Conventional thinking strongly favours the fitting of intakes and outlets in boat hulls – but some think that theory is full of holes, muses Dave Selby, in the Summer 2017 issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine.

Call me a flat-earth nutter, but I really don’t think boats should have holes in them.

As usual, I’m completely out of step with conventional thinking, but if you bear with me I think you’ll agree there’s madness in my method – and it’s based in sound science.

I call it my eureka moment – it happened in the bath.

I’ve conducted a series of exhausting experiments in a controlled lavatory environment and the early results are extremely worrying… for anyone who doesn’t own a Sailfish. In place of a Sailfish 18 which wouldn’t go through the bathroom door with its mast up, I substituted a soap dish which for both scientific and aesthetic purposes closely resembles a Sailfish.

Amazingly, when I placed the soap dish in the bath with me, it didn’t sink. To replicate a more modern boat I substituted a colander and was truly alarmed when it sank almost immediately. I’m submitting my findings to the Royal Society.

But there’s more to this than mere science, for as you know, the modern marine industry is making great strides towards environmental sustainability and saving the planet by making boats consisting almost entirely of holes.

There are intakes and outlets for heads, sinks, showers, watermakers, bilge pumps, engines and, of course, holes for propellers. The result is that modern boats closely resemble a wedge of Gruyère, not just in styling.

As with Gruyère, the holes in boats are made entirely of air, which is known to be environmentally friendly.

Of course while the industry is to be commended for its efforts to replace polyester with holes, the truth is that holes in boats are nothing new.

Long before the advent of GRP, wooden boats hole-heartedly embraced the idea of gaping holes and took the technology to new depths – just look at a chart of the Goodwin Sands.

Prior to that people were going round in circles in leather boats without any holes at all, unless they’d picked the wrong part of the cow. Frankly, these vessels were a load of aurochs.

Enough history. Of all the things that affront and alarm people about Sailfishes, it’s the entire lack of holes that enrages them most.

Once, when I was launching in London, the forklift driver refused to let Marlin out of the strops until I inspected the seacocks for water ingress. I went through the motions – and, speaking of which, the lack of holes in my boat also concerns ladies of the female persuasion.

I can’t really see why, as my bucket’s got a perfectly decent hole at the top. On the other hand, men of the more male persuasion pooh-pooh this notion as my Sailfish is one of the few fitted with the ultimate macho amenity and one way more hygienic than porcelain – a backstay.

But that simply doesn’t wash with people who take a more holistic approach. Most sceptical of all are those who have done courses. These teach the basic elements of seamanship and specifically the mastery of seacocks: inspecting them, opening them, closing them and, most importantly, worrying about them.

Of course, all that opening and closing of seacocks causes tremendous wear and tear, which can lead to sinking. And that’s why most responsible sailing magazines are mostly about seacocks and how to worry about them.


Currently, most seacocks are made by jewellers like Fabergé or Tiffany out of a rare alloy called expensivium, which is not really suited to marine environments.

However, I hear news of an exciting breakthrough by marine boffins who are working on a new wonder material called unobtanium.

True, it’s more expensive than expensivium, but that shouldn’t be a problem because it doesn’t exist yet, as the company behind it went down the pan.

Yet there’s one other small matter that truly alarms people about Sailfishes, and that is the fact that it doesn’t have a self-draining cockpit, because there aren’t any holes in it.

Owners of boats with holes in and people who’ve done sailing courses on boats with holes in call this ‘reckless,’ ‘unsafe,’ ‘unseamanlike’ and, worse, ‘imprudent,’ which is the ultimate nautical put-down.

I don’t find that a concern, because the fact is that if you’ve been majorly pooped and your cockpit’s full of water, that’s the least of your concerns.

In fact, Sailfishes still sail with cockpits full of water. And even this has advantages, as it’s precisely for situations like this that most Sailfish owners carry a hand-held battery-powered kitchen blender.

Sunseeker owners have to pay millions for a boat with a built-in outdoor Jacuzzi.