Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

Ask Sail: Mystery Leak

Author:

A MYSTERY LEAK ON THE HARD

Q: We have a 2004 31ft Catalina 310 that has an in-mast furling mainsail, and the mast is deck-stepped. Haulout is the first week of October, and by Thanksgiving water in the bilge is already climbing up the sides and back-filling toward the stern where it is manually pumped into a bucket for removal. From shortly after Thanksgiving to March the water is frozen solid and has reached an “alarming” level. The cables running through the mast into the bilge are for the antenna, anemometer, TV scanner and radar. Other owners with the same setup on a 32ft sailboat don’t have this problem with water ingress. What is causing this to happen every year during outside storage?

Kevin Redmond, Plainfield, IL

DON CASEY REPLIES

This is a problem that can only be diagnosed on site, and you will need to wait until the spring thaw. My first suspicion is that one or more of the wires you mention do not have effective drip loops where they enter the mast. A single wire entering the mast will often be sufficient to channel gallons of water into your bilge.

If you rule out openings in the mast as the source, then the leak (or leaks) must be through the deck. If you think you know where the water might be getting in—around the mast step, for example—flood just that area with water from a hose while watching below for a telltale trickle. A very bright light will help. If this confirms your suspicions, you will need to caulk or reconfigure as necessary to stop the water from entering.

If you cannot find the leak by flooding, the one sure-fire method I know is to pressurize the boat and check for escaping air with soapy water—just like checking a tire for a puncture. This requires closing all through-hulls and sealing all hatches and other openings with leaf-bag plastic and/or tape. Also, tape a garbage bag over a vent so it can inflate to confirm positive air pressure. Provide the pressure with a hose from the outlet side of a shop-vac, a leaf blower or an electric air mattress pump sealed through another vent or port. With the pressure source running and the indicator bag inflated, sponge soapy water around all hardware, and over every seam and joint. Anywhere the solution shows growing bubbles, air is leaking out, which likely means water is leaking in. Again, the fix is to clean and bed or caulk as necessary to reestablish a watertight seal.

Got a question for our experts? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

January  2018

Related

22D6FB6F-AA49-4784-A3A8-960F5A7CE330

Cruising: Anchoring Skills

Watching charterers make a run for the last mooring in a cove is fun—and weird. I always wonder why so many would rather try to catch a mooring than drop the hook. Maybe charterers don’t trust their anchoring skills, but it’s harder to drive up and grab a buoy than most people ...read more

BD-TJV21_Malama_063

11th Hour Breakdown in the TJV

11th Hour Racing’s Mālama kicked off the second week of the Transat Jaques Vabre with keel problems, forcing co-skippers Charlie Enright and Pascal Bidégorry to adjust for a more conservative approach to the race’s remaining 2000 miles. “We’ve been dealing with a lot of ...read more

2021-rolex-y-of-y-email-graphic

Rolex Nominations Open

Award season is upon us, and US Sailing is looking for the next Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex since 1980, the annual Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards recognize individual male and female sailors ...read more

04-IMG_3448

Buying a New Main Sail

I’ve always known the importance of having good sails. As a low-budget boat punk, I prioritize making sure I can get where I’m going with the help of the wind, as opposed to under power. It isn’t necessarily my goal to be engineless, or basically engineless. It just happens that ...read more

WAC

VIDEO: Protocol and Class Rules of the Next America’s Cup

The Defender, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and Challenger of the Record, INEOS Britannia, have announced the protocol and class rules for the 37th America’s Cup. According to team CEO Grant Dalton, “As the oldest trophy in international sport, the America’s Cup maintains ...read more

Chartwork

Are You Ready to Bareboat Charter?

Judging your own readiness is never easy. That goes double for chartering and running a yacht on vacation. What I hear most often from first-time charter guests is that they’ve been sailing for decades, so how different can it be to charter? The truth is it’s very different ...read more

Ventana

Looking Ahead at the USVI Charter Show

St. Thomas, US V.I. – While the crewed charter and bareboat industry are clearly slated for a very busy sailing season, the recent Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) show https://vipca.org/usvi-charter-yacht-show/ held in Charlotte Amalie Nov. 7-10 ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG_1850

Trailer Travails in Miami

Gragkkkk! Schschs! These are NOT the sounds you want to hear as you trailer your boat to the launch ramp. I was about a mile away from the ramp at the time, and looking in the rearview mirror I immediately noticed Betty Jane, my 1982 Mystic 20 Catboat, was now riding a good deal ...read more