Ann goes over - Part 3 - by Dale Davenport
finally made it to the beach where we anchored in the shallows,the
boats bucking high in the wind and waves. Laboriously we offloaded
the gear to the sand. We found a hollow in between the dunes where
some debris indicated previous camps. We put up the tents and
Dale (left), crew Doug, and Emma the dog aboard the CY Rebecca
Ann, the breezy passage had become a near disaster when they capsized
in 25 knots or more of wind amidst a short nasty sea kicked up
by a shoal. Jay, in the Ness Yawl Sara, had safely cleared it
but turned back to help with the rescue. Fortunately, the water
was shallow and warm. Despite a strong current they were able
to recover most of their gear. However amidst the confusion they
lost the rudder. They eventually rowed back to the distant beach
despite a strong cross sea and wind. It was only mid-afternoon,
but they were exhausted. Dale
takes up the story:
heard later that we attracted a crowd watchingfrom the shore:
the volunteers, a flock of kayakers and the construction team.
They debated sending a rescue party, but noted that we were out
for adventure, had found a good one and were not requesting help.
return shortly to discuss lessons learned and ideas gleaned from
this episode, but let me finish up the travelogue in short order.
it turned out, the Monday afternooncapsize spelled
the effective end of our sailing on that trip. We dried out and
salvaged gear,got the motor working, tried unsuccessfully to build
a rough, workable rudder out of constructionleftovers and motored
ten miles the next day on the shortest route back to where we
got the name of a wooden boat builder on Harkers Island who could
make a rudder for me, and we ordered the rudder. We spent the
interim tossing out ruined gear and mending what was repairable
and picked up the rudder the next day. It looked to be of doubtful
on first sight and the winds were rising on the coast without
hope of respite for what was then left of our annual sailing week.
We weren't about to try our luck in thirty knot winds with a suspect
rudder and a lashed mast gate.
we headed inland to the Neuse River, hoping for some sunny, ten-knot
sailing on flat water where we could check things out. A guy we
met in a fast food parking lot en route steered us to Graham Byrnes,
co-designer of the
Core Sound 17 (and now the Core Sound 20), who owns some land
on a Neuse tributary. Graham and Carla let us camp there and he
showed us his personal CS17 in which he had just won the WaterTribe
Everglades Challenge a month or so before (going 12 miles
offshore). We tried to sail to the campsite. Unfortunately the
small craft weather warnings followed us inland from the coast;
my new rudder was a disaster and the rigging repairs were inadequate.
Meanwhile Jay had cut his mast lashings to transport his boat
and now used another method to fix the mast. It didn't work. Sara's
tiller had also broken during Monday's excitement and he had lashed
his boathook to the remaining stub, which wasn't entirely satisfactory.
Also Sara's 30-year old Tufnol mainsheet block had finally broken.
A malicious thunderstorm chased us as we motored and towed up
the river further dampening our gear. We realized the shock of
the capsize was wearing off when the coffee began to taste too
salty even by our low standards. Some things we could cope with,
but salty coffee really bugged us. We were whipped. Even Emma
voted to surrender.
got out of there on Friday morning and hightailed it back to Virginia.
In 1718 the pirate Blackbeard was cornered near Ocracoke and lost
his head in a battle with Virginia colonials. Like Blackbeard,
we were defeated, but they only brought his head to Virginia,
so we did a little better. Of course, our errors and omissions
were considerably less spectacular.
1: What caused it?
back to the more interesting issues. Let me hit one quickly to
start with - what technically and specifically caused the capsize?
My best guess is that with the high wind opposed to the strong
current at the edge of the shoal, when we headed up directly into
the wind, the current pushed the stern around, we were pushed
past the anchor, ran out of the short scope of the rode, and the
anchor turned the bow around. So we headed downwind and perhaps
then jibed around the anchor. But I am not really sure.
mistakes were made? First, we treated the last leg of the day's
journey, from the lee shore where we stopped for lunch to our
intended destination on the opposite shore where we hoped to camp
in the shelter of the dunes, as the same trip we began that morning.
We didn't focus on the wind strength at the time we began the
leg. We didn't review the chart, we only used it as a table cloth.
The pool behind Cape Lookout is a hurricane hole according to
the Coast Pilot, but it has known shoals in some areas. My GPS
tracklog places the wreck right at Chart Note E, which warns of
our rigging was such that we couldn't tack. Why was that, with
my two reefs and Jay's three and both mizzens furled? We both
have tacked endlessly on other days with two reefs and mizzens
furled in 20 knot winds. What was different on May 15, 2006 in
the waters inside Cape Lookout? It may have been the current.
The current was shockingly strong at least along the shoal where
Doug and I were swimming against it.
On my boat, I am embarrassed to say that I had not looped my halyard
through the parrel grommet when I tied to the yard. On the port
tack I was on, the halyard had pushed the grommet up the mast
past the yard and the yard was standing out from the mast. Why
had I failed to tie it in? First sail of the season, and it's
a hassle to do. In other words, no excuse, sir. You do have to
give the boom downhaul a foot or two of slack so it moves way
forward, in order to get a double reefed main yard up to the mast
at the tie-in point on the yard. This is hard to explain or visualize.
My downhaul has a three part purchase, which is nice for that
all-important luff tension, but the running block doesn't allow
much slack to move the boom forward. At any rate, it's no wonder
I couldn't get around off port tack. Whether I could have made
it by the wind if I had been properly rigged, I don't know. I
am bothered by Sara's inability to tack, since we have sailed
together for many days and I know how similarly the boats behave.
I should have immediately slashed the halyard, at least after
we went over the first time. I always have a knife on a lanyard
for that purpose. I successfully got it out of my wet pocket,
opened it one-handed it and cut the line, but it was just too
late. It was too late because I was too cheap to quickly sacrifice
a perfectly good halyard when things went wild and we were still
upright, and because I forgot what I knew to do once we went over.
