Course How To

Houseboat leaks and emergency repairs

by Roger
(Somewhere, FL)

Repairing a Houseboat Outdrive Leak on a Beach

Repairing a Houseboat Outdrive Leak on a Beach

You may never know when houseboat leaks and emergency repairs will occur. I woke up the other night when the bilge pump came on, and this is unusual as it never comes on unless it has been raining. About an hour later it came on again.

I figured I was taking on about 5 gallons an hour in the middle of the night and this is stressful to say the least. So I get up, grab a flashlight, go to the engine compartment where I find a trickle of water coming from the outdrive where it goes through the hull. It wasn't serious yet but I knew it would only get worse.

I studied the repair manual till daylight and decided that it was the shift bellows that was leaking, and after going back down into the bilge, I was convinced I was right. The exhaust didn't seem likely, and the drive shaft bellows was above water line.

The first thing to do was to stop the leak, and I had developed a plan in the night that I thought might work. I used the dinghy to go ashore, then to local hardware store where I bought sand bags. Back at the houseboat I got a shovel and headed for a nearby sandbar where I would fill 6 at a time then take them to houseboat, after placing 15 of them on the bow, the stern was high enough that the shift bellows was out of the water.

On board I always carry a water mattress for emergencies but I thought that would it would be used for a water tank rupture. I placed this on bow and pumped fresh water out of stern tank into the water mattress, and this gave me a little more freeboard.

Months earlier I had installed a hoist on the houseboat just in case I needed to remove the outdrive, so now was the time to try it. With help from neighbors we towed the houseboat to a nearby beach, anchored it with the stern
in towards the beach. Now I removed the outdrive, bellhousing and bellows. After seeing what I needed, I went back to town and got the parts.

I spent the next day getting the gimbal bearing out, wow, what a job. Now I was getting ready to reassemble everything when what happened next made me proud to be a houseboater. Where I'm located there are houseboats scattered around, but not rafted up or dockside.

Well the grapevine had been busy, as people came from all around to help. No one was asked, but they just all volunteered, but by late afternoon everything was back together. I started it up put it through the gears, shut it off and smiled.

I thanked everyone almost with tears in my eyes because I witnessed what most never do, people helping people because they want to.

Needless to say, it was a proud moment, and I was proud to be a houseboater!


Tip of the Month
You can now install a simple & inexpensive system to watch out for high bilge water levels. So whether you’re sleeping, or away from the boat, or gone for the week, you can be notified of a dangerous high bilge water level.

Reply - Answer
Roger, that was an amazing test of ingenuity and perseverance. I love reading stories like this since they show real life tips and tricks that anyone can use, and will help while living on a houseboat.

My wife and I are grateful and pleased to have you contributing and sharing your experiences on the site, and I am sure that I am speaking for other readers when I say "Thank You" for sharing.

PS, your photo's give us all a "bird's eye view" and an excellent outside perspective.

IAN - from

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