It is not often that we see a video of a boat sinking from the perspective of the captain. This video, which first appeared on Instagram a few days ago, is instructive because it shows how sinkings actually occur and how the crew responds.
Here are 10 takeaways from this mishap —
First, there is the excitement of hooking up with a large game fish, which focuses everyone’s attention on the battle — and not on the boat.
Second, Capt. Alex explains in his VO that he was helping bring the fish to wire by backing down on the prey, which often brings water over the transom, depending on the speed and the sea condition. So, as he points out in the video, water in the cockpit did not cause concern at first. One wonders about what was happening to the underwater exhaust.
Third, if there was a red bilge pump light illuminated on the helm, it would not have been noticed with all attention focused on keeping the transom facing the fish and the lines taught — unless it was large enough and bright enough to be seen at a quick glance.
Fourth, this incident shows the need for a high-water alarm in the bilge with an audible warning. Boats going offshore should certainly have them. This is a textbook example of why they are needed — even while all hands are on deck and operating the vessel.
Fifth, it was not until it was obvious that water wasn’t draining quickly from the cockpit that the captain went below to investigate. By that time it was too late. He said the engine room was three-quarters full. An old sailor once said that the best time to reef is when you first think of it and that advice could be applied here as well.
Sixth, whatever let loose below was obviously allowing in water faster than any normal bilge pump could handle. That is why we recommend two-way valves on engine raw water intake fittings. The engine raw water pumps are the only pumps aboard most boats that have a chance of successfully dewatering a vessel in a situation such as this.
Seventh, it is not unnatural for anyone to subconsciously, or consciously, ignore clues to things going wrong in almost any situation — both afloat and on land. One engine had stopped working, which in retrospect was a warning signal. There may have been other clues, such as the motion of the boat.
One needs to look no further than the angler to see someone in denial of warning signals — water not draining quickly from the cockpit, a boat that wasn’t maneuvering properly, then there was the mate bailing water. Why didn’t he drop the rod and pick up a bucket?
Eighth, as regular readers know, we recommend SeaKits emergency damage control kits for all boats going offshore. When the captain checked the engine room and found it three-quarters filled, it's possible that the leak could have been found and stopped or slowed had there been a SeaKits there in its waterproof yellow pelican case.
This again shows the importance of a high-water alarm, which is typically installed 6” to 8” (15.24 cm to 20.32 cm) or so above the bottom of the bilge. With early warning, damage control is reasonably possible with the tools in the SeaKits pelican case and a two-way raw water valve.
Ninth, Protocol was equipped with an appropriate life raft for the occasion, it inflated, and all was well as a result. Life rafts are required in most countries (except the U.S.) on recreational vessels. Happily, Protocol was compliant for vessels under hire.
Tenth, the fact that the floating crew was not found for 12 hours after a radio call that was received by authorities only testifies to how big the ocean really is — and that Protocol had the misfortune to sink in Mexican waters. This is an example of where an EPIRB would have come in handy. There is nothing new about them, but still, most offshore boaters don’t carry them possibly because they aren’t cheap. But their prices have lowered significantly over the years. Check out a wide assortment on Defender’s website…
Capt. Alex Rogers and his wife Brandi have already raised $70,000 toward a goal of $150,000 on GoFundMe. The boat was not paid for, so contributions will help this couple get back in business again. To read a full account of what happened and to help the Rogers get back on their feet, visit GoFundMe…