Skerry impossible to right

Hello all, The Skerry is a very nice little boat that sails ok but it is unfortunately impossible to right and bail after a capsize. I have made some tests today using various techniques and different bailers and I will have to significantly change my plans concerning the trips I intended to take with the craft. The problem is that a rigged Skerry, although relatively easy to right, is nearly impossible to keep leveled long enough to bail enough water and regain some stability. The boat when first put back up is just an inch or two above the water level and small waves are all it takes to void your bailing efforts, that is when you manage to keep the boat leveled while doing so. I made the tests when the water was very still and without any wind. In a real situation where wind and waves are expected to be kind of rough, it is virtually impossible to recover after a capsize. If I had known this before, I would have chosen a different design.

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RE: Skerry impossible to right

The Skerry is double ended like a canoe and I wonder if the tried and true method of emptying a canoe wouldn't work: Once righted, push the bow (or stern) down and away from you.  Water inside will pour out the lower end and gain you some freeboard.  Repeat the process until you have enough freeboard to bail the boat.  Of course you're going to have to get wet again to test that out. 

RE: Skerry impossible to right


There was another recent discussion about this issue here.


(in case the above link doesn't work I'll paste it below)


You can see my comments there, which generally agree with what you've said here, although I didn't make my point quite as strongly.  When I did my test it was in calm conditions and I was able to bail my boat.  Although I anticipated rough water making this much more difficult, I didn't experience it first hand.

Having said that, there have been two things I have wondered about as relatively simple modifications to make recovery easier.

The first is integrating additional bouyancy in the hull somehow.   The area surrounding the daggerboard trunk, for example, could be used without affecting the space available for your comfort.  Possibly some inflatable bladders could be secured there.

The second is an automatic bailing pump.   Personally I have yet to see a reasonably small bailing pump that can get water out faster than I can manually.  However, if a pump was available, it might allow the user to spend more of his or her initial energy keep the boat right, while the pump gets out enough water to gain some freeboard and stability.  Then the user could join in with the remaining bailing (or let the pump finish).

Jack's suggestion is interesing, and worth experimenting with as well.


- Bob





RE: Skerry impossible to right

Should have added to my suggestion, borrowing a canoe to practice on first might be less of a hassle that filling your skerry with water again.  Honest, Michel, that process is very effective and will gain you a lot of freeboard.

RE: Skerry impossible to right

I will have to try this when I finish my sailing rig.  Your report suprises me.  I flipped my Skerry, without a sailing rig and had it bailed out using and cut off gallon milk jug in less than 5 minutes.  No problem. 

RE: Skerry impossible to right

OK here goes. I just tipped my Skerry and here is my experience.

First it took a bit of doing to get it over but I have the mass and know how to use it!

It is just about impossible to keep it upright with the mast up. Tried twice and it just flipped back in the water. Rights easily enough but just rolls over again.

It is dead easy to remove the mast when the boat is on its side so that is what I did and the boat practically righted itself with no help from me. I have bump pads made from kids noodles and I guess this helped right the side that was underwater. Anyway I didn't have to do anything, the boat just went upright once the mast was removed. Essentially self righting without the mast.

You can see my noodles hanging over the boat. Sort of ugly when they hang out but useful eh!

Some people have suggested putting one end underwater to empty it like it is done for canoes. This allows a whole lot of the water to drain out of a canoe. NOT a Skerry. I simply could not get an end under enough to get the draining thing going. I am no lightweight and the boat is just too buoyant for that. This is a good thing.

I had no trouble getting into the swamped boat. Just climbed in from the sides and there I was. The boat had several inches of freeboard even with me laying low in it. 

I bailed quickly using my bucket and the boat was steady and emptied gradually. It is a big boat to empty and this took a bit of time. It was not tippy and I soon sat in the middle seat and finished bailing.

I had heard that the water came back in through the daggerboard well and I had a little rubber mat ready to stuff into the hole but the daggerboard prevented water from coming in mostly and I bailed fast enough that it was NOT a problem.

After a few minutes I was essentially dry and ready to get the mast and get underway. 

