Unlike the ostrich that sticks its head down a hole in the sand to hide from troubles, you need to stick your head down your bilge.
Each time you return to your boat after a day or week, lift the engine hatch(es). You may be surprised at what you might discover.
One boater told us that he was blown away by what he saw in his bilge—totally unexpected.
The perfect storm of problems had attacked his boat since the previous weekend.
The water in his bilge was almost to the cabin sole.
He couldn’t run the motors, because the water was so deep, it was in the crank case. He didn’t know where the water was coming from or how long he had before the boat would go down.
A quick call to the marina operator (after hours) and he was towed to the travel lift. Once they drained the bilge and flushed the oil in the motors they re-launched the boat to discover that the tiny plastic frost plug in the air conditioning unit had fallen out. For some reason, probably old age, the bilge pump seized and the water kept rising.
The costly repair included an air conditioner repair, several oil and filter changes, bilge pump, engine repair, water damage and cleanup. But, as bad as that was, it could have been much worse if he hadn’t come to the boat and lifted the hatch that weekend.
His advice? Check your bilge regularly.
We agree. You should stick your head in the bilge to make sure there are no gas fumes first, then check everything else so you are starting your cruise without any lurking problems.
Just like a pilot who does a pre-flight check, you should stick your head down the bilge to check it out before turning the key. You may not find your bilge full of water, but you may find something else that needs to be looked after like:
- A gas leak (could be deadly)
- Loose or worn belts (could cost $2000 for a tow)
- Dead animals or droppings (sign of potential other problems like chewed wires)
- An oil leak
- Battery caps shaken loose
- A bilge pump burned out
- Loose wires or fittings
- Drooping insulation
It only takes a few seconds
It only takes a few seconds to do your pre-cruise or pre-use check. If you find something, you have a chance to fix it before the catastrophe. If you don’t find anything, you can smile with confidence and be able to enjoy your cruise.