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.