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Old 07-03-2016, 08:28   #1
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Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

I'm doing a safety audit on my boat and my procedures this spring. I'm a firm believer in thinking through emergencies before they happen, and working out effective procedures for dealing with them. In the heat of the moment it is all too easy to forget some essential step or another, and that's why God created check lists.

Flooding is one of the main horrors we face at sea, together I guess with fire (shudder). When I tried to come up with a checklist, I realized what a horrifyingly difficult emergency this would be. I remember that one boat in the ARC sank last year from flooding, and the crew never had any idea where the flooding was coming from. That's frightening. When I started to write down a checklist for systematically identifying the source of flooding, I realized that you just wouldn't get far through the list before the boat sank, if the breach is serious.

So it means that we're nearly helpless in case of flooding unless it's something obvious (shaft seal, say) or immediately visible. And especially if we don't find out about it until the sole plates are floating.

So I've come around to thinking that a few things are actually essential on an ocean-going sailing yacht:

1. Bilge alarms.
2. Macerating crash pump.
3. Dive mask and dive light at the ready.

If you find out about it before it's reached the sole plates (and thus put what you're looking for well underwater), and if you have enough clog-resistant pump capacity to keep the water down, then you might have a fighting chance. Otherwise -- not so much.

And the procedure has got to be well thought through. There are so many potential sources of flooding, you will just not think of everything in the heat of the moment, and you will not do it in the right sequence. Unless you have a well designed checklist.

Here's my draft:



1. Crew on deck in life jackets and with grab bag and grab list items; prepare to abandon ship (see that Checklist).

2. Assign crew to issue Pan Pan by DSC (VHF if in range; otherwise HF).

3. Shut down main engine if possible.

4. Large bilge pump and engine room pump manual on.

5. Check pumps for clogging.

6. Hull breach? Was there any kind of collision or grounding? If so, look first for this. If you find hull breach, deploy spare mainsail around outside of the hull to stem the breach. Then try to find breach inside and block it from there.

7. Check engine room; check shaft seal; check exhausts; check raw water lines and strainers.

8. Shut off engine room sea cocks EXCEPT generator intake, generator water lift.

9. Deploy crash pump
a. connect fire hose, lead overboard, assign crew to handle or belay
b. plug in top of generator
c. emergency switch over
d. start generator
e. switch on crash pump

10. Shut off aft toilet sea cocks (hatch in aft heads sole).

11. Shut off fwd toilet sea cocks (forecabin sole at door).

12. Shut off deck drains & black water pumpout (hatch inboard of nav station; hatch galley sole).

13. Shut off topsides through hulls (behind port side salon settee) EXCEPT bilge pump outlets; check for siphoning.

14. Check speed/sounder through hulls (hatch, corridor sole in front of Pullman cabin door).

15. Check rudder seal (lazarette)

16. Check hull anode fixing bolts (sole port side, aft cabin)

17. Check keel joint.

Did I miss anything? Comments?

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Old 07-03-2016, 09:46   #2
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

You don't need me to say this but for the sake of other readers, practice, practice, practice. Checklists are important but not so much during an emergency. The action must be automatic and that only comes with practice.

S/V B'Shert

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Old 07-03-2016, 10:29   #3
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

Submersable 110v or 220 pump with a gen to run. A macerating pump won't move near as much water, the larger ac submersable pumps are light enough most crew can pick them up, have two or three if you are worried, rotate or put in at once. Big Manual pump in the cockpit. Most debris that will plug a pump floats, using light flat hose for the discharge as its easy to deploy. I would move deploying pumps to immidiately after crew are safe and a distress has been made, or even in tandem with the distress. You want to be removing water ASAP, your DC pumps will most likely cack if they have to run for a hr or more, once the large pumps are going I would shut at least some of the DC pumps off to save them. Have a Damage Control kit ready just like a ditch kit, one critical thing to have is SPLASH ZONE or some other identical product, two part under water epoxy, dead simple to mix and instal sticks to almost anything.