The mast assembly was sort of floppy and annoying but I did not have any real trouble getting it in. A bit of water came in with the sail but not a lot. I just bailed out about a gallon.

Conditions were good but I felt my margins were large. I had alot of buoyancy. The boat was easy to right. It was easy to re-enter. I had no trouble de-masting it and recovering the mast. I did not try to replace the mast underway.

I have replaced the mast while underway before when I was becalmed in a bumpy but no wind situation and it can be done. Even if there is quite alot of wind and waves it is not that hard.  So I did not need to prove this again.

So take heart and accept that without extra support your Skerry will need to have the mast slipped off but once that is done it will right easily.

David Bixby has developed a method of placing floats to steady his skerry in case of a capsize and I think they would work.

My little bunp pads certainly had an unexpected beneficial effect in righting the boat. I suppose I could tie them so that they help support the boat instead of just flopping. Oh well next time I will try. I could also tie them under the seat before I start bailing just to increase the buyancy. I did not need it but I had them if I needed them. 

For now I am satisfied that WHEN I accidently go over I will not have any trouble recovering. It was hanging over me but now I know.

The good guys are winning again!


RE: Skerry impossible to right

A happy ending, and you wrote a great practical guideline for Skerry owners. Thanks, Christine. P.S.: sounds like a training exercise that every Skerry owner should do, before the emergency arises when the technique is needed.

RE: Skerry impossible to right

Hi Camper

You know, the actual exercise of tipping the boat and recovering it made me realize that it is not a big deal. It had been hanging over me and making me a bit afraid but now been there, done that, got the (wet) T-shirt!

You're dead right, everyone should do this and then its not a learning exercise when you actually tip. 

I suspect that when I actually capsize in real use the conditions will be much more difficult but I now have the confidence I need to get out of it. 

So happy sailing and go and have fun!


RE: Skerry impossible to right

Hi Christine, I'm in the process of building my first boat, the Skerry, at age 60.  Never sailed a day in my life, but am retired now' and have time for fun things like this project.  I've been following this thread because I have similar concerns and frankly, will begin my sailing adventure on a small nearby lake to learn the ropes, as it were.  However, I later plan to take her out to the Delaware Bay as I gain experience and learn more about the game.  I'm wondering:  how did you swamp your Skerry?  Maybe a stupid question, but I'd like to try the same exercise without duress when I feel I'm qualified.  I'd like to know how you did it.  You're posts are interesting and informative and look forward to hearing from you.  Best,  Bob

RE: Skerry impossible to right

This is an exercise that shouldn't be limited to Skerrys. It's exactly as Christine says, it gets rid of the fear element. Many tragedies have been caused not by the actual capsize, but by the boaters' panic. Practicing it beforehand is the best way of eliminating not just the panic, but also the delayed reaction time caused by the shock of a new experience. A practice session will also show you just what it takes to make your boat capsize, as Christine points out. This will help with your comfort level in rough conditions and keep your mind focussed on what you have to do to stay safe.

All in all, this is one of the best insurance policies out there, and Christine's direct, practical common sense approach is one we should all emulate.


RE: Skerry impossible to right

I have no experience with the skerry, but keep in mind these problems are common to all dingy type sailboats (in contrast to sit on top sunfish or laser boats which will come up dry after a dump).  Many sailors will add permennt floatation chambers or temp. float bags for use in more challenging conditions, like this,

 Practice and preparation is the key.

RE: Skerry impossible to right

Hi Bob H

Good on you to start a new Skerry. I've had very little sailing experience and I'm finding that after about 20 sessions with my boat I'm pretty confident that I can handle the regular stuff and now ... cope with the rougher stuff.
To capsize my boat I just shifted my (not negligible) weight to one side and bent over the side. It took a bit of leaning but the boat filled and went over quite gently. I dont think I could have capsized it so that it went over really fast. Maybe in strong wind / waves it could happen.

I had removed various loose things from the boat before. I was not interested in chasing my flip-flops! I deliberately did not "prepare" the boat other than that.

Have fun


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