Skip to main content

Sketchbook: Chasing Leaks

SAIP-120600-BWSKE-02

Leaks can be hard to trace. Sometimes there’s a “snail trail” to follow, but often the drip is a long way from the leak itself. Don’t ignore small leaks, as they can soak into wood or upholstery and cause lots of damage. A headlamp and mirror are useful, and if you’re working alone take a cell phone in case you get stuck in a tight spot.

Leaks can occur anywhere there’s a hole, or simply some weakness, in the structure of the boat. Here are some likely culprits: A. Rail and stanchion bases—especially if they’ve taken a knock; B. Hatches; C. Windows; D. Hull/deck joint; E. Tanks (taste or test for salt water, and take care with holding tanks) F. Seacocks; G. Transducers; H. Keel bolts; I. Through-hulls above the static water line; J. Vented anti-siphon loops; K. Cooling water joints, hoses and exhaust elbows; L. Stern gland (remember that traditional stuffing boxes should weep slightly); M. Rudder gland.

SAIP-120600-BWSKE-01
n-o

N An old plastic through-hull can harden with age and may crack inside the hull, especially if there’s a heavy unsupported hose connected to it. A typical problem is a bilge pump outlet that leaks when the pump is used or when the fitting is heeled below the water.

O Some plastics can crack after years of UV exposure. The cracks can be hard to spot, and you may need to wriggle the fitting a bit to find them.

p

P Poor sink fittings can crack and leak. They might also sink the boat if the exhaust hose comes loose and falls below the waterline.

q-r

Q Never ignore stains on seacocks, as they may indicate dezincification of the metal in the valve body. Look for a rose-colored tint under the green verdigris. Some poor-quality ball valves only last a few seasons and can break off.

R Bronze seacocks can last for decades if they are serviced every year and are kept well greased. Note the grease nipple, two hose clamps and locknuts.

s-t

S Vented loops are usually tucked up high in the hull where they are often neglected. Check the valve regularly.

T Stanchion base and hull/deck joint leaks are hard to sort out because they may only be active on one tack. They’re also hard to get at. Moisture-curing glue can be used as a temporary fix at sea, but a flexible polyurethane sealant/adhesive is best.

Illustrations by Dick Everitt

Related

promo-2048x

Just Launched Mid-sized Cruisers

With so many manufacturers dreaming up bigger production boats, more and more mid-sized cruisers fall on the smaller end of their lines. However, “smaller” does not mean less, and the tricks for optimizing larger models have helped with squeezing more enjoyment into less LOA. As ...read more

05-DSC_0638

Charter: Lake Tahoe

A sail on Lake Tahoe has been on my bucket list since the day I first laid eyes on it, and come hell or high water, I decided I was going to someday charter a boat there. North America’s largest and deepest alpine lake, Tahoe sits at 6,225ft above sea level and straddles the ...read more

East-River-Rapids

Escape from New York Part 1

I was never supposed to take my boat through New York City. After getting sucked backward through the Cape Cod Canal on my way south from Maine, when the speed of the current exceeded the maximum speed of my little electric auxiliary, I wanted nothing to do with Hell Gate and ...read more

LEAD-Celeste-in-the-Tuamotu

A Watermaker Upgrade

As a classic-boat sailor, I’ve long held that simpler is the better. I still think this is true: a simpler boat is cheaper, she has less gadgets to break down and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing you’re able to handle a bit of discomfort. Thus, for a long time, I sailed ...read more

01-LEAD-IDECsport_180919_032

Sailing Speed Records

Although the 1903 defender of the America’s Cup, Reliance, was deemed a “racing freak”—the boat pushed design rules to their limit and couldn’t be beaten, at least in very specific conditions—designer Nat Herreshoff was nonetheless onto something. A century later, purpose-built ...read more

BVIFeetup

Chartering with Non-sailors

Three tips on managing the madness First-time charterers and first-time sailors aren’t at all the same thing. One group may struggle with beginner chartering issues, like sailing a multihull, catching a mooring or dealing with base personnel. For the other group, though, ...read more

AdobeStock_455372159

A Gulf Stream Crossing at Night

Even the dome of light glowing above the city behind us had disappeared as if swallowed in a gulp by Noah’s whale. The moon was absent. Not a star twinkled overhead. The night was so dark we could have been floating in a pot of black ink. The only artificial lights to be seen ...read more

00-Lead-549215sJL2uLEa

Summer Sailing Programs

Every year, countless parents find themselves navigating the do’s and don’ts of enrolling their children in a summer learn-to-sail program for the first time. While the prospect of getting your kid on the water is exciting, as a sailing camp program director, there are a lot of ...read more