Sinking at the stern

From U.S. Coast Guard reports

The skipper/owner of a 46-foot scallop boat and his two-man crew were dredging just south of Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound one summer afternoon when the weather rapidly deteriorated. Facing 20-knot winds and 4- to 6-foot waves with an occasional 7-footer rolling in from astern, they hauled in the gear and made for home.

At around 2 p.m., after the boat had taken a few waves over the aft rail, the skipper noticed the stern was riding low in the water. He discovered that the lazarette and fish hold were flooding. Intending to deploy a submersible electric pump to dewater the hold, the skipper and a crewman readied a portable generator on the starboard deck.

With the deck now awash, the skipper next had the crewman get atop the hold hatch cover to hold it in place. As the skipper went forward to take the wheel from the other crewman, the vessel rolled to port and started sinking by the stern.

The crewmen were washed into the water. Water poured into the wheelhouse, pushing the skipper into the engine room. He escaped and joined the crewmen in the water near the life raft canister.

The raft didn't deploy automatically, but the skipper eventually freed it. However, it inflated upside down, and the three men couldn't right it. The skipper instructed the crewmen to climb onto the overturned raft.

The younger crewman and the skipper climbed onto the raft. The other crewman, unable to make the climb, disappeared into the churning seas. He was next seen floating facedown.

A passing sailboat had seen the scalloper roll over and contacted the Coast Guard. It dispatched a helicopter that would retrieve all three men and transport them to a local airport. The skipper and the younger crewman were examined at a nearby hospital and released. The older crewman could not be revived.

Lessons learned

Bad weather, loss of watertight integrity, progressive flooding and possible instability issues all contributed to the sinking.

During the 10 years that the skipper owned the vessel, he had added equipment for scalloping, including a Detroit 371 diesel engine and a pump to the left of centerline on the deck, causing some list to port. The pump supplied a hydraulic scallop dredge weighing about 1,600 pounds.

The skipper admitted that he'd let the boat's condition slip. He had planned to move the heavy diesel and pump below deck to help lower the center of gravity.

To prevent flooding, keep hatches dogged down, especially in rough conditions. Regularly inspect deck plating and through-hull fittings for holes and wear. Always be cautious when adding gear and weight — especially up high on the vessel — that could weaken stability.

Temporary repairs and patches can give you a false sense of security. Take care of your boat, so you can fish safe.


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