One thing to remember wich is really quite un-nerving, the more water in the boat the less pressure on the leak, if its flat calm, and you keep your wits about, you have time to attack it. Just getting to a point where you can maintain is goal one.

As said above if it isn't drilled and logged it never happened. Drills and drills and drills, always listen to crew comments on changing drills or procedures, its very common for a routine to get establiched by one person that is very difficult for another. Drilling and emergency procedures are probbaly the most important "Democraticly Evolved" thing on a vessel.
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Old 07-03-2016, 10:44   #4
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

First save the people (on deck call for help)

Second get the crash pump running. Unless the hole is absolutely massive, a reasonable crash pump should be able to arrest the flooding. When combined with bilge pumps and hand bailing a good crash pump is the first line of defense against flooding.

By crash pump I am talking about a pump that can move 15,000+ gallons/hr, self primping, pump capable of moving at least 1/2" solids.

- If animals weren't meant to be eaten then they wouldn't be made of food.
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Old 07-03-2016, 10:47   #5
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

Submarine flooding studies reveal that the single most important element of flooding response that allows recovery is time required to stop the flooding.

Because the pressures due to depth of submarine operations are so high, a commonly heard quip is that "you don't find the flooding, the flooding finds you" and there is some truth to that, but the nature of flooding is that pressurized water can be deflected by structure and cause confusion as to the rupture location, and can in some cases seem to be coming from a variety of different locations even though the source is a single rupture.

Prevention of flooding should be the first element of good practices. Eg, good practice would be to keep sea cocks for all sea connected systems shut unless the systems are in use. Such a policy has the added benefits of assuring that crew know the locations of those sea connections through at least occasional use, and of exercising all those valves periodically, which has it own benefits of improving reliability of the valves and allowing evaluation of seat leakage and resulting needed maintenance.

Why not keep head flushing supplies shut off while at sea, and all those deck connections that won't be used, shut? The list of likely sources of flooding is greatly reduced and those connections can be checked last.

Among your damage control supplies should be a couple of adjustable strongbacks, readily accessible...perhaps telescoping awning poles or whisker pole, and a wooden broom handle or two of differing allow blocking a cushion or pillow in place on the hull to stem flooding. Another effective method of blocking flooding through an irregular hole, I have read, is toilet bowl ring wax. I have not used that method, but do carry a couple of rings in my damage control kit.
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Old 07-03-2016, 10:47   #6
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

As a side note, Basic Safety Training or a similar STCW course, is a great investment for anyone going offshore. It's required for commercial licensed mariners with a refresher course every 5 years. Essentially a one week course covering firefighting first air cpr, survival skill, doning a gumby suit, getting in a raft etc. In the US Mario Vittone offers a pleasure craft vs. on both coasts at different times of the year. Structured group training is very benificial.

Almost All humans default to their level of training in a crisis.
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Old 07-03-2016, 11:15   #7
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

I didn't see prop shaft seal on your list.

Did you see this series?
10 ways to Save a Sinking Yacht, Crash Test Boat

For the hull breach a seat cushion and a prop to hold it in place was the fastest to significantly slow the leak, fothering a sail took forever. Using the sail would come much later in my list based on the videos.
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Old 07-03-2016, 11:36   #8
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

check your stuffing box and toilet then under galley sink first and make sure you have functional pumps. fix the leak and continue on
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Old 07-03-2016, 12:15   #9
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

My apologies in that some of this is out of order. It’s off of the top of my head, & far from complete (I’m late for heading out of the door). But it’ll give you plenty to both; work on, & with, regardless. And as Skipper, ultimately, it’s your job to dig up as many resources & checklists, from which to make up your own as you can.
The information IS out there. Albeit, some to much of it was written by Ninnies/Nannies, & is total crap. So sift though it accordingly.. As even most of the major sailing bodies have HUGE volumes of useless crap & rules, in their so called “safety” reg’s.

