Is your cockpit truly self-draining? Some decks are well above the load waterline and appear to be self-bailing. Yet in truth the deck drains lead to hoses that drain into the bilge and not overboard. While this keeps you from having wet feet in the cockpit, this design is not actually self-bailing. Disaster awaits boats with fiberglass liners, decks that cover the bilge—and drains that empty into the bilge. The bilge pump will not prevent such a boat from sinking, whether dockside or 100 miles offshore. How could this happen? The answer is through aging and lack of maintenance because of inaccessible bilges. This is especially important if your boat is 15 or 20 years old. Hoses in your boat that were designed to last 10 years are now brittle, cracked and failing.
Hoses and through-hull fittings must be accessible, or you will not know that your drains are leaking or your hoses are cracked until a deluge occurs. If you are not able to inspect and maintain all of your below-deck hos-es and through-hull fittings, you should go ahead and cut and install inspection/access plates for access to the hoses and through-hull nipples, hoses and clamps.
Other Maintenance Items to Prevent Sinkings
Outdrive universal joint and shift boot bellows should be inspected every year and replaced every third year, give or take. In old bellows, he rubber dries out and cracks. Leaks through the rubber occur, and the gimbal bearing and gimbal housing leak water into the bilge.
Plastic corrugated hoses should never be used on boats. They are thin-walled and become brittle over time. You should replace these with polyester reinforced tubing.
Livewell plumbing should never drain into the bilge. Livewell fittings are often well below the water, and all of these must have accessible seacocks to shut off the flow of water into the well. If the well fills, overflows and drains into the bilge, added weight can bring the load waterline down enough to cause flooding through the scuppers, with considerable risk of swamping. These seacocks should be shut while the boat is left unattended.
Hatches that are cheaply built, poorly located, or unsealed risk pouring lots of water into the bilge. If your scuppers are near the waterline, you must make sure your hatches are watertight. If your deck hatches and inspection ports don’t have gaskets, install them. Make sure they can be dogged down while the boat is unattended.
In conclusion, if your boat lacks watertight integrity at the dock, can you risk encountering heavy weather on a large body of water? Correcting design flaws, poor accessibility, regular inspections and replacement of degraded components are critical to safe boating.