Seamanship Stories

What would you do if you suddenly had water pouring in through a shaft stuffing box? One couple in our claim files reacted with speed and ingenuity when they put their 1982 32-foot Sea Ray in gear and heard water. They went below and found the ocean gushing into the engine room from the starboard propeller shaft packing gland assembly. Thinking fast, they grabbed a large, heavy-duty plastic bag and secured it over the shaft boot with hose clamps to slow the influx of water. The boatyard was closed, but the dockmaster was able to arrange an emergency haulout at another yard, where they were hauled out that night.

Sheila Schwede, the claims surveyor who inspected the boat, sees all manner of botched do-it-yourself work (see Alert, January 2015) and is not easily impressed. But after seeing the quick-fix, she wrote, "It is the professional opinion of the undersigned, that the assured acted as a prudent boat owner, following discovery of the vessel's torn stern tube. His quick action of applying a plastic bag with hose clamps surely prevented additional damages from being occasioned."

Seamanship is defined as the skill, techniques, or practice of handling a ship or boat at sea. At its broadest, it encompasses everything from the care and maintenance of the vessel to the judgment of the skipper in deciding whether or not to leave the dock in less than perfect conditions. Part and parcel of seamanship is dealing with the unexpected. The ability to react to a changing situation quickly and decisively can prevent the loss of the vessel, as was the case here. And as is the case with all good seamanship, this is a story we can all learn from, one that just might save another boat in a similar situation someday. 

— Published: January 2015

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