Home>Rebecca Ann goes over - Part 4
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Rebecca Ann goes over - Part 4 - by Dale Davenport

Dale Davenport Dale (left) and Jay were on their fourth annual cruise in Rebecca Ann (a CY) and Sara (a NY). With crew Doug, and Emma the dog. But it all went very wrong as Dale has described in Parts 1-3.

In this final chapter of the story Dale reflects on just where flotation should be, how the electronics survived and describes a number of changes he has now made to Rebecca Ann.

Has the experience put him off? Is he looking for a bigger boat? Perhaps confining himself to small ponds in the future? Not a bit of it. As he wrote to me a few days ago, "Jay and I are starting to plan for a return to Core Sound in late May. Doug is coming, and Cal who did the Georgia trip with us two years ago." And Emma the dog? Sadly Emma has passed on.

Some thoughts on water on the wrong side of a CY

Flotation Location?

What did we learn from all this about where to put flotation? Before, I had hoped that putting flotation at gunwale level might keep the boat from sinking down if it went over. I have to think that the big dry bag tied high in the bow and the two big fenders aft helped in that regard. However, by the time the bow bag would engage the water, the front end of the boat, lying on its side, would be quite far down in the water. The sleeping platforms, which although lower are also considerably farther off the centerline, would probably do more good in preventing the boat from sinking down so much when at ninety degrees.

I suspect whatever good the flotation did in preventing the boat from sinking down at ninety degrees, when the boat flopped from side to side it must have scooped up more and more water each time. So, when we got the mainsail down and it righted it had all the water it could take, having defeated the benefit of high flotation if any there was.

My thinking now is that I want more low flotation. There has been a view expressed on the Classic Marine website that you can overdo buoyancy. You can read the debate here.

Immersion of the electronics

What did a saltwater bath do to the electronics? If I had demonstrated the presence of mind to immediately flush batteries with fresh water as soon as we crawled up the beach, it might have been better, but I didn't. By the next morning the following had developed orange grunge: the battery pack for the fishfinder; the battery pack for the Standard Horizon VHF, (although the unit still works fine with the rechargeable battery I had back in my truck); the LED headlamp, which was supposed to be waterproof; one of the battery LED navigation lights, although the other one is fine and I may not have screwed the one that failed tight enough; several flashlights; every butane lighter we had, except that later at home I managed to revive a high quality one in my pocket. The Garmin Venture Etrex GPS was the winner of the submersion test. It had not a drop of moisture in the battery area and shows no sign of any problem.

My mobile phone and digital camera were in an Otter Box tied to an aft knee. It was submerged but leaked not a drop. Of course I would have run a big risk taking the phone out to call for help. A non-flip phone in a dry bag probably would be better, but it wouldn’t be as protected as in the box. On the other hand, what good is a protected, unusable mobile phone?

Also, I note that since the alkaline battery tray for the Standard Horizon 260 VHF leaked enough to ruin the AA’s, obviously it wasn’t working once it leaked. It doesn’t do much good if the unit itself is waterproof if the power supply shorts out.

Changes made to Rebecca AnnSecured like this, it couldn't have floated away

Well, first and foremost given what happened at Lookout Bight, I have a short lanyard on my new rudder that secures it to the boat.

I bought two more very large fenders and have secured them along the outside of the aft gear boxes. This gives more low flotation.

To allow the boom the needed slack to move it forward, I adjusted the downhaul so that the maximum length of line can rise above the partner when the downhaul tackle is loosened. This lets me shove the boom forward, which due to the balanced lug geometry is necessary to fully drop the yard when the foresail is fully reefed.

I bought a halyard hook from Classic Marine, so I can very quickly release the yard from the line. This lets me get the foresail all the way down, out of the wind.

I enlarged the dumbsheave so the splice can go into it, Halyard hook, partner camcleat and turning block on a tailallowing the hook to move farther up.

Now here is a longwinded explanation for something that is fairly simple in use. One substantial deficiency I identified was the need to uncleat the foresail halyard at the partner, in order to drop the sail and get the power off the boat in a hurry. That meant somebody had to go forward and uncleat the halyard from a horn cleat or belaying pin. To avoid this, I cut a notch in the aft side of the partner so the halyard can come down from the masthead into the notch. Lined up below the notch is a camcleat.