It’s impossible to legislate safety, or to come up with texts which cover it all. Nor can you refer to most of such info during a crisis.
The best tool for handling things are (in order); Your Mind, Your Training (physical, & mental), & your Preparation (gear & how to use it).

NOTE: Many of the items on it are currently out of order of priority. And such is Not a criticisim, it simply is.
Most of fixing that’s up to you. You ARE the Captain, & for things like this Especially, you MUST adopt that mindset (of being responsible for Everything, Period).

That said I’ll provide a few suggestions for reorganizing your list, now. And also, if time permits, later on.
Albeit, much of what needs compiling, list wise, can be figured out using; common sense, research, formal & informal training, & “war gaming”.

- You're going to want multiple, Laminated copies of your checklist. And also laminate every bit of paperwork noted below.

~ War Gaming; is taking bad scenario A, & thinking through each possible step to fix it, & what can go wrong with each. Followed by coming up with multiple steps to fix each of those (under extreme duress).
And to do this, for every & any possible emergency which you may encounter; on the boat, at home, while driving, ad infinitum. So that said modality of thinking becomes a natural part of your persona. As IT IS what makes or breaks most crises, & their outcomes.

Witness & review the accounts of the Pilot who executed the “perfect” water landing of a passenger aircraft. Sully Sullenberger. chesley sullenberger - Bing
He War Gamed nigh on 100% of the time (& not just on the job), and it’s what allowed him to do things right, at the right times, in a situation for which there is ZERO plausible way to actually train for.

- You need multiple, Laminated copies of ALL of your through skin fittings. Including one permanently affixed to the Nav Station. And one in each copy of the Damage Control Plan for each crew member.

Ensure that these are diagrams, & that they also delineate (via text) in what compartment (& where in it) the valve is located, what system it's connected to/for, a quick description of it, etc.

- One of the First things you want to do is to check all of your through hulls, & skin fittings.

- You don't want everyone on deck at the start of things, as in doing so, then you're the only person below deck. And there's no way that you can go through the checklist anywhere nearly as quickly as can multiple personnel. If at all, in order to fix the problem in time.
~ Only one or two people need to prep for abandoning ship. So assign folks with PROVEN cool heads to such a task. As in people who work in high stress fields, or have. Meaning where lives are on the line.

- On your checklist, have different sections of it (comprising various tasks) highlighted in different colors. And assign a color to each crewmember, so that it's a no brainer for each person to easily see their areas of responsibility.
~ Also, when they get their checklist, they should also receive a grease pencil, so as to be able to cross items off of the list as they go. Ditto on having a waterproof flashlight/headlamp. Preferably with both red & white beams. So as to maintain their (& the crew’s) night vision if possible.
~ Plus: Their personal sub list should (obviously) be prioritized in a Hierarchy from top to bottom.

- You'll need to put together multiple sets of complete, Damage Control Kits.
Also, physically show everyone where they are, before leaving the dock.
Similarly, make sure that there's also a list of their locations (both in text & via diagram); in your Damage Control Plan/Check List.

As well as a copy permanently affixed in plain view, to the Nav Station.

- In your checklist, you want to list (via both text, & drawings) where All of the ship's emergency gear is. And of course, everyone gets a copy of this list as well.

In addition to being physically shown where each cache of gear is stowed. Your crew should physically be shown what's in it, & how to use it.
And if you've got the time & inclination, have everyone try out all of the gear, read the manuals, as well as the Quick Response User Guide on Index Cards, which are tied to each item.

***Also, make sure that everyone is comfortable asking questions, & if they're not, as the Skipper, it's Your Job to sense this, & to create an environment where they are. Be that one on one sessions, or whatever.

Further, as Skipper, it’s your job to discern who’ll be calm under stress, & who’ll freeze (or move slowly). And assign tasks to them accordingly. But you also have to be able to quickly shift folks positions, if, in the heat of the moment, they freeze up, or vice versa.

