Yesterday we were hanging out on a friend’s boat drinking some beer.  He said, “Hey, SeaTow is coming in here.  See him?”  I looked over at the entrance to the marina docks and I saw a SeaTow boat coming in.  It was odd because most of the boaters we know have TowBoatUS.  The guy a few boats down from us is a TowBoatUS boat captain.  (No endorsement of either is implied.)    We’ve only seen TowBoatUS come in to tow boats in and out.  Anyway, the point of the story is not about the different towing services available to mariners.  Only that because it was so odd, I began scanning the boats in the marina and I found one that appeared to be sinking.  It was WAY low in the water.  Several feet as a matter of fact.  I pointed it out to everyone and we all agreed:  it was sinking.  Sure enough, the SeaTow boat came over to that boat and a man appeared from inside it.  There was about 5 minutes worth of conversation, then the SeaTow boat left.  Alone.

We watched for a few minutes while the, presumed, boat owner meandered around the boat and dock.

We figured we had better go over and see if there was anything we could do to help.  If our boats were sinking, we would probably appreciate some help.

When we got there, we asked the guy what had happened.  He said that he’s not quite sure.  He was nearby for work and decided to stop in and check on the boat and he found it full of water.  He goes on to say that he believes the problem is that a hose popped off his bilge pump and that was what caused his boat to fill with water.  Several problems here:

1)  We couldn’t get him to clarify what that meant.  Did the water enter from the popped off hose?  Bilge pumps should discharge ABOVE the water line.  If a hose pops off, no water should come in.  Did the hose pop off and that prevent the pump from pumping out water that was entering at some other point?

2)  He said he has no idea how the hose popped off because the hose clamp had to be loosened to put it back on the bilge pump.

3)  We asked him if he had closed all his seacocks.  He said he has no idea where they all are.

4)  As I was looking around on his boat (with his permission), I heard something running in a cockpit lazarette.  I asked him what it was and he replied it’s his bilge pump.  I leaned in and took a look.  He is using a Jabsco pump for a pressurized fresh water system.

4a)  I have one of these pumps for fresh water system and they are pretty good little pumps . . . for a pressurized fresh water system.  It’s NOT designed to be used as a bilge pump.  Ours has a history of NOT self priming if we allow our water tank to get below the water pick up line (read as “we let our tank go empty”).  I tried to explain this (if his bilge was empty and then became full and the pump kicked on, it might not prime and start pumping water out) to him and he dismissed me.

4b)  We took a look at the stern of his boat where his “bilge pump” is supposed to discharge and sure enough we saw lots of air bubbles coming out.

5)  He had no MANUAL bilge pump of any sort to use.

As he had no idea what caused the problem and he clearly was not qualified to remedy the situation we asked him if he would like some additional pumps to help get the water out of his boat.

Luckily, one of the men on our dock is a plumber and he had a 110 volt sump pump.  I also had a backup up 12 volt 2000 GPH bilge pump.  We took them to him and he plugged in the sump pump and immediately began pumping water out of the boat.  That was a step in the right direction.  He then proceeded to hook up the bilge pump.  He pulled a battery from the 2.5 feet of water that was in the boat, placed it on a table, and then hooked up the bilge pump to it.  Water began discharging from the makeshift hose that was had attached to it.  This was questionably a step in the right direction.  I told him that he really needed to hook the bilge pump up to his 12 volt system as the bilge pump would most likely drain that battery in no time.   He assured us that he would.

We left and went back to our dock to drink a beer and discuss the goings on.

About an hour later, we realized that he had left.  HUH??!!?!  So, we went back to his boat to check on things.  The sump pump was still pumping water.  The bilge pump was not and it was still connected to the battery on the table.  Presumably, the battery was dead.  His pump was still pumping away, but it still appeared to be pumping air.

While we were standing there examining his boat, he returned.  We told him that he really needed to connect the bilge pump to his 12 volt system (which we assumed was connected to a battery charger).  Again, he said that he would.  Upon inspection of his system, what I discovered was that his “bilge” pump was connected directly to his battery charger and his main battery bank was not being charged.

We left him to his own devices and he said that he was going to leave the boat open so that we could check on it for him.  Since I live aboard, I said I would and we exchanged phone numbers.

Fast forward to this morning.  I go over to check on his boat.  It’s locked up.  The sump pump is still pumping.  The bilge pump is not.  I see jumper cables coming out of his companionway and going inside the cockpit lazarette.  They are connected to the main battery bank, which is not connected to the charger.  His pump is still running and pumping air.

The good news is that the boat is sitting a little higher in the water and, from what I can tell, the water level INSIDE his boat has gone down.

It’s clear from this situation that this guy should probably NOT own a boat of any sort.  I’m sure that this is the case with most boat owners.  What I can’t understand is how someone can have no idea what’s going on with the systems on their boat and furthermore how his systems were so screwed up.

The good news last night is that he did have about a 36″ television mounted on the saloon wall and it was on and broadcasting the news.  At one point, I heard him say, “Oh no!”  I asked him what happened.  His reply:  “I’m missing the news.”

I can only shrug at this.  The guy really didn’t seem too concerned about his boat.  He literally said that he didn’t want to clean anything up too much because he wanted the insurance company to see it exactly how it was.

Published On: 2016 February 2

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