Notch in the partner with camcleat belowWhen I raise the foresail I temporarily cleat the halyard in the camcleat. From the camcleat the halyard is reeved through a single block on a tail that is tied to a padeye on the planking. After I get the sail up, I tighten the downhaul so that the aft end of the boom rises up, and get the boat sailing and under control, I then can pull the slack out of the halyard, pulling on it from my helmsman position back of the trunk. Before I do that, I loosen the downhaul some but not completely. As the halyard becomes taut on my side of the single block, it raises the block up in the air, pulling it against the tail that goes to the padeye. I experimented with the location of the padeye and the length of the tail, so that just L: turning block; R: downhaul pulled down tightbefore the halyard is completely taut it snaps out of the camcleat and lines up just aft of the partner. It also is at just the right height to make the horizontal run of the halyard clear the center bench and trunk top.

To finally cleat the halyard I fixed another camcleat on top of the trunk. As I tighten the halyard the last few inches, I cleat it on that camcleat, before it snaps out of the partner camcleat. That is the last step, and at that point the halyard is running down alongside the mast to the single block, which turns the halyard’s direction so it can come aft to the top on the trunk to the camcleat there. To prevent accidental release from that camcleat, I fixed two short horizontal brass rods an inch or so fore and aft of the camcleat, with the rods open on opposite sides. I have to zig-zag the halyard under both of them to reach the camcleat. The rods reduce the chance of inadvertently kicking the halyard loose and dropping the yard.

But, it takes only a second to grab the halyard and move it under and away from the rods, popping it out of the camcleat. Halyard path:  notch, cleat, block, cleat with rod guardsAt that point, if I let fly the halyard, the yard and sail drop like a rock.If I loosen the downhaul, too, and push the boom forward, the yard will come on down to the gunwale level even if the sail is reefed.

This arrangement lets me get back to the helm after raising sail without having to spend a few seconds cleating off the halyard while the boat sometimes is sailing herself. More important, it really works when I want to drop the foresail in a hurry.

Although it was a mistake at Cape Lookout to drop anchor, I realizedthat being able to get an anchor out quickly is important. I now have the 5T Danforth on a short length of chain, which together with the line is fifty feet long. The anchor is clipped next to the motor well, with the rode led forward on thumbcleats to a horn cleat near the bow. I can unsnap the Danforth and drop it overthe side with one hand from the helm, and estimate pretty well where the boat can go.Rode running from bow cleat through thumbcleats below inwale and on to the anchor by the motor well

In my capsize incident I benefited from having much of the gear and equipment well secured. (Two other things we did right were (a) wear the PFD’s and (b) use dry bags. Those should be so obvious to any reader who plans a trip away from easy third-party assistance that I haven’t even mentioned them up to now.) Henceforth, everything will be tied down. I have installed over a dozen bronze snaphooks.

As to electronics, Standard Horizon now has a US$100 VHF with a waterproof alkaline pack, and I bought one as my primary unit. I junked the fish finder/depth sounder. The more I sail the more I believe that I can learn more from looking outside the boat rather than watching electronics. I bought a marine flashlight and another headlamp; both look like they may actually be waterproof. I bought a flint and steel.

Detail of guarded camcleat on trunktop.  Line also goes under aft guard rodOne final change is planned, having to do with crew training. I have never educated my crew like I could. Over the years, the same people do return for more of these trips. Taking the time to teach them is a compliment I have inappropriately never paid them. While being able to drop the foresail from the helm is very important, having a crewman who knows how to do is even better. We plan to return to Core Sound this year, and this time I intend to fully utilize our very capable human resources.

Final Thoughts

There were some very good things about that trip. First, we learned a lot, more than on trips when things went better. Second, while it’s nice to have good traveling companions any time, it’s even better to have folks around you who pull together, don’t complain and keep their sense of humor in adverse circumstances. So in that way the trip was the best we’ve had.

On behalf of all readers I'd like to thank Dale for sharing this all with us. For collecting his thoughts, crafting a most educational and readable story, and taking the photos to illustrate it. And good luck with Core Sound this year. Nick

Rebecca Ann's hull was built by Geoff Kerr. Dale Davenport fitted her out and did all the finishing work. You can learn all about her here.
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