Anonymous asked in Cars & TransportationBoats & Boating · 9 years ago

What sinks Sail Boats?

Don't be ignorant and tell me water does. I want to know what the usual cause is for a sail boat to sink. How does the water enter the boat.

12 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The biggest reason is damage to the keel and the surrounding fiberglass or wood hull. Running the keel into rocks, hard silt or underwater structure are the primary reasons for water intrusion and a sinking. This is usually limited to newbie sailors and not watch a Depth Sounder.

    The other reason is a Whale jumping on the vessel :)

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  • 9 years ago

    Ignorance of Maintenance Procedures.

    As was mentioned in one answer, the Through Hull Fittings, pipes , drains and axillary plumbing is one of the major reasons Sailing vessels sink while docked or moored.

    Another main reason is Hatches and Vents are not shut properly or do not seal correctly.

    Sea Cocks or the valves that allow the water to drain , are oft times just never inspected as they should be, the cockpit fills , On some vessels the Cockpit Drains run to scuppers that flow out the Transom to the water surface, on some they have all manners of Lines and Hoses that direct the water to a bilge outlet, the line fails so the drain fails.

    The most common cause, as I have observed is simply inadequate bilge pumps. A bilge pump that states 250 GPM/500GPM is not accurate. The Auto Bilge pumps fail more often.

    Dave Pascoe wrote a large article on-line about that, this is from memory and experience.

    The 12v bilge pumps that one buys at a marine store say 250 GPM, ell, they do not pump at that rate.

    They might if the water is flowing downhill into the pumps intake and the Output of the pump is downhill or on a lower grade than the incoming fluid, that is NEVER the case on a Vessel.

    All water that breaches or enters the hull has to be pumped UP and OUT in order to maintain bouyancy.

    So get 4 of those pumps, ćause one is going to fail, then a battery is going to fail, so get another battery in the bank, add another pump and get a Manual Bilge Pump when they all fail.

    I have seen half-million ollar Sport Fishing boats sink at a dock because they did not have enough Out Flow Pressure Pumps or the ones they did have failed mechanically or because of some silly electrical duct tape repair that was done last season.

    I have even saved a vessel from sinking while we were sailing on her the hull simply split along a Stringer or Ribbing, yes we were pushing it and yes the failure was imminent, we had no idea when it was to happen, but it did. I was asked to take the helm and direct the patch procedure. I instructed one crew member to grab a Storm Jib we had below, fold it in half, fasten a drag line to it, we lashed the line under the hull and did return to port while further repairs and bilge pumps running at full were going on.

    Once we reached a marina we called for an immediate Haul Out and we were granted one.

    $15,000 later the vessel was and is fine, she still races.That was 20 years ago, but the procedure remains. Always wear a PFD. Always.

    If it is not a structural failure then it is usually human error that a Through Hull Valve or Fitting was not inspected.

    Source(s): 36 years having fun on sailing boats
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  • 9 years ago

    Normally for a sail boat to "sink" would take a major incident that caused the boat to be broken apart. The nature of most sail boats is to float providing the structure in intact. So what causes a boat to be broken into pieces? Usually a collision of some kind. It might be with another vessel, a man-made obstruction, a natural formation, or severe weather elements. But in any case some kind of a impact would be involved.

    Source(s): Sea Scout Skipper
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  • Cliff
    Lv 6
    9 years ago

    water that enters quicker then its pumped back out.

    pretty much ALL boats take on water. either from splashing or a leak. if it spends enough time on the water while filling with water that isnt removed, and removed faster then it enters, it sinks.

    my boat, 1984 semi welded alum hull with rivets, after a full day on the water there is about 5 gallons in it. not enough to lift the float and turn the bilge pumps (one in the stern and one midship) on. but enough to start the stern pump when i start going up the ramp and all the water goes back there.

    if i left it in the water for a few days straight, with the perko switch turned off and no power to operate bilge pumps with as it fills, it would be sitting LOW in the water at the very least.

    with working bilge pumps, and proper maintence, dont capsize and dont crash into anything, and it WONT sink.

    BTW, most boats have floatation foam in them, under the floor boards and anywhere else out of the way. they may take on a LOT of water and need HELP, but they dont sink to the bottom.

