Leaks on boats are a serious maintenance hazard; and if they are not detected on time, they can simply ruin the boat or you can lose the entire vessel while out in the water! In recent times, boat builders have promoted speed and less weight; these features have aggravated the leakage problems since the used laminates are not as thick or the design of hulls is not as rigid as before. It is usually very difficult to detect the source of leaks on boats. Typically, the water enters at one location of the boat, but surfaces at another location—perhaps several feet away from the original source.
It is interesting to note a ¼” hole can sink a 30-feet boat!
Most boat owners take the problem of leakage very seriously and want to learn as much as they can about detecting
and repairing sources of leaks on their boats. So here are some common tips to help you detect and repair leaks on your boat. Moreover, if your boat is a recent acquisition, you want to be reassured that you did not make a pitiful investment. No one wants to see that look from their spouse again!
How to detect leaks on a boat
As mentioned before, it is difficult to detect leaking boats, especially the original source of leaks. But here are some clear indicators your boat has one major or several leaks, which need to be thoroughly investigated:
- Rusty stains near canned goods
- Wet or damp bedding or mattresses
- Puddles of water under berths
- Damaged wood paneling
- Excessive condensation or humidity in cabins
If you come across any of the above symptoms during the course of normal use of your boat, immediately look into those parts of the boat that indicate the source of a leak, and thoroughly investigate the leak(s). If you think you are not experienced enough to do it on your own, find some knowledgeable and trustworthy help.
Common problems in repairing leaks on boats
Now that you have detected some leaks on your fantastic water craft after careful investigation, how do you deal with repair and maintenance? Well, caulking and bedding are two common solutions for plugging leaks.
Generally, the two following problems make repairing leaks on boats so complicated:
There is often no access to the source area of the leak. In other words, repairing means tearing up one or more parts of the interior of the boat.
In order to make an effective seal, the caulk has to be placed between the two parts that are sealing, which is known as bedding. Bedding is not always easy to achieve.
Some types of leaks can be fixed with an extra strong adhesive such as 3M 5200; but then handling that adhesive requires thorough knowledge and experience.
Some common source locations of leaks on a boat
Leaky hull-to-deck joins: The way in which the deck of a boat is joined to the hull, an economical repair in this part is almost impossible. In many cases, the leak may be so huge and widespread that the only solution in sight is removing the deck and reinstalling it. In such a case, it may be easier to junk the boat and buy a new or a used one. If you have just bought this floating asset with this leakage problem, and discovered the problem after the purchase, it may be a prudent idea to talk to the seller about the extent of the problem.
Shroud chain plates: These points suffer frequent loading and unloading; so keeping these plates properly sealed is always a challenge. Strong adhesives like 3M 5200 may be the only type of adhesive that can keep the shroud chain plates properly sealed.
Stanchion bases: The stanchion takes a lot of stress, so it is bound to leak over time and use. The problem with repairing leaks in this area is the bases have to be completely removed first to make the base of the stanchion accessible.
Deck drainage: There are usually leaks near the deck drainage. Unless it is an extreme case of leakage, these leaks may be relatively easier to fix with caulking.
Windlasses: These leaks often cause severe damage to the windlass drive motor and housing. The repairs will require professional help.
Packing gland leakage: These are fairly common and repetitive. Many boat owners, after several frustrating leakage problems in these, often convert to the “drip-less” type of glands. The phenomenon of frequent packing gland leakage is usually caused by “flexible engine mounts on diesel engines,” which is deliberately selected by boat owners for flexible engine movement.
Leaky windows: These leaks point to some hidden design errors on the boat! Depending on the seriousness and extent of those defects, the leaky windows may be very expensive to repair. These leaky windows are found both on the top and bottom line of boats. The usual fix is “caulking,” though that may not work in case of severe design flaw.
What to do next . . .
Now that you have become familiar with the most common types of leaks on a boat, will you start investigating the status of undiscovered leaks on your floating weekend toy? Well, once you discover those annoying or terrible leaks, here are some common approached to dealing with the problem:
If you have just purchased the water craft, contact the seller and see if you can sell it back before making expense-heavy repairs. Repairs of currently visible do not guarantee the removal of more leaks in future.
If your boat is old and has been with you for several years, then depending on the nature and extent if the leakage problem and associated repair costs, you may decide to sell it or repair it.
If you are unsure about the extent of the damage and probable expenses, have your floating asset inspected by a licensed technician for an honest and vital assessment.