To set the scene - my friend has an Outer Reef 630.
A couple weeks back, a friend of his was participating in a long distance ocean swim. We made arrangements that my friend would take the 5 meter tender
to act as a support boat
, and I would drive the Outer Reef back to the home port. The day before the race
my friend and I repositioned the boat
to the start of the swim and slept overnight by the start line.
The following morning was a cracker, with slight cloud cover and a beautiful sunrise. 2 hours into the 10 hour swim, a 25 knot
squall made me seem like the smart one for staying on the big boat, while everybody in the open air tender
got soaked to the bone.
Over the next couple hours, the wind
kept up a brisk pace and occasional radio
enquiries were made as to the comfort and temperature of the big boat. I always responded truthfully that I was actually too warm and had to crack a door to keep the temperature comfortable.
In a true show of wit, I had just radioed to my friend asking for the proper timings to properly bake a pizza in the onboard oven
when a bilge alarm
started to ring in the cockpit
I quickly gave control of the vessel to the admiral, who was accompanying me, and headed to the engine
room. I've been on the boat dozens of times, and occasionally a bit of water
gets into the bilge
. I quickly found the offending bilge
compartment and confirmed that there was indeed standing water
in the forward most engine
bay bilge. I was a bit concerned, as the water level didn't seem to be going down and I couldn't see the distinctive bubbles a bilge pump
tends to make as it does its thing. I also noticed we were taking water in through the ceiling, and I put that down to the occasional downpour we were getting outside.
I ran back upstairs to get my phone
to take a picture and judge the ingress of the water. The buzzer of the bilge alarm
continued to scream out, so I went to the flybridge to call my friend and ask if there was an override switch I needed to activate. He mentioned running the bilge manually and to report back. I ran back downstairs to the engine room, showing the admiral how to manually run the pump
. Sure enough, the manual switch kicked in and the 3 inches of water was gone before I could even get a photo
Crisis averted. Or so I thought. The damn bilge alarm
was still screaming at the top of its lungs. I decided to go to the engine room via the lazarette rather than accessing it from the main cabin
located amidship, to see if I could find another bilge I had missed earlier. No sooner had I made it through the galley
, located behind the pilot house, then I let out a gigantic, "OH ****."
There was 3 inches of standing water in the salon
. We were taking on massive amounts of water, and this couldn't be good. I walked through the salon
, looking for a hole punched in the side of the boat, mentally preparing for how to get off this sinking boat. I saw a bunch of 240 volt appliances
plugged in, so I ran back to the pilot house, switched off all 240 volt panels
, then ran up to the fly bridge to radio
my friend that I needed him. NOW.
As I ran back downstairs to, I don't know, try to find a hole and plug
it with I don't know what, a realization dawned on me. The salon of the Outer Reef is 2 meters above the water line. And I had been in the engine room. Directly below me. That, combined with the water being quite warm, tipped me off to the true nature of the problem. I quickly ran to the 24v panel and turned off the 2 freshwater pumps.
When my friend got to the boat a minute later, his reaction was the same as mine and the people on the tender later reported hearing a massive, "OH ****" as he came onboard.
I quickly explained what I figured the problem was. My friend tasted the water to confirm it was fresh. Then we found buckets and started bailing out the salon. I wish we had a picture of it. Esky lids. Water proof bags. Dog bowl. All these items were sitting in 3 inches of water, sloshing back and forth as we rolled in the waves.
Once we had removed as much water as we could, we disassembled the buzzer, because we couldn't hear ourselves think.
We were happy the boat was safe, so we finished the swim as planned, had everyone over for pizza, and got the boat home. The next day the admiral and I met up with my friend at the boat and we sent the fun sized admiral crawling around the cabinets. It took about 5 minutes to find the culprit - the hot water line for the dishwasher had decided it had had enough of life and split randomly in the middle.
A quick trip to the hardware
store and some unique stretching by me and the new line was installed. We started turning on the electronics
that are stored under the main couch in the salon. These things had been in several inches of water 24 hours before. The first 2 Sonos boxes made a magic popping sound when we turned them on, and we knew they had reached the end of their life. Everything else? Magically still works.
The only real casualties of the day were the laminate flooring
and the 2 Sonos boxes. My friend eventually found the actual sensor
for the bilge alarm
and found it had gotten stuck in the "triggered" position.
Looking back on it, it's likely that the float switch for the bilge is faulty and did not turn on the pump
. The faulty float switch for the bilge pump
and the stuck alarm probably prevented more damage. We estimate that 150 gallons (600 liters) of water had been pumped into the salon. The engine room bilge would have easily kept up with the slow ingress of water as water trickled down the sides of the boat and into the bilge. Without that alarm going off, it could have been another hour or two before the admiral or I looked in the salon. The water would have only stopped once we had emptied the 1,000 liter tank.
Now, if all 1,000 liters had been pumped into the salon, would other problems have arisen? Would the floor have collapsed? Unlikely. But, it's something we didn't have to find out about.
And of course, there are other lessons. I actually didn't remember where the life jackets were stored. They are on the fly bridge, in case anyone is curious. Also, both the admiral and I noted that as we scooped water out of the salon, the buckets were nearly ripped from our hands by the wind
, resulting in us getting a little unbalanced. New rule
: when an alarm starts going off, the first order of business should be to dawn a life jacket.
I don't think there is anyway to monitor
for this kind of problem in the future. The water pumps are well insulated in the Outer Reef, so you can't hear them running. I guess we could install water detectors under neath the kitchen cabinetry, but that seems finicky at best. I think this is just one of those things that happens and we learned some really valuable lessons for really, a very low cost.
Thanks for reading and safe cruising.