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Boat Sinks in Bad Weather

Inspecting the DamagejaninerSat, 20/07/2013 - 2:37pm

My article on our trip up the Karuah River will be my last featuring our Vickers power boat. It sank over the Australia Day weekend, or more correctly, it failed to float.

We bought our boat second hand in 1999 and put a new 90hp motor on it about 12 years ago. The boat has served us faithfully on many trips on Port Stephens and the Myall Lakes.

On the long weekend, we had the boat tied up to a tidal mooring on the mud flats. The weather was terrible, particularly on the Monday, 28 January 2013. We went out and baled out the rain water on the Monday morning, but by the afternoon we became worried about the strong wind gusts. The tide was out and we decided we would pull the boat in on the rising tide in the evening. About 8.30pm, we thought that the tide was high enough, so decked out in our wet weather gear, we went to get the boat. Unfortunately, it was sitting on the bottom half full of water.

The waves were coming over the bow of the boat and there was nothing we could do except remove any loose gear. The fuel tank was floating, so we took it off as well. At this stage, the motor was ok, but there was nothing we could do to prevent it being submerged with the rising tide. Unfortunately, we had left all our fishing gear on the boat and it was wrecked.

We were up at 5am the next morning to salvage the boat. It was a huge surprise to discover that the water had all drained out. As there was no visible damage to the hull, it didn’t take long to determine that the bung plug fitting had failed. All that was left were two stainless steel screws that were supposed to held it in. My husband Bob is quite innovative and he sealed the hole with a finger cut from a leather glove and pulled over the top of a stick. We pulled the boat in on the rising tide and realised that it was definitely quite damaged. We scoured the shoreline and found most of the gear that had washed out of the boat. Luckily, we had removed the fuel tank and avoided a fuel spill.

After a phone call to our insurers, the boat was taken to Raymond Terrace for a quote for repairs. Then came the second shock. Close examination of our insurance policy revealed that the policy had been changed by our insurer to “market value” rather than “agreed value” in December 2011. The boat was written off and the change in the policy cost us nearly $5000. Because of its age, the insurer valued our boat with its very reliable, well maintained motor with only 170 hours on the clock at a low value.

Ours was not the only boat to go down on that day. Another Cove boat sank after its bilge pump failed and the weight of the rain water left the boat low in the water. This allowed the wind generated waves to flood the boat and it sank.

We also found another boat on the rocks on the same day with a hole in the hull. It was a licensed fishing boat, so we rang Waterways with the details.

I think the mistake we made was to not check the weather forecast on the Monday morning whilst the tide was still high enough to get the boat into shore. By the time that we realised that the weather was getting worse, the tide was too far out to retrieve the boat. Our weather station recorded wind gusts twice the strength of any other gusts over the previous two years. We think that the strong winds caused quite a bit of jolting of the boat whilst it was still sitting on the mud flats at mid tide and this is what caused the failure of the bung plug fitting.

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