Capsize Preparation

Someone in another thread asked me to elaborate on preparing for a capsize.  It is way off topic for that thread, so I'm starting this one.  I'm no expert, but I have recently survived a capsize in a fully rigged Skerry.

"Hooper, can you please elaborate on how to be prepared for a capsize?

I worry about capsizing. Dunno why since I've done canoe camping for years in a tandem canoes and they can't be self-righted without getting to shore first. Never tipped one of those."


I'll try, John, but almost any other source would be more authoritative.  A sail and oar boat has a lot more pieces than a canoe.  You have to account for all of those, both in capsize preparation and recovery.

-   Wear a pfd.  In this case, I never felt the need to inflate mine, but I           was glad I had it.

-   Secure every little thing to the boat.  I know this from white- water canoeing and practice it diligently.  Even so, I lost one of four oarlocks and the glasses off my face.  You have to think about it.  It's not enough to loosely tie a light line to something.  Think about the heavy forces of water trying to separate that item from the boat.  That's what you're preparing for.  Items to secure to the boat should include your oars, oarlocks, rudder, tiller, etc., etc.   If you carry an anchor, you don't want it to deploy while the boat is upside down and you don't want to lose it, either.

-          Likewise, waterproof and secure all personal effects to your body.  My keys, wallet and cellphone were zippered into my pockets.  My wallet was in a zip lock bag, but the bag failed.  You get funny looks when you hand a cashier soggy money.  My cellphone is waterproof and that feature got a thorough and successful test.  I'm so used to wearing glasses that I forgot about those until I realized I couldn't tell how far I was from shore.  Luckily, I have a good replacement source for glasses.

-          You need a way to bail out the boat (redundancy is good here) 

-          Most importantly, you need to drill ahead of time.  On a warm calm day go out and turtle your fully rigged boat.  You will learn how your particular boat behaves when capsized, be reminded about things you have not thought about and get to practice the best technique for you to use with your boat in a self- rescue.  I think the Skerry is designed to float with the dagger board trunk above the water level when swamped.  I've read several accounts where this was not the case.  Apparently, the way it is built, rigged and packed can easily upset that buoyancy.  You need to know whether or not your boat will need additional buoyancy with its rigging and payload.  You can't bail if the dagger board trunk is below the water level. (it would also be very hard to swim it to shore fully rigged and full of water)  Some people have made arrangements to plug up the dagger board opening in this situation.  You also need to know how you're going to get back into the boat.  Based on weight, agility, swimming ability, upper body strength, etc., different people use different techniques.  If you will need some sort of ladder, you need to practice stowing, deploying and using it.        


I'm sure this is a partial list off the top of my untrained head.  Hopefully, other people will add to it.


4 replies:

« Previous Post       List of Posts       Next Post »

RE: Capsize Preparation

Thanks Hooper. It looks like the NE Dory floats with its dagger board opening above water level, at least according to a video you'll find on YouTube by searching "Northeaster Dory Capsize Test"

Click Show More to see some interesting observations by the OP. One interesting remark is that a Javex bottle bailer is not going to be fast enough.

I do know that in the world of canoe / kayak there is not a concensus on the best practice for lashing dry bags to the boat or not. On one hand, tied down they might add buoyancy. On the other they add weight and make it harder to right the boat. 

RE: Capsize Preparation

   The fact that that Northeaster Dory floats with it’s trunk up doesn’t mean yours will.  You should rig it, put your gear in it and try it.  Then if it doesn’t, you can figure out what kind of floatation to add or how to plug the opening.  It’s too late after an unintended swamp.  

If I want to keep it, I lash it down.  If I need it to get home, I definitely lash it down.


RE: Capsize Preparation

   I took a sailing course this summer where we did a capsize drill in the skerry, lessons I learned were bulk heads should be sealed (I did not bother for some reason) and you NEED a bailing scoop or something else to get water out. Other than that it was relatively easy to get the boat right side up again.

RE: Capsize Preparation

I can share some experience on a few different boats which reinforces the need for prep.  Every summer, we would hit a nice warm lake and do righting practice on our Hobie.  We had a Getaway, so it was pretty heavy.  My 200 pounds was barely enough, so I used a water bag over my shoulder.  If my girlfriend was with me, I'd give her a piggy back ride.

On my Eastport pram, I got swamped during a Duck Dodge race and was able to keep the rig and boat together while treading water next to the boat (yes, I was wearing a PFD).  However, pulling myself over the gunwale let in so much water that once I was in the boat the rails were 2" below the water, making bailing/self rescue impossible.  Luckily, a larger sailboat came over and hauled my entire rig up on deck with a halyard.  There may have been a small hole in one of my buoyancy tanks, which I wouldn't have know about until I needed it.  I have since purchased two 45 pound Holt flotation bags for Optis.

In summation, prep and practice.  The colder the water is the more important it is for you to be able to self rescue quickly.  Oh, I almost forgot that on my Laser, you could stand on the daggerboard to pop the boat upright and climb back in while it was righting.  For some reason, I tend to be sailing a lot where the water is around 50° (e.g. San Francisco, Seattle, etc.).  I might need to change that...

« Previous Post     List of Posts     Next Post »

Please login or register to post a reply.