Quick hull repair prevents catastrophe

George K. Williams


On a sunny July day, we anchored By George, our family’s 30-foot cruiser, in Partridge Cove on Lake Champlain using a Bermuda anchoring system. I put the swim ladder over the side and went for a swim. After my swim, I put my foot on the bottom rung to climb back onboard. As I placed my complete weight on the swim ladder, the bottom of the ladder punched a hole through the hull.

I quickly climbed into the boat and started the bilge pump. My daughter got into the bilge. Then I handed her a small towel to stuff into the 1½-inch hole in the hull to stop the leak temporarily.

Next, I located two pieces of quarter-inch plywood, about 6 by 10 inches, and some 1-inch screws. I applied a thick bead of silicone around the edge of the wood to form a gasket. Lastly, I preset four screws into the corners of the wood patch. Then, with a flat blade screwdriver tied to my wrist, I went over the side of the boat.

I told my daughter to remove the cloth and hold the first piece of wood against the hole. Then I screwed the second piece over the hole from the outside, going through the hull and into the piece of wood she was holding. That was no small feat, as I couldn’t see the slots in the screws under 6 inches of water. It took some quick thinking, but we managed to stop the leak.

With our vacation cut short, we headed home for a permanent repair. We didn’t know we had soft wood at that spot, and we were lucky my daughter was on board.

The lesson here is to be prepared: Take an America’s Boating Club boating course before something like this happens to you.

George K. Williams

George K. Williams is a life member and past commander of Lake George Power Squadron/2. With more than eight decades of boating experience in upstate New York, he is still active and has many fond memories of boating on Lake Champlain with his wife Elisabeth and two children.

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The Ensign magazine is an official channel of United States Power Squadrons, America’s Boating Club, a volunteer organization whose members teach boating skills and best practices to help improve the safety of our nation’s waterways. Learn more.