Ever laughed at the guy trying to clean up his boat after it sat on the bottom for a day, a week, a month? Well it might be that one of the simple errors listed below (rather than complete idiocy) was what led to that sinking. Hopefully this list will help you avoid the same fate.

Next to the dock is a common place for boats to sink - don't let this happen to yours!

Next to the dock is a common place for boats to sink - don't let this happen to yours!

  1. Failing to keep your boat clean. We’re not talking about waxing and washing, but about dirt and detritus. One of the common ways boats sink is when the bilge pump or bilge pump float switch becomes fouled with grit and grime. Another common cause of sinking, particularly at the dock when a boat is left in the water year-round, is when leaves clog the scuppers. Keep the deck and the bilge clear of such gunk and junk, and Mom’s Mink has a better chance of staying afloat.

  2. Pushing the weather envelope. It’s tempting to go out when the weather is less than ideal, especially if the fish are biting or the breeze is perfect for sailing. But the wrong judgment call can expose your boat to sea conditions it simply can’t handle. (Too late to make the right call? Then check out these tips for surviving a storm).

  3. Delaying routine maintenance. One example: trying to get by one more season with those rusty old risers, which might spring a leak. Another: delaying the replacement of a stern-drive boot, even though the rubber is visibly cracked and worn. The list goes on and on—make sure your boat is ship-shape, to prevent that sinking feeling.

  4. Running aground. This can be disastrous for a number of reasons. If you’re in heavy seas, they can wash right into a boat that’s stuck on the hard. If you strike ground with a large keel, it could rip off or loosen the bolts securing it to your hull bottom. In extreme cases, it can even cause a powerboat’s transom to crack or break. And since an engine’s water pump can become stuck or destroyed by sand and grit it sucks up when running aground, this even can also lead to power loss, which in turn can lead to sinking, in rough conditions.

  5. Forgetting to put in the drain plug. This is, without a doubt, the number-one all-time most common way of sinking your boat—or at least partially sinking it. And no matter how smart, savvy, or sentient a person is, sooner or later they’re bound to forget that plug. The solutions? Always leave a spare rolling around in the bilge, so you have an emergency plug handy at all times when you realize what’s happened. And make double-checking for the plug a part of your post-launch, pre-departure check-list.

Want to stay afloat? Of course you do! So pay heed to these five common mistakes and remember—no excuses.

Lenny Rudow

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.