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Staunching a hole that may be only addressed externally



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What is the issue?
If a boat is holed below the waterline and you can’t get at the hole to stop the flow from below decks, you have to get to it from outside. Typically, this is too dangerous a situation to put a crew member in the water as you are only compounding the danger.

Why address this?
The flow has to be somehow staunched, or the vessel is lost.

How to address this?
Make up a hull collision mat for this circumstance. This may be used as a temporary external ‘patch' that can be positioned over a hole. All that is required is a three-metre square waterproof tarpaulin with eyelets and solid double stitched cringles fitted with connected lines as illustrated.


Large heavy PVC tarpaulin with rings and eyelets
Image: Tony Gibson


In an emergency, the mat can be pulled around the hull until it covers the hole and then lashed securely in place. When tightly secured over the hole by its lines, the water pressure sucking the patch up against the hull, together with its flat smooth clingy material will help it sit flat against the surrounds of the hole thereby creating a seal. This should vastly reduce water flow so that the bilge pump may cope with the in-flood, buying invaluable time.

In this type of holing event, you will have no choice but to get it right, and it is possible. Just take it steady making your way to a safe haven. A sail will perform the same role and even damp course polyurethane, but they may prove unwieldy in an emergency and/or be difficult to hold down.

The benefit of making up a specific hull collision mat is that it takes up very little room and can be stored almost anywhere aboard. Likewise, multipurpose alternatives that can be used, inspected and used every day are infinitely better than single purpose, sealed & untestable, ‘safety’ gear.

Nothing could this be truer than with a collision matt. It can find a multitude of uses aboard when not fulfilling its emergency patch purpose so that it may earn its keep on a daily basis. For instance, it may be turned into service as an awning, a dingy UV cover, a dust mat, an apron to protect topsides from fenders, an anti-chafe matt when loading heavy provisions aboard, privacy cover for the pushpit, a picnic ground cover and in fact 101 more practical purposes. All of which are good for the emergency moment, as out of sight generally means out of mind. The more frequently the mat is used the more likely it will be remembered in the heat of the moment. For more on holes beneath the waterline see what to do if you are taking on water and potentially sinking Experience.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession
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