Near Sinking (Friend’s Vessel)


I got the call at four a.m. “Help, we are sinking!” My good friends awoke in the middle of the night with water up to their knees. He asked for my portable generator to operate a submersible pump. The Fire Company wouldn’t help, nor the Coast Guard. The FWC returned his call twelve hours later.

So off I went across the harbour at 4:05 with my little Honda gen. After many hours the owner was able to pump out his vessel and eventually locate the source of incoming seawater.
(Out of deference to my friend, these are not photos of his vessel)


His boat is an older Gulfstar 41. A bilge pump was plumbed to a thru-hull that was below the waterline. There was no check valve. The pump failed, and the plumbing created a siphon, filling the boat at a rapid rate through the 1 1/2″ opening. Smouldering, crackling electrical connections is what woke them up. All the D/C wiring is toast. His engine and transmission were submerged. The batteries are ruined. Valuables that were low enough are rapidly rusting and corroding. His own gen, a Sail-Rite sewing machine, clothing, food stores; all soggy with saltwater.

But the boat was saved and they are safe! It will be many thousands of dollars before it is back to normal though.


My bilge thru-hulls are above the waterline, but have no check-valves. What about yours? My friends misfortune caused me to investigate all possible sources of saltwater intrusion into my boat, and vow to do it more often.

May we forever stay afloat.

10 thoughts on “Near Sinking (Friend’s Vessel)

    1. Ed Robinson Post author

      CG wouldn’t come because he was at a dock, even though he was in 15 feet of water. Not life threatening. Sea Tow wanted 3000 just to show up. They were the next call after me.

  1. sjreeves

    This can happen on the best of boats. Rule pumps do not have built in check valves. Johnson’s Do! don’t ask how I know this. Vacuum breaks can stick and become siphons. Don’t ask how I know this!

  2. Penn Wallace

    We managed to put a little hole (the size of a softball) in our bottom courtesy of an uncharted rock off of the Baja coast.

    $50,000 and three months later, we were off on our next adventure. That was one very expensive story.


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