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Weekender capsize/recovery kit

Herschel Payne

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Using kayaks and canoes I have always trained in self rescue from a capsize. I was thinking that it would add a lot of safety to the Weekender to have a backup plan in the event of capsize, so I have been thinking of various ways to start and hopefully implement practise next summer.

My first thought is to attach flotation to the top of the mast to ensure the boat does not turtle.

Without destroying the aesthetics I think that a white dock fender screwed onto the mast top would serve this purpose.

Next would be flotation and coming from kayaks I immediately think of air bags.

I think that blow up air mattreses, the kind inflated with a foot pump would work very well as an inexpensive alternative

I would "stuff" one in the front hatch and fill it. It would conform to the hatch and as well act as a cover to keep any loose items from being lost.

The same would be done with the cockpit storage doors.

All this should give more than adequate flotation and at this point I'm hoping that righting the boat would be fairly simple from a side floating position.

I also have an emergency boarding ladder from West Marine and I have already installed a bilge pump in the forward deepest part of the cockpit which works very well, almost like a self draining cockpit.

It would be interesting to hear all your opinions and develop a solid plan.

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If you have a wooden mast this may not be needed. Before you go attaching floatation I would try her on her side and see what happens. . The ceiling of the cabin would be a good spot for floatation foam, though most would begrudge the interior cabin height. If I were building a Weekender I think I would consider a birdsmouth mast with thinner walls sheathed in a fiberglass sock and filled wtih foam. The boat I am building has a aluminum mast. I'm going to wedge half a pool noodle in the top of the mast.

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I totally inverted my Weekender (still not sure how - did the main sheet jam?). All sails set - but the wrong way up! She was quite happy that way, and I climbed up to sit on top of the hull.

I was able to right her using standard dinghy technique, standing on the keel and hanging out off the rub rail (first time, we went right over the top, to lie flat on the side, when I was able to get the main down). Then, with a bit more care, I brought her upright and rolled into the swamped cockpit before she hit vertical.

She was very unstable. I began bailing, then help arrived and I got a tow, rolling a lot, back to dock.

At the time, I had a sealed-off forepeak, and sealed spaces behind the seats. However, the forepeak flooded because somebody (guilty) left the hatch unfastened. I suspect that if she had not had the extra flotation behind the seats (airspace), bailing would have been impossible as she would have had no freeboard.

Since then, I have made the forepeak more watertight, put a flotation bag in the lazarette, and two smaller bags in the lockers under the seats, so there should be flotation fore and aft, which was lacking before. Yes, I think mast-top buoyancy would be very useful - but can I bring myself to have a big blob up there? Perhaps self-inflating buoyancy.

Getting back in was easy, but would not have been if I had been tipped out and she hadn't swamped. I now have a rope stirrup to tie round a stern cleat to give me a foot hold.

I was lucky, it was mild, the water (a reservoir) clean and smooth, not a lot of wind (how did I invert?!). I do not have a lot of experience, and experienced a mildly panicky moment as I discovered myself under the inverted cockpit. Flotation device was marvellous, allowing me to concentrate on righting the craft without having to work at staying afloat.

I left feeling elated - these boats do capsize, but can be righted in the conditions I mention by a single person. But I want to avoid doing it again!

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Jeremy, very interesting, How strong were the winds when you went out? It always pays to be aware of the status of the main sheet at all times.

I'm glad to hear that you could right the boat alone. If you had sufficient flotation and an automatic bilge pump you probably would not have required a tow.

As for reboarding, I always carry an emergency ladder, a compact one that folds to almost nothing but it has solid sides as opposed to rope sides that don't seem to work well from what I've read.

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The biggest automatic bilge pump would take a long time to bail a swamped Weekender, the better part of a 1/2 hour (at least), assuming a 1,500 or 2,000 GPH pump that manages to keep it's inlet clear. A scared skipper and a bucket, is much faster then this.

Masthead devices aren't really worth much. The biggest thing you can do during these events, is know what to expect and how to handle the assorted issues. This is best done with some practice, preferably in calm, shallow, warm waters. The first thing I do in a capsize, if I've failed to quickly re-right her, by jumping out the windward side and hanging on, is to swim out to the end of the mast and tie a PFD or two to the masthead. This prevents the boat from going turtle and you can relax a little as you gather up your floating beer cooler.

Next on the list, is to release the sheets and unfoul lines that might snag the main or jib, causing them to hold water during the righting process. Next is usually a casual swim to find the main halyard (peak on a Weekender), release it and toss it over the windward side. Weather cock the boat so she's head up then grab the halyard and pull, at the same time climbing up onto the keel (or centerboard). Take out the slack and lean back. The boat will slowly lift and you'll need to readjust or go for a swim. Eventually, the boat will come back up, but again it's best to discover what you need to do, before you really need to do it. Lastly, a secluded cove is the best place to practice this as people always want to rescue you when they see a boat on it's side, plus it's much less embarrassing.

Practice things like spinning the boat on her side into the wind, releasing sheets, unfouling the rudder, standing on the keel, climbing back aboard (up the rudder is a good way on a Weekender), etc. You'll discover lots of little things you can do to make life a little easier during a capsize. Always remember to save the beer, other wise it's a 7 year curse on your boat.

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PAR, Thank you for all that excellent feedback and advice. That is what I'm going to practise this spring ( and in a secluded cove )

Also, I am a wine drinker. Is the curse the same??

On another note I have the plans for the vacationer which I'm going to begin this spring. I had read somewhere that you had worked out a modified keel for the Vac.and if so are the drawings for that available to see?

Many thanks again, Herschel

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PAR, thank you for your advice, as ever. I knew a bit of the theory of recovering from a capsize (and have done successful 'dry' capsizes on a sailing course), but as you so rightly say, it's something one wants to practise at a time and place chosen by oneself! In the event, one is left a little shocked and bemused the first time and so experience must be invaluable. I had fully intended to do a drill, but events overtook me. I was indeed making a significant impression on the water level in the boat before help arrived, using a sandwich container that proved a lot more effective than the dinghy bailer I also had to hand! I now have a bucket...

Herschel, there was little wind, perhaps f2-3 with gusts, I've been out in much more with no problems. I would never cleat the main, I can only guess that there was a stronger gust and the sheet jammed in one of the blocks, because I let it fly as the boat spun into the wind. I remember the boom dragging in the water, and trying to climb over the side of the cockpit as it rose up above me! I think we broached?

With your precautions, and PAR's advice, you will be fine. Most people never capsize one of these boats, despite sailing in conditions I would never dare leave dry land in! But it's good to know they are recoverable single-handed - they're just big dinghies!

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I've been carrying a bailer in my boat which is a cut off milk jug. I won't be using that anymore! I'm getting a bucket!!

Another concern is my 2HP Yamaha 2 stroke on the back. Not a good idea to get that wet. Of course I won't have it on for practise, however I'm wondering how that will affect recovery when it is on in a real life situation.

I also carry a spare Minkota 55 lb thrust and 2 batteries. One is located in the forepeak and the other is in the companion way box/seat. I'm going to make sure to keep them well secured so they can't move or be lost in a capize. ( Think inverted )

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