Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Leaks - 30 January, 2016
As I said the other day, the weather here in Florida has been cruddy for the last few days. Yes, I know that my "cruddy"
would be heaven to people living under three feet of snow, but bear with me. We have had a boatload of rain for about two
days and I am using "boatload" literally. The amount of water I have bailed out of our dinghy over the past two days would
have swamped it, if I had not attended to it out several times.
I assume that somewhere out there are boats which do not leak. I just don't know any. Every boat I have ever owned that
had an "inside" would leak into that inside, given enough rain or snow. Almost every boat I have ever worked on has shown
evidence of leakage. Most of the boats that we looked at when trying to find a boat had evidence of leakage. Even the
ships I served on in the Navy had leaks.
I guess, in the grand scheme of things, it makes sense that boats leak. Boats move. They are subjected to wind and wave
stresses that cause them to twist and turn. Wooden boats are made up of a huge number of individual boards that are
butted against each other and have materials between the boards to slow the intrusion of water. Fiberglass boats have
fewer pieces, but if there is an "outside" and an "inside", there is almost certainly a seam between the deck and the hull.
Add to this the fact that most of these boats have multiple fittings that pass through the fiberglass shell and you have almost
as many points of intrusion as on the "classic" wooden boat.
Most of the time, my leaks are under control. They exist in areas that allow them to drain directly into the bilge, where they
collect until being pumped over the side. However, I have one particularly frustrating drip in the frame of the hatch into my
main cabin that will drip onto the salon table in a hard rain. I have attacked this drip repeatedly over the decade or so that
we have owned the boat. I have resealed the area three times, using different materials each time. After each repair, I wait
for a rain storm and each time, the area appears to be fixed. Then, six months or a year later, a particularly dismal period of
rain will occur and I will once again be treated to the sight of a drip forming on the frame and dropping into my dinner.
Part of the problem is that water is magic. If you read through the sailing literature, you will find all sorts of stories of people
chasing drips through their boats and discovering that the point where the water drips is feet or even yards from where it
was entering the boat. I suspect that this is part of my problem. The point where the water is entering my boat is so far from
the hatch frame that it takes a day or so of constant rain for the water to puddle up enough to get from the intrusion point to
the exit over my head. The path the water is taking is between the fiberglass deck and the fiberglass headliner, so tracking
it would require pulling the hatch out, pulling out the material around the hatch between the deck and the headliner and
waiting for a storm of sufficient magnitude to puddle the water down to where I was watching. Of course, while this was
happening, the main salon hatch would be removed, so I would have to put a tarp over it and hope that the tarp was not
accidentally covering the intrusion point. I could do all of this.
Or, I could just accept that I have a small leak, put a cup under it when it leaks and go on with my life. Guess which one I do?
I'll admit, there are leaks that are dangerous. A leak below the waterline should be investigated, to make sure it isn't
growing. A leak that allows water to get into wooden framing members should be addressed, because eventually the wood
will rot and need replacing. A leak that gets into electronics or dry goods will ruin things on which you are counting.
But many leaks are just annoying. I accept them as part of the sailing world, just like I would accept crabgrass and feral cats
if I lived on dirt. I don't like them, but the effort to fix them is more energy than I have to put into the effort.
Of course, there is one type of leak that I will put all my possible efforts into fixing, with no hesitation or holding back. That
would be any leak that drips on Suzanne. Let's face it, I am not an idiot.