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The Upside of Bilge Diving

If you pride yourself on doing much of your own boat maintenance, you probably spend more hours than you’d like to with your head and shoulders squashed into narrow lockers and bilge compartments. But, despite the fact that such physical contortions can give you bruises, scraped knuckles and a stiff neck, there is definitely an upside to inspecting every nook and cranny on your boat.

How so? If you never poke around in the difficult-to-reach areas of your boat, you might not discover ‘little problems’ such as stress cracks, saltwater seepage around deck hardware, or old electrical wiring that’s been compromised — all of which could lead to more complex, expensive and/or dangerous problems if left unseen in the shadows.

Frayed red wire
While hanging upside down in our boat’s bilge, we discovered this hot 12-volt electrical wire with internal strands that were blackened, and protective insulation that had been chafed through. Although it didn’t carry high voltage, it might have eventually compromised neighboring wires, or possibly started a fire. So we replaced it and others nearby that looked equally suspect.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Andy

In a perfect world, every sailboat would come with a factory-trained maintenance monkey, or perhaps a robot, that could wriggle into those impossible-to-reach areas. But in the meantime, do-it-yourself sailors will inevitably spend time hanging upside down in their bilges fixing known problems and inspecting for new ones.

Blue wire connector
In another hard-to-access area of our boat, we found this funky wire connector, corroded by moisture (the green bit on the left end). Covering connecters with heat-shrink tubing helps keep moisture out.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Andy


  1. Gus van Driel 4 years ago

    I LOVE bilge diving, scrapes, bruises, head bumps and all! It is the only way that you will ever know every nook and cranny of your boat and figure out how to fix or at least diagnose a problem when it pops up without advance notice. On numerous cruises and charters I have been able to fix problems that could have spoiled or endangered an otherwise great sail.

  2. Pat McIntosh 4 years ago

    Hey Andy, I’ll swap you a wire fix for a holding tank fix. Both are far better done in a slip than while sailing.

  3. barry spanier 4 years ago

    if you can’t find what it ‘chafed’ on, then it looks to me you had or have a rat on board. those look like very chewy marks on that wire.

    i’d be looking for ricky.


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