• Randy Roden
  • October 28, 2014

Vessel Submersions

A Quick Response Can Limit Damages

Each day boaters across America face a potential nightmare - the sub­mersion of their vessel. And should such an event take place, the immediate question to follow is: "What do I do now?"

Don't Panic! Panic only adds more complexity to the situation and can even lead to unnecessary additional damages and costs. Simple, proper planning and preparation can help you navigate the difficult siuation and facilitate the raising/de-watering of your vessel and mitigate the damages.

First, in the case of any accident or incident with your vessel, contact your insur­ance representative immediately, or as soon as you possibly can. You may solicit their guidance as to how to pro­ceed. If you are unable to immediately contact your insurer, then the following guidelines can assist you in taking the nec­essary actions to resolve your dilemma. In many cases, it is your obligation as an informed boater to respond promptly and properly to such circumstances.

Your actions should include - but not necessarily be limited to - the following guidelines.

Safety First

Before doing anything, always remembver that extreme caution should be utilized prior to boarding any vessel that utilized shore power and all considerations must be given to disconnecting any electricity to a submerged vessel and rendering the vessel safe prior to boarding.

Raise and Dewater

Discuss the raising and de­watering of the vessel with your marina, repair facility and/or tow company/salvor of choice to clearly understand what is expected of all parties. Honestly evalu­ate the severity of circumstances and know the differences between contract­ed services and a "salvage" operation, and negotiate for services accordingly. If you must, shop around for services to ensure that you are being treated fairly­; insurers may not compensate you for inappropriate actions.

Contact a Mechanic

Arrangements should be made with a qualified mechanic or repair facility to immediately render assistance to the machinery to assist in mitigating the damages. Delays will only lead to unnecessary damages and costs - some or all of which may not be covered by your insurance company!

Vessel Inspection

Once all of the required arrange­ments have been made, it is time to initiate the salvage or de-watering opera­tions. If the vessel has been hauled, electrical connections should not be reestablished until due professional investigation has ruled out the risk of fire or other complications. If the vessel cannot be hauled out of the water immediately, you or your representative should attempt to identify the source of water entry and take any and all reasonable steps to avoid a re-occurrence. In addition, suitable temporary pumping systems should be established, again taking all precautions to avoid short-cir­ cuit or other electrical loss.


As soon as the vessel has been made safe, the preservation operations must be initiated. General "flushing and pickling" guidelines should include the following actions:

  • Remove the spark plugs/injectors and drain the crankcase and cylinders.
  • Flood the crankcase and cylinders with preservative.
  • Rotate the engine by hand or by starter motor, followed by the re-drain­ing of the crankcase and cylinders. Repeat this process as required to rid the crankcase and cylinders of water.
  • Re-install the spark plugs or injec­tors and refill the crankcase to the normal operating level with oil, to include changing the oil filter.
  • Clean the ignition system  compo­nents as necessary.
  • Purge the carburetor (if your vessel has one) as required, and provide fresh fuel.
  • Start and run the engine for 30 min­utes, changing the lubrication oil and filter (continue running the engine on a daily basis until the required serv­ice work is performed).

In addition, outboard engines should include access to the top crankshaft bearing for thorough cleaning as well as cleaning the oil injection system and utilizing proper fogging agents for the crankcase and cylinders. The engine portion of the generator should be preserved utilizing the out­lines for flushing and pickling of the engine and the electrical end should be thoroughly rinsed with fresh water.

Inspect the Interior

All water-soaked carpeting, upholstery and other fabrics should be removed from the interior to prevent unnecessary mildew, and the entire interior should be rinsed with fresh water. If there are any food items in the refrigerator and/or cabinets, it should be removed to prevent odors and contamination.

Smart boating is more than just knowing the "rules of the road," and the proper response to unfortunate circum­stances can often help you get back out on the water quickly, safely and with the least complications.

And in the case of a vessel submersion, usually the best answer is to leave it to the professionals. While this outline provides a guide of the steps to be taken, it is not a do-it-yourself guide for engine preser­vation. The preservation of your vessel after a submersion is crucial, and should only be attempted by com­petent professionals. A failed attempt at preservation can have dramatic effects on the outcome of any insurance claim resulting from a submersion.


Randy Roden is the principal surveyor of Rand and Associates, marine claims specialists for South Florida, Bahama Islands and the Caribbean and operat­ing out of Boca Raton, Florida. A grad­uate of Florida State University, he was a co-founder and managing partner of a national marine surveying firm and has more than three decades of experience in this field. A licensed adjuster in the state of Florida, he is a member of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors, the American Boat and Yacht Council and the International Association of Marine Investigators.

This document was prepared by Randy Roden and as such does not represent the views or opinions of National Marine Underwriters. National Marine Underwriters makes no claims or representations concerning the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein and has no responsibility for its content or for supplementing, updating or correcting any such information. This document is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, risk management, or other advice. Readers should consult their own counsel for such advice.