Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Water in the cabin bilges

This is one in a series of A Guide to Narrow Boat Problems.

Water in the cabin bilges
Could come from a pipe leak, hull leak or rain entering from above.
Open the floorboarding to determine the extent and the source of the water. It is important to deal with this as soon as possible or damp will pervade the whole boat. Concentrate on pipe work and pumps as a likely source. Replace split hoses, pump gaskets or leaking pipes as a matter of urgency. Mop up residual water (a bilge pump if you have one there, then sponges followed by disposable nappies) and leave floor boards open until completely dry. If possible moor up in sunshine and leave doors and windows open to assist fast drying.
A really serious leak in the hull could come from corrosion or from hitting a rock. Obviously that needs fixing straight away, so don't delay and head, if possible, in order of preference, for a boatyard (so they can fix a plate over it), a slipway (so you can be hauled out of the water), canal side near a road (so your emergency team can get to you) or at least a towpath. Don't sink in mid canal, which is where the water is deepest, the difficulty of saving the boat is greatest, and the inconvenience to other users is greatest. If water is clearly pouring through an identifiable hole you might shove a bung in it to delay the inevitable. A stick for a small hole, Araldite or even a cloth dipped in Vaseline could gain you an extra minute. If you're interested, look up the word "careening" in the fashion of Captain Cook and his ship The Endeavour. It worked for him.
Check bilges from time to time. Ensure boat is fully winterised by draining water tanks and systems before the frost sets in. Air the boat thoroughly even when not in active use and don't keep loose bedding onboard. Consider a bilge pump that can suck up residual water, also remembering that for a serious leak the best bilge pump in the world is a terrified man and a bucket!

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