Re: skerry-capsizing,prot

Posted by Ron Paro on Jul 27, 2007

I recently finished building the Jimmy Skiff, and began to learn to sail.

The second day I went out, I was on a fairly large lake, and the wind was gusty. While blasting half-way across the lake, I got a little carried away, and heeled over a little too far. My first capsize! It was really easy to right the skiff, but I had forgotten to tighten down my hatches before I started, and the bow and stern compartments filled with water. This caused the hull to float too low in the water to effectively bail, even from outside the boat. As soon as I would bail a gallon of water, the rail would dip back under and re-fill. After a little while, a very helpful couple arrived in a motor boat and offered assistance. Since I was not making progress, I gladly accepted a tow to the nearest shore, where another kind rescuer and myself dumped the majority of the water out, and I finished bailing. The only casualty was a few light paint scrapes and my slightly bruised ego.

I was determined to learn as many lessons as I could from this experience. Here is what I came up with:

Before leaving shore, ensure that the hatches are screwed down tight, and everything that could float away is tied to the boat in some way. (I didn't have my bailer tied in, and had to swim for it)

Wear my life jacket with the loud whistle tied to it. (I did this, as I always do, but worth mentioning)

Reef early, reef often. My sail is 70 sq. ft. with battens and a row of reef points. The relatively larger sail is great in light wind, and as my skills improve, will be an asset in moderate wind. Until I have better wind reading ability and more automatic control reactions, it is better if I reduce the size with the reefing.

When heeling too far on a surprise gust or jibe (which really should not be a surprise), it is not enough to just shift my weight to the windward side, and release the mainsheet to dump the wind from the sail. I also need to move the tiller to windward at the same time. A tiller extension is helpful here.

When attempting a self rescue while sailing single-handed, 'lower' the sail, remove the mast while the hull is on its side, re-tie the down haul so that the mast cannot float away, and the mast can act as a sea anchor or possibly an outrigger in rough water. Leaving the mast stepped, without anyone to help steady the boat during bailing caused the hull to continue to roll and re-capsize.

Tie buoyancy bags under the open thwarts to improve freeboard while swamped.

Use a larger bailing bucket. I now have a one-gallon jug with the bottom cut off, and a three-gallon bucket with handle. I will keep both tied into the boat. The smaller one can be used with one hand, but takes longer to remove the water. The larger one is faster, but is more usable when two hands are available.

Use my floating Croakies to avoid losing my sunglasses. I have already lost three pairs of sunglasses to the deep. Now I have learned!

The next time I went out sailing, I took my boat over near a vacant beach, where there was no traffic, and a soft bottom. After making sure that my hatches were tight, I practiced capsizing, righting, re-entering, and bailing the boat single-handedly. I wanted to ensure that I could self-rescue before I ventured out in the open water again.

After I passed my self-rescue exercises, to my satisfaction (and more importantly to my wife's satisfaction), I hoisted the mast and sail, and enjoyed another afternoon of sailing on the lake. This time, with the sail reefed, and much more in control, but still with decent speed and a fun factor of 10+.

In Response to: skerry-capsizing,protect by Christopher Diggins on Jul 27, 2007



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