Friday, March 25, 2011

That Which Sinks Ships

It seems probable that I am the new owner of a slightly used sailboat engine, not because (as the previous owner claimed) it was under powered for the 36 foot sailboat it went into, but because the sailboat it was installed in sank!  Now that I’ve satisfied myself that the engine is still viable in spite of that, I’ve been pondering what might have caused the this boat to sink?

The timing alone offers some clues.  It had to happen in the last 4 months given the date of manufacture.  It likely happened in the last 2 months as repowers rarely happen overnight. I was told by the previous owner that it had been sitting for about a month.  Given his omission of the subject at hand, who knows?  But,given its placement in the shop behind some of the kind of stuff that seems to collect in shops, perhaps. That places the time of sinking in January or February.  Perhaps it was a Christmas break project.

Was the sinking related to the repower itself?  On one hand, there are a lot of external forces that might cause a boat to sink in Puget Sound in the middle of winter.  We get fairly intense wind storms and had at least two spells of temperatures in the 20’s this year  In fact, the Everett marina was frozen solid twice that I observed this winter.   Perhaps the docking lines chafed to the point of parting and it ran aground. Perhaps something froze and broke. 

On the other hand, this was likely a 30 year old boat as suggested by the fact that it was getting a repower.  What are the chances of it surviving 30 years, only to sink during or right after a repower? As I would hate to be the 2nd owner of this engine to suffer this fate, this bears consideration. By the way, does any one know if the old man in the sea likes red wine as an offering? 

If I make the assumption that it was related to the repower, the next question is: did it sink at the dock or underway?  I’m a freshly minted sailboat owner and, at least this winter, was eager as they come. I only made it about 1 in 6 weeks in the middle of winter.

So, assuming the dock, possibilities that come to mind are: A makeshift plug for the prop shaft came loose.   The battery was disconnected and an unnoticed slow leak caused her demise as the sump pump sat idle. A coolant hose was propped up above the water line, only to fall with the motion of a wave with its seacock open.  Perhaps the exhaust transom fitting hadn't been secured and a storm came up.   All things that I am going to pay attention to as I embark on Sojourn’s repower to be sure.   Which one caused the actual demise?  Perhaps Holmes could do a better job of sleuthing, but my guess is it was a combination of some leak due to a temporary situation with the repower and a turned off or disconnected sump pump.

Experienced sailors and vicarious sojourners alike, it would be fun to read your thoughts on this.  Please comment below.

My curiosity led me to Google it.  Here is the first link I found that opened quickly.

In summary, that which sinks sailboats most often is below water line fittings, of which I have seven – that I know of.

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