Boating Writers International 11th Annual Writing Contest - Daniel W. Long's "30 Ways to Sink A Boat" won 1st place in the Boat/Engine Care Maintenance Category.
Remember the time you were running through the bay and heard a thump from below? Wasn't that fun? No? Did it stir up that dreaded boating moment-the fear of sinking? No one likes to imagine such a thing happening. Yet every year thousands of us unwittingly experience that shiver of fright-and hundreds of us take it a step further by actually sinking.
• Billions of dollars worth of fiberglass sits on the ocean floor, mostly because it's so easy to stop a boat from floating. You don't even have to meet and greet a rock to get a one-way ticket down. In fact, you don't have to do anything. Just let your boat sit awhile, and eventually it will find the bottom. According to BoatUS, the largest insurer of pleasureboats in the country, for every boat that sinks at sea, four go down in their slips.
• To find out why, we asked around the docks, checked insurance records, and talked to boatyard owners. Here are the top 30 preventable disasters. Not interested? Okay. But know that the cost of repairing a boat that's done an underwater disappearing act is usually 40 percent of its total value. Now that we have your wallet's attention, read on.
1. Stern Drive Bellows
What Happened: The rubber dried and cracked. Water seeped past the gimbal bearing and poured into the boat because the bottom of the gearcase cutout was well below the waterline.
What You Should Have Done: Store your stern drive in the down position when out of the water to avoid the bends and creases that stress rubber. Inspect the bellows two or three times a year and replace it annually.
2. Scuppers in the Fall
What Happened: The scuppers got clogged with leaves. Although this won't seal the drains, it can greatly slow the release of water. In a heavy rain the cockpit can fill enough to weigh down the boat so it floods or accumulates enough water to reach non-waterproof openings in the deck and fill the bilge.
What You Should Have Done: Keep the cockpit covered, or have wide-mesh external screens made to protect the scuppers.