Issue date: 3rd October 2012
The Port of London Authority issued a safety bulletin in response to the sinking of a narrow boat in Limehouse Reach.
On the 24th August a narrow boat was delivered by road to South Dock Marina in London for a
new owner. The vessel was lifted into the dock and the new owner requested to lock out of the
marina as they had an overnight berth in Limehouse Marina; a short distance up the River Thames. The vessel departed the lock at 17:00 with 5 adults and 1 dog aboard. The vessel transited directly across the river to the starboard side of the channel and then turned upriver towards Limehouse Marina.
Shortly into their transit the crew noted a change in the engine note and opened the engine room hatch to find the engine half submerged. All persons quickly moved to the stern to try and bail out the engine room, but were unable to cope with the ingress of water into the vessel. The engine room continued to fill with water and flooded into the main cabin, submerging the aft coaming below the water, resulting in severe flooding of the vessel which sank within 10 seconds. All of the crew and the dog entered the water without lifejackets, but were rescued by a nearby RIB and Police Launch.
Safety Lessons: The hull of the vessel had been completely double plated and the increased weight of this plating had resulted in a reduced safety clearance; with the bottom of the engine room vent being positioned approximately 65mm above the waterline. With 3 persons positioned on the aft deck the bottom of the engine room air vent became submerged beneath the waterline by 50mm, the resulting downflooding and sinking of the vessel was inevitable.
The following safety lessons should be carefully considered by narrowboat owners before venturing onto the tidal Thames.