I capsized my dinghy about a week ago and learned some pretty valuable (and expensive!) lessons from it. Firstly, capsizing the dinghy was something on my list of things that I want to do in sailing. I just wasn't really expecting to do it last Sunday.
Firstly, I was on an inbound lake, winds were W/SW 10-12 knots (a bit overpowered for a 12' Oday Widgeon). I had come out of the dock on mainsail and was basically running with the wind. Knowing that I was nearing the shallows on the far side of the lake I decided that I should probably turn and therefore decided for a port gybe. This is where things went south. Firstly, I have always sailed this dinghy with another person. This time the other person opted to use my kayak instead of joining me on the boat. What I wasn't accustomed to was the fact that 2 people make for a better ballast than 1 person. Sitting on the leeward rail, I now realize that I need to move to the windward side before, or right about at the same time that I haul in my main sail and push the tiller across. Nonetheless, I pushed the tiller across and started hauling in the mainsail to go to port and then I got to thinking "why is the other side of the boat going up.... ".....awww, crap!". At least the water was warm.
I had remembered watching Youtube of how to right your dinghy and therefor I maneuvered around (swimming in a life jacket isn't really possible) to the hull side. Used the centerboard to heft myself up on hull and leaned back on the cb while holding the rail. Ugh. "Isn't the boat supposed to feel my weight and return to the center of buoyancy?". The dinghy just wouldn't right itself.
Fortunately a powerboater came by and asked if I needed a hand. We attached a line to a cleat and he was able to pull the boat right side up. She was absolutely swamped. To make matters worse, somewhere in the tumult, I had lost my tiller
. Between bailing a half swamped boat with no rudder and on the edge of my adrenaline I realized I was probably not going to be able to get her into the dock on my own. I resigned myself to defeat and asked if they would tow me in as well. My crewmate in the kayak found my water bottle and my plastic oar.
After getting towed back to the dock and hauling her out I uncorked the drains and watched about 20 gallons come out. Fortunately nothing more broken. On closer inspection of the rigging I noticed that the top of the mast was caked with mud. It had been buried in the bottom of the lake (shallow lake!) - which is probably why my righting procedure wouldn't work.
The aftermath of this is that I have had a long week of trying to figure out what I have done wrong, sizing up my options for a replacement tiller ($300 from drmarine), and rethinking single handing in my dinghy. Last year I sailed this thing well into the fall believing that capsizing wasn't very possible with 2 people. To say I am gun shy now of going out alone would be quite accurate. Its something that I have wanted to do and can tick off on my sailing bucket list, but its given me alot more to think about and be considerable about in the future.