I like my butt. And I like to get it back to shore dry and in one piece. Going on a boat without being ready for trouble is a good way of kissing it — your butt and maybe your boat — goodbye.
What you need to learn and the tools and parts you need to carry aboard depend on the complexity of your boat and how you use it.
But we shouldn’t be on the water without at least a basic working understanding of how to figure out what’s wrong when something is wrong, and how to fix it or at least make do until we get back. It’s not only a part of good seamanship, but it’s also profound good sense.
In the fall of 2103, I conducted a series of tests on a modified MK I Swan 44, Chasseur, off Newport, Rhode Island. The goal was to determine the best method and equipment for safely steering in the event of catastrophic rudder failure. After all, it’s not something you want to have to puzzle through once you’re in emergency mode.
Tyson Garvin and I knew the 780-mile race from New York City to Bermuda known as the Bermuda Challenge would be difficult, but we had no idea we would end up facing our toughest test while still within sight of the city skyline. Coming down hard after launching off a large swell departing the Big Apple, the engine hatch ram on our 37-foot Statement Marine center console failed and punctured the port engine’s starter cable. In an instant, we went from racing along at more than 50 mph to being dead in the water and on fire with 680 gallons of diesel.
How to stop a leak
Keeping the water on the outside of the boat is paramount. A small leak can be inconvenient, but a large leak will sink your boat. If you hit a submerged object, stop the boat and find where the water is coming in — this may or may not be obvious, and it could be inside a locker, the engine room or the lazarette. Use sails, bedding, cushions, clothes — anything you have — to stuff the hole and stem the flow of water. You may be able to heel a sailboat to bring the hole clear of the water by tacking or getting the crew to one side of the vessel.
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