Experts say trying to salvage and repair a sunken boat often costs more than the actual value of the boat.
The best way to avoid that dilemma is to make sure your boat stays afloat.
About two out of every three (69 percent) boats that sink do so at the dock or mooring, with the rest sinking while underway. Those were the findings of a review by the Boat Owners Association of The United States of its boat insurance claims files to identify the causes of boat sinkings. Its review found most sinkings were preventable.
Of all of the dock/mooring sinkings, 39 percent happen when some small part fails due to wear, tear or corrosion. The association’s review showed many boats exist in a “zombie state” somewhere between floating and sinking, dependent upon the bilge pump to deal with the unknown leak. That merely postponed the sinking that took place when the pump failed or was overwhelmed.
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For those boats that sank while underway, the most common cause (43 percent) is hitting something — a log, the bottom or colliding with another boat or dock.
To prevent a sinking, here are 10 tips from the group:
• For inboard-outboard powered boats, inspect sterndrive bellows annually and replace every 3-5 years. The shift bellows is usually the first to fail.
• For inboard-powered boats, check the stuffing box every time you visit the boat, and repack — not just tighten the nut — every spring.
• For engines with raw water hoses, replace them the moment they indicate wear — such as small cracks appear or when they feel spongy when squeezed. Rusty hose clamps should be replaced.
• Replace the engine cooling system impeller every 2-3 years.
• Inspect the boat’s cockpit and livewell plumbing — checking hoses, clamps and cracked or broken fittings. Make sure you can inspect all such plumbing.
• Take a look at all below-waterline fittings, hoses and clamps each season.
• Don’t forget the drain plug. It is all too easy to forget.
• Keep a good lookout and ask guests to help keep their eyes open for objects in the water. If you’ve grounded or hit something, consider a short-haul to inspect the bottom or drive gear.
• Always pull trailerable boats from the water when major storms are forecast. These boats generally have too little freeboard to stand up to any kind of wave action.
• Dock-line management systems that keep a boat centered in its slip can prevent snags that sometimes lead to a sinking.