Detached hose complicates rendezvous with ambulance

Lookout! Issue 35, June 2016

A recreational fisherman, who broke his leg during a trip out on his friend’s launch, had his rescue complicated when the engine room began flooding.

The man and four friends, in their 40s, were on a fishing trip north of the South Island. While walking backward to free a snagged fishing line, he slipped down a step to the boarding platform and broke his leg.

Fellow crew members helped him to the cabin and the skipper phoned 111 to request an ambulance meet them at the nearest settlement.

However, while steaming back between two islands, one of the two main engines on the 14.6 metre launch cut out. The group then found almost half a metre of water in the engine room. The skipper requested the crew put on lifejackets, launch the dinghy, and help the injured man into it.

The step to the boarding platform.
The location where the man slipped.
Maritime New Zealand ©2020

He then put out a mayday call and re-entered the engine room to discover a hose had become detached between the sea suction valve and the port engine seawater pump. Seawater is used to cool the fresh water that cools the engine. By shutting off suction from the sea the crew was able to stop the water ingress, and then they started pumping the water out.

Meanwhile, a rescue helicopter arrived on the scene and winched the injured man from the dinghy, before flying him to hospital.

A local commercial vessel also responded to the mayday call, and offered assistance. When the crew could not restart the engines, because of the seawater damage to the electronics systems, the other vessel towed the launch back to safe harbour.


  • This incident highlights how important engine room maintenance is to safe boating. The skipper’s attempts to return his friend to shore and medical treatment were put in jeopardy by a hose simply becoming detached from equipment used to pump seawater to assist in engine cooling.
  • The security and condition of seawater pipes, pumps, and hoses must be checked regularly. Hoses are normally connected with two hose clips securing each end. In theory these should not have come off. After this incident, the skipper organised an engineer to replace all clips in the engine room with a more robust design.
  • The situation was aggravated by the fact the bilge alarm did not sound – which would have alerted the skipper to water in the engine room. The alarm could have been affected by water damage to the electrics, or the float switch may have been set too high.
  • A pre-trip checklist should include checking the security of the fittings around seawater pipes, and the position and operation of bilge alarms.
  • If the stern door had been closed, the injured man may not have fallen backwards down the step. However, it is common practice to open access to the boarding platform while at sea during the operation of this type and size vessel.

Back to index

Cover of Issue 35
Return to the index for Lookout! Issue 35, June 2016
Return to index
Previous: Ten hours drifting in 40 knots before master used EPIRB
Next: Delayed mayday adds to fatal mix