (Claim #0010401).

In another claim, a small sailboat with three people aboard was capsized by a strong gust of wind during a race. Although a chase boat was on scene in minutes, a 77-year-old man was found floating unconscious, barely breathing. A few minutes later, as he was being transported ashore, he had a heart attack and died (Claim #0103545).

The victim had been wearing an inflatable PFD, one of the models that have to be inflated manually. He apparently was too stunned to inflate the vest and was struggling to stay afloat when help arrived.

Most people are good swimmers and don’t want to be told when or where they should wear a PFD. A few years ago, a poll of BoatUS members found that 98 percent of the 10,000 respondents were opposed to a federal law requiring adults to wear PFDs on recreational boats. (There are federal and state laws requiring children to wear PFDs.) But at night, in rough conditions, in tippy boats, in cold weather, or if you don’t swim, a PFD makes a heck of a lot of sense.

Recognizing Your Limits As A Handyman
Sometimes maintenance is a pretty straightforward DIY job and other times it makes sense to call in a professional. Not many skippers, for example, would consider dealing with a water-soaked deck core. In some cases (see “How to Install Electrical Items”) a lack of technical knowledge could be dangerous. But even simple jobs, like changing oil, take a certain amount of know-how. The owner of this boat changed his oil and filter but neglected to run the engine to check for leaks when he was finished. Unfortunately, when he installed the filter, it wasn’t seated properly and when the boat was taken out for the first time, all of the oil leaked out and in minutes the engine was destroyed.

Engines are complex and expensive. If you’re not absolutely sure how to go about a job, have a more experienced friend lend a hand, or leave it to a professional mechanic.

The Importance Of CO Detectors!
The generator exhaust hose below lead to the death of a man shortly after he had taken possession of a three-year-old boat. The first night aboard was unusually warm, so the new owner left the generator running to power the air conditioner. Sometime during the night, the man woke up, and perhaps feeling sick, moved to a chair where he was found the next morning. At first it was thought he had a heart attack, but a later autopsy revealed he had been overcome by carbon monoxide (CO). The boat did not have a CO detector.

When a marine surveyor was hired to inspect the boat after the owner’s death, he touched the hose and it fell off. The nipple, according to the surveyor, was distorted and too short to accommodate the second clamp. The boat had not been inspected by a surveyor when the owner purchased the boat (Claim #0120756).

Note that every boat with a gasoline engine and accommodation space should have a working CO detector aboard. No exceptions!

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