Boat leaks are a frustrating and often expensive problem. While major damage requires professional repair, minor problems can be fixed with a little bit of know-how and patience. The first clue is to look at where the leaks are coming from.
Check The Waterline
Leaks can come from a number of sources: the waterline, the bilge, the structure, etc. However, sometimes a simple investigation is all that’s necessary to determine the source of a leak. The first step to determining the origin of a leak is to dry out the bilge and then inspect the hull. Look for the initial drip or trickle that reveals its source. You can use a long clear hose to check the level of the waterline. Route the hose to the point where you suspect the leak may have originated and lift it above the waterline.
Check The Bilge
The bilge is the lowest point of the hull where water, oil, gasoline, and other substances collect. This area is often overlooked by boaters, but it’s important to check the bilge periodically. A leak in a bilge can cause problems with the hull’s coatings and finishing. In addition, the combination of water and metal can create rust. Leaking bilge water can also be dangerous because it can attract a variety of other contaminants. These include cleaning chemicals, emulsifiers, solvents, and surfactants. A bilge pump is designed to remove excess water from the bilge by sucking it up and pushing it overboard. It can be turned on manually or by a sensor. Many bilge pumps will run automatically when they sense that the level of water has reached a preset threshold.
Check The Structure
Keeping the hull structure in good condition and avoiding failures that could sink the vessel is an important step in minimizing damage when you are out at sea. However, as with many things at sea, accidents do happen. One area of the hull that is frequently overlooked for leaks is where the hull is joined to the deck. This is a tricky joint to fix and can easily become a hugely expensive problem to repair. If you spot paint bubbling or discoloration near the hull-deck joint, there is a chance that it is leaking. The first thing to do is get access. If you can’t get to the joint from above, you may have to cut an access hole. If you do, be sure to dry the bilge as soon as possible.
Check The Seacocks
When you get a leak in your boat bilge, the first thing to do is check all the seacocks and through-hull fittings in the bilge. Ideally, you should do this before the waterline gets flooded so that the source of the problem can be easily spotted and repaired. Most through-hulls have a valve that is covered by a handle that can be opened to allow water into the hull or closed to keep water out of the hull. These handles need to be opened and closed regularly to prevent corrosion from building up and they should also be lubricated to keep them operating smoothly. Seacocks usually have straight or tapered threads at the top (NPS for National Pipe Straight) and bottom (NPT for National Pipe Tapered). Make sure that you match up the threads on the bottom of the through-hull with the female end of the seacock or flanged adapter plate.
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