Non-Watertight Bulkhead

Non-Watertight Bulkhead

Report Text:

Over the winter I had had the anchor windlass overhauled with new heavy duty cables passing through a watertight bulkhead to a new dedicated battery isolating switch placed in the fore-cabin under the bunks on my yacht.

We were carrying out a fast heavy weather passage coastal passage with the anchor locker constantly immersed in short steep waves.  I heard water in the bilges, which had never occurred before.  On lifting floor boards there was clearly a large ingress of seawater!  Bilge pumps were activated and buckets employed and the level quickly reduced.  A systematic check of all sea-cocks, rudder and prop shaft showed no ingress of water.

The engine and services batteries were dry. The engine was started, sails stowed and we proceeded to a sheltered bay to investigate the cause of the ingress..  The fore-cabin was inspected and revealed the compartment under the bunks containing new battery etc. flooded.

When the water-tight bulkhead was inspected, the cause became obvious.  The holes through which the windlass cables passed had been sealed with a sealing compound.  This had all pulled away as the cabling in the anchor locker had moved/flexed in the rough passage encountered.

The cabling was secured and holes resealed.  The flooded compartment was emptied, washed down with fresh water and all electrical components dried and sprayed with WD40.  A drowned solenoid was later discovered to be the only damage and the reason for the windlass no longer working

Lessons Learned:

  1. Inspect bilges more frequently.
  2. Always fully inspect work carried out. The length of heavy cable between bulkhead and windlass contributed to the sealant working loose and if cables were secure, the seal would probably not have failed.
  3. In retrospect, we were glad that this happened close to land at the end of a passage. We had considered crossing the Channel that day.  An early season ‘sea trial’ in heavy weather is more likely to discover faults and problems than a quiet day.

CHIRP Comment:

We endorse the Lessons Learned, as listed by the yachtsman. We would add the following:

  1. Any holes drilled through a bulkhead for cables should be sealed with an appropriate bulkhead gland. If possible, it would be better if cables pass through the top of the bulkhead rather than the bottom.
  2. On initially discovering the ingress of water, a precautionary call to the Coastguard may have been appropriate in case the situation had rapidly worsened.  This would have ensured that the yacht’s position was known and that the situation would be monitored.