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Do all boats float?

2013 June 17

Dear Boat Doctor,

I am taking an introductory course in seamanship at the local Power Squadron, and during the first night of class the instructor made the statement that all boats will float when filled with water. I followed up and gently disputed this claim, and he reiterated with some heat. I am not interested in necessarily proving this guy wrong, but I don't want someone coming out of this class with that in his head. If your 25-foot sailboat is taking on water you need to get very busy right now, not just sit and wait for the "flotation" to kick in.

Rick Beeson

Appleton, Wisconsin

Dear Rick,

You are absolutely correct, many boats will not float when even partially filled with water. U.S. Coast Guard regulations do mandate that some boats less than 20 feet must float when filled with water, but this doesn't apply to sailboats. If you'd like details, search the Internet for "33 CFR 183." Subparts F, G and H cover flotation. There are exceptions even in big boats, but most keelboats will not float if filled with water.