Back in 1911 during the launch of the ill-fated ocean liner Titanic, its engineers claimed that the ship was practically unsinkable. Of course, now we all know what happened to the mammoth ship 103 years ago—it hit an iceberg, which tore a hole through its hull, and not even its state-of-the-art ‘anti-sinking’ watertight door system could save it from its fate.
The lesson from maritime archeology shows that no ocean-faring craft is unsinkable. If you’re in the business of living at sea for any stretch of time, or just someone who owns a boat, it’s a grand idea to know at least what to do to patch up a hull leak, or how to do emergency repairs to buy yourself time.
A hull breach could be a crack in the hull which can get more extensive if not welded up, or it could have been caused by failing bow thrusters, or a damaged rudder or propeller (which can be replaced via local industrial millwright services). The obvious, one of course, because you’ll feel it, is when the vessel has run aground, causing a nasty dent or tear in the hull which requires patching. Whatever the cause, a hull breach isn’t something that can wait a minute more.
One of the first things you’ll have to do is to keep the water from touching anything delicate—your personal gear, as well as any equipment on the boat’s deck. The next logical step would be to find the source of the leak, though this may be difficult; on several occasions, water enters point A, but shows up at point B. This is where the inner liners tend to ‘distribute’ the leaks to points situated far from the entry point. Keep this information in mind.
A few more ‘ingenious’ solutions: a hole that’s bigger and rounder can be temporarily plugged with a lifejacket wrapped in a towel. Plugging a hole in this way may seem like a bad idea at first, but if you fire up the manual inflator on the lifejacket, the gush of water can slow down considerably. Of all the temporary repairs, though, a DIY collision mat could prove most effective. This involves using a sheet of damp-proof course membrane and strong grips (4 pieces, at least). Once applied the right way, the gushing water could subside significantly.
The ultimate solution is to get the vessel to head towards the nearest ship repair services, such as Central Machine and Marine, where they could apply an industrial-level fix (on the damage) that could last for much longer.
Boating Emergencies: Know How To Patch A Hull Leak, LakeExpo.com, September 2, 2011
Dealing With Leaks, YachtSurvey.com
Ship Repairs Afloat, BIMCO.org
Sinking! 10 Ways To Fix A Hole In The Hull At Sea, AdmiraltyYacht.com
Is It Possible To Build An Unsinkable Ship? ScientificAmerican.com, April 2, 2012