National Fisherman

Drill to stay dry

From U.S. Coast Guard reports

As the skipper of a 44-foot dragger headed back to Maine after a four-day pollock trip, the two crewmen were on deck gutting and cutting.

At about 10 p.m., the skipper noticed a subtle change in the sound of the main engine and that the vessel was slowing down. He discovered flooding in the engine room, but didn't know the source.

Almost simultaneously the crewmen realized they were ankle deep in water. The skipper instructed one crewman to start dumping gear to lighten the boat.

Meanwhile, the skipper and the other crewman attempted to dewater the boat using the built-in bilge pumps and a large-volume bilge eductor. The pumps couldn't keep up.

He gathered the crew in the wheelhouse; they donned survival suits, issued a mayday call and activated the EPIRB. The crewmen pulled the raft from atop the wheelhouse and grabbed the flare kit. The skipper took the boat out of gear.

Once everyone was back aft, they threw the raft overboard. The dragger was listing to starboard. At about 10:20, they jumped in the raft. As they paddled away, their boat stood up on her beam-ends and rolled over.

A Coast Guard helicopter arrived 25 minutes later and hoisted all three survivors. None required medical care.

Lessons learned
Based on the skipper's description, the flooding source was likely a failed propulsion shaft seal.

The alarm panel was located outside the wheelhouse in a forward companionway. The skipper didn't receive any early indication of flooding and surmised that the audible alarm may have been switched to silent mode. If the panel had been inside the wheelhouse, the skipper could have seen the alarms.

At a minimum, check the engine room bilges, the lazarette and shaft alley. Also, make sure your vessel has adequate dewatering capability.

Crew members indicated they routinely held discussions on emergency situations. They conducted full drills periodically, and were familiar with the vessel's layout and equipment. Their training, hands-on practice and knowledge of their survival gear were critical factors in their survival. Fish safe!

This article is based on U.S. Coast Guard reporting and is intended to bring safety issues to the attention of our readers. It is not intended to judge or reach conclusions regarding the ability or capacity of any person, living or dead, or any boat or piece of equipment.

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