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  • 9 years ago

    Hey Kyler, good question. What I found interesting is you mentioned, "Sailboats," and not boats. Gnome is correct that most boats sink while moored because of some mechanical defect below the waterline, but this almost always applies to motorboats. Sailboats are a different story. The primary cause of sunken sail boats is swamping due to excessive healing in the wind, waves capping over the sides, or rolling over. You have to remember that since a sailboat uses the wind for propulsion, they are almost always out when it is windy, and that is also the only time waves form. John Vigor mentions in his book, "Everything I wish I knew about sailing," that almost all sailboats are not properly built to withstand a rollover without sinking. To do this the cabin space must be airtight, and the hatches must be closed and latched. Add to this the fact that almost all sailboat rollovers cause catastrophic damage to the rigging, which almost always renders the drive system useless, leaving the boat at the whim of all incoming waves until the boat eventually reaches the shore, or the bottom of the lake. I have been out many times on days when the waves were in excess of 6 feet, but we always close all the cabin hatches and latch any below deck access panels. Virtually every other boat I see during that time has people climbing in and out of the cabin door, which remains open the entire time they are at sea. In order for a sailboat to make use of the wind, it has to tip to whatever degree is necessary for the keel to come up on the opposite side of the sail and use its weight to counteract the force of the wind pushing on the boat. Tipping the boat far enough to take on considerable amounts of water simply becomes a matter of wind speed.

    My son and I just finished a Lake Michigan crossing in our 23 foot sloop, not a journey for a beginner. We had a good weather window, and have sailed those waters for years now. The problem with many organized sailing events, like the Chicago to Mackinaw race is that they are put on a calendar, which is probably the worst way to plan a sailing trip. Basically race day comes, and the captains are told to either sail or quit, regardless of the weather. Many of them have invested the previous year in preparing for this one trip, they don't like to throw in the towel, even if they should. So each year it seems we end up with million dollar world class sailboats operated by professional crews sitting on beaches, rocky shoals or deserted islands. In some cases, some of the crew never return. None of these boats sink due to mechanical failure, virtually all of them simply tip far enough for one good wave to completely fill the cockpit and much of the cabin space with water in less than a second. Then the boat simply wallows like a half full bath tub out of control until the next few waves do it in. There are fantastic scenes in two movies illustrating this on very large sailboats, "Master and Commander," and, "White Squall." In the first, the boat was saved at the expense of one mast, and one sailor. In the second, despite the attempts of the crew, the vessel was completely lost in seconds and sank to the bottom. I'm not saying hollywood entertainment is the place to do your research, but as a sailor, I have great respect for the work put into the making of those two movies and the technical details that were included. The point to your question is simply that what sinks most sailboats is water coming over the sides, not through the hull.

    I don't know of any good sources or websites to back up any of this, but if you did a search for sunken sailboats, you would find almost all of them went down in very bad weather and high winds. The Great Lakes are loaded with old Flying Dutchmen that tried to use the winds of November to make their destinations in record time, only to end up not making them at all. There are hundreds of sailboats on the bottom of the Great Lakes, only a small handfull of them sank while in the harbor. Take care Kyler, Rudydoo

    • This answer is obviously the best and I am very sorry I somehow overlooked it. You deserve the points and this is the PERFECT answer. Thank you.

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  • jtexas
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    Damaged or worn or improperly installed through-hull fittings is another possibility.

    Might surprise you how many boats get sunk by rainwater.

    Improper use of an anchor can allow waves to wash over and into the boat.

    No matter how the water gets in, they all have one thing in common: lack of a working float-switch-activated bilge pump and charged battery.

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  • 9 years ago

    When the amount of water entering the vessel exceeds the capacity of the dewatering pumps. How it gets in the boat varies as much as you can imagine...thru-hull openings that are not sealed properly, rain through open hatches, waves through unsecured openings, too much heel pulls water over the side, running aground, collision with another vessel...

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  • 9 years ago

    Shallow water, stuffing box. rudder post, Threw hulls. Port navigation.High winds and high seas.

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  • Sabotage. Never let an enemy on your boat.

    Source(s): Personal history.
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  • 9 years ago

    through the prop shaft housing(inboard engine) or the most common for all boats is the sea cocks

    Source(s): personal knowledge
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