To the editor:
I found the recent article by Dan and Jeanie Miller (“Almost Sunk,” Sept./Oct., Issue No. 100) frustrating. Here were people out on the ocean with seemingly so little knowledge or ability to take care of their own problems. They continue their ignorance in their article by stating that their leak must have been increasing due to greater pressure as the boat settled. This is only true while a leak is above the water level in the bilge (and thus easier to find). Once the bilge level is above the leak, the total head on the leak (which determines the rate of flow into it) is a function of the difference between the outside water level and the inside water level. It no longer matters where the leak is at this point. Since the waterline area of a boat increases as it settles, the difference between the outside water level and that inside will decrease as it takes on more water; therefore the pressure on the leak will be decreasing. As the boat settles the amount of water coming in will slow down, not increase, as long as the leak is below the water already in the boat!
The Millers did have the ability to estimate the speed with which they were taking on water and figured the inflow at 500 to 1,000 gallons per hour. They didn’t even try to manually pump, thinking they could not keep up with this leak! This is a leak that could be bailed with a three-gallon bucket with one bucket every 10 seconds. Two crew bailing could easily keep up with that while the third sails the boat or looks for the leak. It is also incredible that this couple spent a year refitting this boat and in that time never verified where each and every through-hull fitting went, instead relying on a surveyor’s quick look. It is so much easier to just turn on the EPIRB and wait for help.
After accepting free help from the Navy and Coast Guard they balked at $17,000 for commercial help and accepted further free help. It is nice that they can get a free ride on my tax dollar, isn’t it? In cases like this I am completely in agreement with the idea of sending these people the bill for their rescue. Between the cost of the lost equipment dropped to help them and the cost of operating the ships and aircraft used in their rescue, they would end up adding a zero to the $17K they didn’t want to pay.
Finally, it should be noted that this boat was in no condition for offshore cruising in the first place, with bilge covers that were not fastened down and stores that could come out in such a situation. If this boat had been knocked down or rolled it is likely that the crew would have been seriously injured or killed. If you don’t want to learn the skills required and do the work to prepare the boat, stay on the hard!