I followed my first impulse when we hit the water, which was to
turn the boat upright. That is folly with a sail still up a mast.
When you get the boat up, it goes right over again.
though, and in an overriding sense, my mistake was overconfidence.
Two or three years ago I would have stayed on the shore after
lunch - pulled the boat along the beach and found a good camping
spot. A few years of pushing my own limits slowly and fairly carefully
evolved into not knowing when to stop.
to technical issues: Jay and I wonder if we should move the tie-in
point on the yard forward (down the yard) the more we reef, to
move the CE aft and keep more weather helm. Did we - and really
this applies to Sara, since with my flying yard I interjected
another factor - give it lee helm, and make it too tough for the
boat to move through the eye of the wind? Especially with some
stiff chop like we encountered?
did the CY behave as it capsized? When it first went over, it
was fairly slow, maybe three seconds. It didn't just slam over
in an instant like a sailing canoe. I don't think it took on too
much water the first time. The centerboard slot was high up when
she went over to port at first and I swam around the stern to
pull her back up. I think that each time she went over she picked
up more water, taking it on and going lower and lower each time.
I believe it turned five times, but maybe just three. At any rate,
when it was full and along the bar it was impossible to move.
If you think a CY without special flotation will just pop up half
dry you are wrong, at least if if the boat has flopped back and
forth a few times. The water temperature was 20C/68F according
to the fishfinder.
if we hadn't come to rest along the bar? That's a scary question.
Some of us have talked on this forum about doing a swamp test
under controlled conditions. In a way, we did. We even had authentically
high winds and pretty good waves, albeit not ocean waves. Without
the bar supporting her on her port side, would she have taken
on more water? She wasn't filled to the brim. Would she have rolled
unstably when we tried to bail her out? I don't think she would
have taken on more water. I think she reached an equilibrium of
flotation and was more in the posture of pressing her side on
the bar than totally resting her bottom on the bar. But I could
be wrong. Jay points out that she was floating, but floating like
a full bathtub.
one person bail out the boat? I am not sure they could. The challenge
is best expressed in terms of pints per second, rather than gallons
per hour. If it takes an hour, or even fifteen minutes to get
the level down, you aren't going to make it. Having had very limited
experience in either sailing or bailing before getting my CY,
I see now that I bought a lot more pump than I need - an Edson
17 gpm model. No harm in it, either, but the bigger pump is not
the answer in a capsize. That volume just won't clear the water
faster than it comes in. You have to take out a couple of gallons
each stroke, using a bucket, and you have to do maybe twenty strokes
a minutes for a short while. (Jay says a lot faster than that:
fast as you can for longer than you thought possible, but then
he had the big bucket. My advice is to give a visiting captain
or at least crew the big bucket.) The pump is useful to get the
last three inches or so, but I doubt a manual pump is available
that would have enough volume to beat the inflow. In other words,
you don't need the world's greatest pump to clear out the relatively
few gallons sloshing in the bottom of the boat. What you need
is a way to move a lot of water very quickly but it only needs
to be done for a few minutes. So tie in your bailing bucket. In
fact, tie in two buckets. And take no chances if you sail alone
or have a motor well that lets more water into the boat. That
is of course easier said than done.
flotation did we have in her and what good did it do? I have the
four sleeping platforms described elsewhere on this forum. Those
are two skins of luan sandwiching one-inch blue foam, cut into
strips and webbed back together. Each stack is about five by eight
by twenty-six inches. Figure four cubic feet of flotation for
the four of them together. They were tied under the side seats.
They were under water and they stayed where they were tied throughout.
and large, that was the only flotation that did any good. The
big dry bag with the tentage in it is tied in high in the bow.
It must have gone in the water and perhaps played a role in the
boat not turning turtle. However, I think the masts would have
accomplished that. Both of them are hollow and both stayed in
their steps. Even on the first roll when the hull was high I don't
think there ever was any risk of the masts going straight down.
They were good flotation and far out. Either could have come out,
because the mizzen halyard cleats to the mast and I cut the main
halyard. If they both came out, or even the mainmast came out,
the boat may have turtled. Should both masts should be secured
in their steps and partners? I tend to think so; Jay says it would
be best to get the entire rig down, lash them in, bail and then
re-rig after regrouping. Of course you cut your security lines
after a capsize and satisfy both goals.
were four 55 liter dry bags in the boat - these are about eleven
inches by maybe thirty inches. Two of them were strapped on top
of the forward bench. Two others were tied in at one end, but
floated with the water. The two on the bench were partially under
water, but they could have been tied to the floorboards. With
the boat filled with water the two on the bench probably helped
float her some, but if they had been tied lower, they would have
made a lot more difference.
three gear boxes were tied in loosely and floated two or three
inches above the floorboards. They were not sealed, though, and
filled with water. Some of the contents are sealed and provided
some flotation. The food was in an ice chest. It was not tied
in, but it did have a ratchet webbing strap around it. It turned
over within its space in the boat, but stayed in the boat. It
took on some water, but not a lot and most of the food was okay,
sealed or not.
had two big fenders cleated along the gunwales just aft of the
aft bench. They probably helped keep the boat higher in the water
as it went over.
pretty much sums up what was in the boat that had the possibility
of providing flotation. Boiled down, the four sleeping platforms
were the only clear contributors to buoyancy beyond what an empty
wooden CY has naturally. The two dry bags secured on top of the
forward bench added some buoyancy, to the extent they were in
the water, which was probably about halfway.
has all led me to reflect on what happens when water gets inside
a Caledonia Yawl, and changes I'd make now with hindsight. But
sorry, you're going to have to wait for Part 4 to read about them.