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Old 05-07-2016, 07:51   #31
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Re: Saildrive Boot

Originally Posted by jdhorner View Post
I realize this thread is old, however, the topic never gets old, and is especially relevant for me having ruptured a saildrive boot at sea yesterday. We were sailing at night about three miles off the coast of Texas near Freeport when we struck a submerged tree that had washed out to sea due to recent flooding in the area. We were beating to weather in 20 knots of breeze and moderate seas with a clear radar screen. We hit the log moving at about 5 knots. The modified full keel on our Lancer 40 monohull went up and over and smacked the saildrive hard, lodging between the keel and drive. The tree was about 60' long and 3' in diameter. Crew went below and called out we had a breach and water was above the cabin sole. By the time I went below within 5 minutes of the colision there was 6" of water above the sole. By the time I got pillow cases and towels chinked into the opening about 10 minutes later there was at least 12" of water above the sole and above the engine crankshaft. We were relatively close to the Freeport Coast Guard Station and they were on board within 20 minutes of making the Mayday call, and had a 2" pump running immediately thereafter. We were towed in, but the boat will likely be a total loss. We are very thankful for our CG rescue team, they did a great job and took extra good care of us. Two things I took away from this (as it relates to sailing that is): 1. The breached area of the boot was underneath the engine (Volvo MD17C with 110SD), very hard to get to, a difficult shape to plug, and it let in a tremendous amount of water very quickly. The breach was too big for pillow cases and wash rags, but the access under the engine was too tight for a bath towel. The best option we had was hand towels and it took several. The log would bump the sail drive and make it move, opening up the breach and undoing the plug. Even after we were free from the log the wave action did the same thing to a lesser degree. One ought to think about how to access the forward part of the boot, and practice getting to it to find the best plugging material. The Coast Guard tried to plug it at the dock with wedges and oakum, but the towels I had used originally actually did a better job because the breach was too big for the Oakum. 2. Anything stored on the floor will be washing around the boat once it is flooded. We kept our trash bags in a cabinet on the floor. When the CG deployed their pump it kept getting clogged by the trash sacks that were floating around everywhere. Next time our trash sacks will kept up high. There was also cardboard debris everywhere that troubled the pumping, so we will not have any boxes on board from now on.

I know sail drives are popular, and an efficient design tool to keep the dive train compact and almost all the time they work great. I could back my monohull better than my conventional drive friends for sure. But after this experience I will be going to a conventional drive in future boats. If this same scenario had happened to a conventional drive we would have likely had no water intrusion, possibly prop and rudder damage, and maybe a bent shaft, but the nature of our call would likely have been one of assistance rather than distress, and we might have even sailed the boat on in. In any case it likely would not have totaled the boat.
I'm not going to suggest saildrives are the best options in all situations but drop the boat onto a 3' diameter log and I bet there is pretty good chance of opening up the hull on shaft drive boat.

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