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The Worst Feeling Is When Your Boat Is Taking On Water

The worst feeling in the world is your boat taking on water

I used to think that the worst feeling in the world was running aground.  And every sailor has done so.  I have always heard that if a sailor says he never has, he’s lying.

I remember once, when I was at the helm in the beautiful Pensacola Bay, rounding Deer Point, and having the voice in the back of my head say,

I thought that channel marker was supposed to be on the starboard side when I came in, why is it on the port side?

and BAM!  Stuck.

But I digress.

 The weekend started with a beautiful day of sailing. Fair winds and following seas brought us into a Atlantic coastline gem called Bonaparte Bay.  We spent two nights on the hook with beautiful weather.  But our last morning in the protected cove promised to turn into a stormy afternoon.  It was time to “get the heck outta


Normally we would pull in and out of that cove at high tide. In fact, we did that very thing coming in.  High tide, no problem.

After pulling up the anchor, the captain yelled GO GO GO! Which is the signal for give it some throttle to get moving.  Sometimes, this chick is very literal. Sometimes to my undoing.  This was one of those times that I took the GO GO GO as give it some GO GO GO!

Also, being very “literal”, I followed the same exact track going IN to the cove as going OUT.  BAD, BAD MISTAKE!

A little extra throttle, with a lot less water, caused us to hit  A WHOLE LOT of ground.

An underwater rock pile to be exact.


This was not like hitting sand as in Pensacola, this was like a car going 25mph hitting a curb.  Sudden. Loud. And Jolting.  The captain almost flew off the front of the bow where he was rinsing off the anchor and I felt like I lost a kidney.

After what seemed like an eternity (but was only about 5-7 minutes), with a lot of reverse throttle, tears, cursing, and a boat-load of prayers, we managed to maneuver out of our situation.

Since this has happened, I have looked up some pretty clever ways to  get ungrounded on this link)

We motored down the ICW back to our marina licking our wounds and thinking the worst was over. Let me tell you.  It was not.

Docking went well.  Even had a nice assistance from a fellow boater named Johnathan.  Eddie stopped to chat with him, while I prepared the boat for hooking up to some well needed air conditioning.

After running the heavy power cord from the dock to our stern, I made my way into the galley to go through procedure for shore power.  Since I was already feeling pretty bad about myself for making such a BONEHEAD mistake as to not taking into account that we were at low tide, I made sure I did everything right.

Cord connected—check

Power supply switch on—check

Flip switches on electrical panel……..

Then I paused.

I heard the sound of a small motor running.  Constantly.  Not turning off.

If you know boats, I bet you can guess what that motor was.

But I was perplexed.  Nothing electrical had been turned on yet, and the engine was most definitely off.  I called the captain away from his conversation with our new acquaintance to ask, “Before I turn on the shore power, what is running?”

Eddie crawled into the engine to look and listen.  For a moment, just a small moment at that, he was confused too.   Then almost simultaneously he looked down as he said, “It’s the bilge running” and “AWWW S#*T!! WE’RE TAKING ON WATER!”

Now to give you a visual, the engine compartment has a two openings.  One is a crawl-through space to access the generator, fuel filter, and other engine related devices.  And the other front hatch opens for the engine itself.  Once this hatch was opened we saw the water RUSHING IN at an enormous rate.  The seacock for the raw-water cooling of the engine was COMPLETELY severed off.  Later in this post I will show you how.  But lets get back to the story.

The water was rushing through the broken pipe and there was no shut off valve.  (Again, if you bare with me, I will tell you WHY there was no shut off valve)

The floor boards in the forward cabin, which is the lowest part of the boat, were floating. The bilge area located near the hull breach was filled almost to the top.  The sinking feeling in my stomach (pun intended) was the worse I have ever experienced.

But a very quick thinking Captain with a penchant for OCD, remember a conversation he  had with  the previous owner, “Do we have plugs on board?”  to which the owner said, “Yes, Let’s hope you never need them.” 

Need them, indeed we did.

So the Captain quickly hammered the largest one (it was a big hole I told ya), into the gushing opening causing a MIRACULOUS dam.


Time to swallow down the stomach which had so vigorously made its way into my throat.

Our beautiful boat, who has treated us with nothing but respect, had just been run aground and damaged and cracked open like the Bonne Carre spillway in Hurricane Katrina.

How could this beautiful vessel ever forgive us?  *I am still trying to make it up to her to this day.

So now that the water coming in had been stopped, we had to get the water out.  The bilge pump was working its little tushy off but the bilge compartments (especially in the forward cabin, were still full to the top.

We thought we would have to sit and wait for the immensely slow process of removing the water.  We both may have relaxed a little but really not that much.  In our conversations, we realized that the reason we had not noticed the water before was that it was being kept at bay by the engine running.  After the intake pipe was severed off, it still remained down in the bilge area, and the engine was sucking up the water faster than the bilge.

Thank the good Lord above for that grace or the engine would have burnt up without the water cooling it!

Once we realized that that had been happening, the Captain came up with a pretty dang smart idea (gotta love that man!). If we turned back on the engine, it would suck up the water faster! And it DID!

So, we began the daunting task of “CLEAN UP ON AISLE 5!” 

A few hours and many towels later, we now had the cleanest bilge since this boat was built!  It looked shiny and new, except for that blasted hole in the bottom!

But more importantly, the boat was no longer sinking, we were safe and tied up to our own dock (Again, thanking the Divine forces that guided us)

Monday morning, we contacted Anchor Marina and the most amazing people took us right away.  Tow Boat US (and their outstanding boat pilot, Nick) gave us the tow to the marina so that the work could begin.  They completed a haul out, a seacock repair and a splash back in just two short days.

This time, the seacock was put on CORRECTLY! And now it functions as it should….as a shut off valve for the thru hull.  Not as a steam punk decorative knickknack!

It looks like the original seacock handle may have broken off many years ago and to belay the cost of having a haul out, someone just added another seacock on top of it.


This may have solved their problem but it caused a bigger one for us.  The weakest part of the valve is here which was BELOW the shut off valve.  And, not to forget, that with two cocks stacked on top of each other, it made for a very top heavy and abnormally tall intake. When the boat jarred (which could have even happened in rough seas) it caused it to topple over and snap.

Not sure how our boat surveyor missed it.  But he did.  Not pleased about that.

So now, this is what our beautiful new device looks like and we are ready to face the next adventure.   This chick promises to be less throttle heavy on GO GO GO and much more keen about the 6+ foot tides in this area.  And once again, she gives her quick thinking captain a little extra “squeeze” for being so prepared in a trying situation.

Cara “The Sunny Sailor”

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