I Learned About Boating From This: The Boat Is Sinking!

A fellow boater's harrowing true tale.
The Boat Is Sinking!
The water was inches away from going over the bilge bulkhead and into the cabin. Tim Bower

I planned a short boat ride aboard my 330 Sea Ray Sundancer from the dock to a local waterfront restaurant located on Lake of the Ozarks. The water was a little rough but nothing that bad, though the boat did hit one big wave nearing the no-wake zone.

Pulling into the dock, an alarm sounded. I tied up quickly and searched for its cause. Nothing on the helm looked funny, and the carbon-monoxide detector was not sounding. My friend Tim who was aboard suggested checking the bilge. We pulled up the hatches, looked, and I yelled to Tim and my wife, Kim, “Get the valuables. Get off the boat! We’re sinking!” The water was inches away from going over the bilge bulkhead and into the cabin.

Read Next: I Learned About Boating From This: That Sinking Feeling


I decided I wasn’t going down without knowing what had happened. I dived between the engines and felt around where the water was coming in. I stuck my hand over the small raised portion of the bottom of the boat and tried to stop the water from rushing in. My hand alone couldn’t hold it, so someone threw me a rag. I stuck it in the hole and put my hand over that. That did the trick. The water slowed to a trickle, and the bilge pumps took over. Finally, after about 30 minutes of holding it down, the water was nearly gone, but I told the people around that I couldn’t hold it all night. My buddy Jason, who was docked nearby and watching, had a drain plug on his boat. He went and brought it to me, I put it on, and it did the job.

The next morning, they pulled out the boat, and the mechanic said the transducer had popped off. He asked if it had been on a lift lately, but I informed him the last haul-out occurred two years ago. It seems two years prior when the boat was being bottom-painted, they had put it on a lift that wasn’t right for the boat, which had weakened the opening. Hitting the wave finally popped the transducer off. The mechanic fixed it in a matter of hours, and the boat was good to go.

The lesson learned: Have drain plugs on board, just in case there’s an emergency on your boat or another boat.


Neil Fiala
St. Louis, Missouri

[Tapered, softwood dowels, known as bungs, and toilet-ring wax will also stem or stop leaks aboard. —Ed.]

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