Why Sailing Boats Sink and 5 Tips to Prevent Yours

Only 4% of yachts sink because of storms or knockdowns
.. .
The results from a BoatUS study on boat sinkings could be funny if it weren't so pitiful.

Half the boats recorded sank while still beside a dock.

Only 4% of all boats sank because of storms or knockdowns. Of all the boats who sank while underway, a good 40% of those sank because they hit a submerged object.

However, the good news is that BoatUS offers Five Tips to prevent sinking.


This means that the study of 100 sailing boat sinkings from the BoatUS Insurance claims files could help prevent your sailing boat from becoming a statistic.

'When it came to sinking underway, a sailing boat’s deep draft became the obvious factor,' said BoatUS Marine Insurance Technical Director Bob Adriance. There was no indication that he was trying to be funny.

Striking a submerged object was found to cause 40% of the sinkings while underway. Next on the underway list was a broken prop shaft or strut (16%) and damaged or deteriorated fittings below the waterline (16%). 'Prop shaft corrosion seems to be a bigger issue with sailboats than with powerboats as auxiliary sailboat engines are not run as often, allowing corrosion to set in,' added Adriance.

The most common cause of dockside sinkings were found to be the result of deteriorated or damaged or corroded fittings such as intakes, seacocks, and drains below the waterline. Stuffing box leaks were number two on the dockside list.

The complete study results are as follows:

Sinking at the Dock:

Below waterline fitting 44%
Stuffing box leak 33%
Keel and centerboard 7%
Rain 7%
Head back-siphoning 3%
Above waterline fitting 3%
City Water hookup 3%


Sinking Underway:

Struck submerged object 40%
Prop shaft or strut 16%
Below waterline fitting 16%
Grounding 8%
Stuffing box leak 8%
Storm/knockdowns 8%
Above waterline fitting 4%


  Five Tips for Prevent a Sailboat Sinking: Any time your boat hits bottom, immediately inspect the bilge and keel bolts or centerboard pennant and hinge. To be safe, inspect again an hour later. Routinely — twice a season — inspect all below the waterline fittings, hoses, and hardware. If the fitting is long enough, it’s good practice to have two marine-rated stainless steel clamps on all hose ends. Any hoses showing signs of rot should be immediately replaced. When at rest, stuffing boxes should never leak. If leaking persists after the packing gland nut has been tightened, the packing must be replaced. Don’t ignore through-hull fittings or hoses that are installed above the waterline. While they may appear to be “safely” above the water level, they can leak when heeled over in a seaway, or when snow or ice forces the boat under. A winter haul out is the perfect time to inspect the prop shaft and cutless bearing.


About BoatUS:

BoatUS – Boat Owners Association of The United States – is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its 650,000 members with a wide array of consumer services including a group-rate marine insurance program that insures nearly a quarter million boats.

For more information about BoatUS click here , or if you’d like to get a free insurance quote for your boat, click here