Your job as Captain is as much, or more, about delegating tasks, & observing & evaluating the situation & progress. And then shifting gears & people in order to handle these changing circumstances. As it is to play a (physically) active role in fixing the problem(s).

So, yeah, you need 3 sets of eyes & ears, & be cool enough process all of that data, & then give directions/act upon it.
- Do Not let the fog of adrenaline give you tunnel vision. And regularly practice whatever technique works for you that staves this off.

Also, you need to think through every bad scenario which you can come up with, & then generate multiple ways of solving each of these problems. And to train yourself (and your crew) to think like this, on the fly, when emergencies (& drills) are actually taking place.

PS: You do alreay have wooden plugs, sealed in plastic, tied to every through hull & skin fitting, right? That & 3+ light weight mallets for using said DC Plugs.


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Old 07-03-2016, 12:39   #10
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

Very good points by Uncivilized, and I don't think he meant to call you a ass captian....

I would caution on too much of a paper/written instruction regime. Have done alot of drill evolving and there is a fine balance of written instruction and practical reaction. People ca nget stuck in forest beforethe trees routine, where a obvious action should be taken but its not written down and they are over emphasized to follow the script.

Best point above is deligation and remaining in charge of the situation, adrenalin is a powerful thing, and the first reaction to put on the cape and fly below is not always the right one.

Also I would highly reccomend removing the engine isolation portion, a diesel will keep running submerged as long as the intake is dry and its getting fuel. Unless its clear the raw water side of the engien or wet exhauste is the issue, maintaining power and steerage is cruicial in any kind of a seastate. I have seen a "T" with a valve and drop hose to the bilge on the raw water intake for a backup pump arrangment, butdon't think I would ever go that route. One of the coolest engine driven pumps I've seen is the crash pump over the drive shaft. Open centrifigal pump that just spins dry until water were to get up to its level, then you would have the full power of your engine to pump out. Definatel ydoes not work on all arrangments but a interesting concept.
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Old 07-03-2016, 12:57   #11
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

I think the most important thing here is to "Know your boat" before putting to sea.

You should have a solid idea of every place water can get into your boat before even heading out.

Also, I like ball type valves, no screw valves, ball valves are easy and fast to close, and you can tell at a glance if the valve is open or closed. With a screw valve you can accidentally open it when you think you are closing and vise versa.

If you have access to and know all of the locations of all of your through holes, you are in pretty good shape, you can eliminate or identify those as the source of the leak very quickly.

Then there is the prop shaft, if that is ok, all that is left is a hole in the hull.

The marina I used to work at, we had a fleet of aluminum rental boats, those things were notorious for having the aluminum hull crack and they would slowly start to take on water, often times this was below the floor boards where it could not be seen.

Having access under the floor boards aside from the bilge would be very nice when trying to find the source.
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Old 07-03-2016, 14:12   #12
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

OK, third try reading your list I found shaft seal.

Someone mentioned access to the hull. I have read that some people carry an axe to quickly remove cabinetry to get access to the hull.
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Old 07-03-2016, 19:07   #13
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist


You might find this video interesting:

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Old 07-03-2016, 19:17   #14
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

This is paraphrasing but one of the best anolgies I have ever heard to things goign south. It is from the owner instructor at Garden City Ammonia training where I took my operator I and II course. I think it transfers over to seamanship and vessel preparedness.

"Everybody starts out there carear with a large bag of luck and a empty bag of expieriance. When really bad things happen you have to take some luck out of the luck bag and put it into the expieriance one. You hope you can make it to the end of your carear without the luck bag being empty, because you know what happens then."

His very simple solution to this very true anology is training, know what your doing and why.
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Old 07-03-2016, 19:24   #15
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Re: Flooding Emergency -- Checklist

I would add to the list, at number 1, Taste the water. If it's not salty the problem may not be as dramatic as first thought. Probably not relevant if the water is up to your ears, depending of course on your water carrying capacity.

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