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post #3 of Old 07-25-2001
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Sailing a C-15 Singlehanded

I realize this is an old message but, perhaps for the benefit of others, I wanted to share a few thoughts. First I should make clear I don''t have any personal experience sailing let alone righting a C-15, however, based on similar boats an adult male who is in reasonable shape shouldn''t have too much difficulty righting such a boat under most conditions. Many others should be able to manage without trouble too.

The best technique is usually to get leverage on the centerboard if you can. If the boat hasn''t gone turtle this just means swimming around to the centerboard side and grab hold. Do so quickly if you have the chance as the boat might still soon go turtle. The boat should easily right.

If the boat has gone turtle it can be more difficult but shouldn’t be too much of a concern on such a boat. First make sure the sheets are free. This will help ensure that the sails don''t resist your righting attempt and that the wind won''t catch your sails and knock the boat down again.

You will normally have to get on top of the bottom of the boat. This and getting back in the boat can be the most difficult part. If you have a sturdy fitting near the stern you might carry and tie off a small piece or rope that you can make into a loop to use as a toehold to give you a boost up. Study your boat to see what you might be able to do in this regard because it can make righting many boats much easier. This also brings up one more good reason to wear a life jacket. It will help float you a little higher in the water making it just a little easier to pull yourself up.

Once on the boat you can usually get a handhold on the centerboard and pull it out if it has dropped into the trunk provided that it isn''t cleated in the up position. If necessary you can try swimming under to release it or lock it into the "down position" (pointing up) if you can''t get a handhold from on top of the boat and the design permits it. If you can get the board out just hang on while leaning outward (take advantage of any wave action) and eventually it should start to break free and come up out of the water. This may take a while and at first it might seem like the thing isn’t going to budge. If you are lucky you can scramble into the cockpit as the boat rights using the centerboard as a step or sorts. If not usually you will want to pull yourself in near the center of the boat by grabbing hold of the hiking straps or something. Sometimes you can pull yourself in at the stern but with most designs this is much harder. Again a small piece of rope with a loop for your foot tied to something in the cockpit (e.g., to the hiking strap) can make all the difference in the world.

If you can''t get a hold of the center board one technique that is sometimes suggested is to take the painter and wrap it around the outer shroud and lean outward on the opposite side of the boat while pulling. Using the trapeze line as suggested might be an excellent variant on this idea since it will give you extra leverage. In some cases you might need to attach extra line to make it long enough so that you can stand on the far edge of the boat.

Look through any good small boat sailing book and there should be a section on capsize and righting techniques. Study these and think about ways that you might use an extra rope or existing line as a toehold. If you can practice while you have help standing by you can figure out what problems you might encounter and develop confidence that you can handle a capsize on your own. Just make sure you have enough water, as you do not want to risk damaging your mast by getting it stuck in the muck. Getting the mast stuck is also a good way to make self-rescue difficult or impossible.

Besides taking steps to ensure you don’t capsize in the first place the next best bet is to ensure you don’t turtle if you do capsize since this can be problematic with some boat designs or if the mast gets stuck in the bottom. To help guard against turtling sailors of small centerboard boats should give serious consideration to getting a floatation panel and using it always if there is any concern about righting their turtled boat. A flotation panel is basically two panels of custom fit high-density flotation sewn together on two or three sides that fits over the top of your main sail. It gets pulled up the mast with the mainsail and is intended to prevent the boat from going turtle under most conditions. With a price tag of between $100 to $200 dollars on the surface it may seem rather pricey but in many cases it seems well worth it. I use one on my Johnson 18 and because I am concerned about righting the boat if it goes turtle, especially by myself, I wouldn’t sail without it. For a C-15 or similar a floatation panel would probably be around $100.

Sorry about the length. Hope this helps.
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