Why do boats sink at sea?

Published on September 7th, 2021

If four out of five boats sink at the dock, that means the fifth boat sinks underway. Vincent Pica explains why for WindCheck magazine:


Before we get into the other percentages, why’s and wherefore’s, the single most reported reason is water coming aboard from the stern through the outboard engine cut-out. While fine for the bays, be extremely cautious about taking a boat so configured onto the high seas. A following sea can easily “poop” you from behind and overwhelm your capacity to off-load the water.

As to the other percentages and categories, roughly one in five sinkings at sea (18%) are due to direct leaks in the vessel itself, not caused by violent contact with the bottom or the sea itself. Areas of ingress, in order, are:

1. Through-hull fittings that give way.
2. Stuffing box leaks.
3. Knotmeter plugs.
4. Bait well discharge back-ups.

Roughly one in eight sinkings at sea (12%) are caused by raw (sea) water cooling and exhaust system failures. These parts, subjected to high heat from exhaust gases and the corrosive effects of salt water, simply wear out – and you are now pumping water from the sea into the engine spaces. Hitting something, often rocks, accounts for another 10%. Roughly one in 20 sinkings at sea (6%) are caused by excess force/excessive speed and the hull comes apart. – Full report

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