“The boat is sinking!”


I was on the way to pick up my truck. We had just arrived in Boston the night before and I was really tired, exhausted even.  A friend had driven down to the marina to give me a ride.

Since the purchase in June, my kids have been on the boat alone plenty, without any problem.  I explained to them as I always do before I leave to call me if there is a problem.  But this time I did something different. They are smart kids and I have been trying to teach them about the boats’ systems, just as I have been learning myself.

I always turn off the dock water when we leave the boat and when the kids are going to be alone on the boat, but, not this time. This time I pointed out the bilge alarm and explained to them that in the event the bilge alarm rings they should shut off the water at the hose on the dock and call me. I also explained that if a plumbing hose inside the boat were to break it could flood the bilge, and if there were a pump failure, theoretically the boat could eventually sink.  This is why it was important that they shut off the water if the alarm were ever to sound.

It was about 8pm and I get a call from Skyla, who is in tears and clearly very upset. “Mom, the boat is sinking!”  Just as I began to ask her if they shut off the dock water, and why she thought so,  the phone went dead.

I had my friend turn the car around and go back to the boat. We were 20 long miles away.  All the while I was calling the phone back, but straight to voicemail.

I arrived at the boat short of breath and sweating profusely from running through the parking lot, down the boardwalk, and down the dock.  As I stepped on the boat it was dark and I could see the red light, laughing in my face.  It was the a/c power alarm, not the bilge alarm.

The breaker tripped because I ran the the dishwasher, not realizing that my Mom had started the washing machine. With the air conditioners running, that is a definite no, no and the perfect recipe for a guaranteed breaker trip.  The mistake that I made was neglecting to be clear that there are 2 alarms that could potentially go off, not just one. I confused them, but it’s all a learning process for my kids and myself.   I am generally much more careful about overloading the power and have come to be quite good at managing the load and keeping the power alarm happy, but that night I was tired and careless.

“But MOM, you didn’t tell us there are 2 alarms.” And they were right.  How foolish of me to show them one alarm and not the other.  Especially the power alarm that we have lots of experience tripping.  The alarm went off and they thought the boat was sinking causing a power loss. They ran outside and shut off the dock water as instructed. I was proud of them. I spent an hour showing them both alarms again. I also told them that from now on I would continue to shut off the dock water when I leave the boat, so they wouldn’t have to worry about it.  I also showed them how to turn on the breaker at the dock to restore power. We practiced different scenarios for both situations and they have a good handle on it now.  As do I.

And the learning continues…



Love your feedback!!!  Leave a comment and your 2 cents.





“The boat is sinking!” — 6 Comments

  1. Well done training your kids on the various systems & alarms GG. They aren’t only your children they’re your crew!

    Alarms are like any other system on a boat, they can fail. Teach your kids to use their other senses as well. Listen, strange noises such as running water, gurgling, etc. can be the first hint of trouble. Look, make the rounds every day, divide up the duties, lift the hatches and look in the bilge, check the dock lines, etc. Smell, smoke is obvious one here but smell of fuel & lubricants can be good indicators as well. Feel, before opening hatches etc. put your hand on it first to feel if it’s unusually warm, under cushions etc. for signs of dampness etc. Give every one a job to do and it’ll be easy. Do some drills when an alarm goes off, make it one persons job to shut off the water, another to check the electrical panel for tripped breakers etc. Buddy system, everyone has a buddy to grab onto when an alarm goes off. Lifejackets go on, fire extinguishers are readied, etc. Just like the Pro’s do on the big ships. 🙂

    If there’s a Coast Guard Aux. unit nearby they might come down and do a courtesy inspection and demo. Always worth it to see things work like extinguishers & flares etc. Being comfortable with and knowing how to use the safety equipment is essential in preventing panic in a real emergency.

    The most important point to get across to them is, if something doesn’t seem right, even if they can’t put their finger on it, tell someone else!

    Stay safe and have fun!



    • Rick, that’s great advice. I will talk to them about false signals and common sense. Safety checks are important and getting the kids (crew) involved early on is smart.

  2. Glad to see you’re settling in. Ricks advice is great- more than I would have thought about. Keep us posted on your new life. Thought about you this weekend while going over Dog River.

    • Thanks Caroline! Yes, very thoughtful advice. The temps here in Boston are already dropping into the 40’s at night. Some days I wonder why the heck I ever left Dog River.