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W3ODF 06-08-2013 02:32 PM

Dinghy Capsize
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 :mad:. 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.

Stay safe!

deltaten 06-08-2013 04:34 PM

Re: Dinghy Capsize
Simply apply the lesson learned and move sooner/quicker ? ;)
$300 for a tiller?? Holy Cow, that's steep! T'were it me, I'd make one out of *something*, just ta pi$$ off the drmarine guy, and THAT one would have a security cable/tie.
Ya learn from mistakes; not success'. Good that it's a dink, a waist deep warm lake and really!.... parts. Better there than out to sea on a $150K boat and have yer first "whoopsie" happen! ;)
Best...and keep sailin',

lajimo 06-08-2013 05:22 PM

Dinghy Capsize
Agree with the previous reply - make your own tiller or get one from eBay. It sounds to me that you should make it a point to do a good amount of singlehanded sailing and acquire the necessary experience so that you can easily do controlled gybes in those kinds of conditions. As a safety precaution any dinghy sailor should also have experience righting the boat after a capsize. Practice that too!

deniseO30 06-08-2013 08:48 PM

Re: Dinghy Capsize
you could do what many dink sailors do... Plan on being wet as part of the fun, I don't know if it's effective, but I've read of foam filled masts. and some even have a float on the mast head even though I'm sure the latter would cause windage problems

here's some fun!
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beachmont 06-09-2013 07:19 AM

Dinghy Capsize
I have seen a lot of catamarans that have a float ball on the top , I think a foam filled mast would be heavy ,

BentSailor 06-13-2013 03:42 AM

Re: Dinghy Capsize
We've had folks that hook a small plastic milk bottle to the top of the mast (or tied to the near the peak of the main). You're obviously not going to get the fastest times out of your boat doing that, but I'm not a big racer so my experience comes from that angle. The floatation it provides won't stop the boat from turtling in a high wind, but it sure helps otherwise :)

One of the key things I've found (we too have a shallow lake) is that you need to get around to the centreboard quickly before the dinghy completely turtles. As soon as that mast gets stuck in the mud, you're generally $#%& out of luck (and I've seen masts broken/cracked by trying to bounce the boat upright after mast embeds itself in the muck).

FinallySailing 06-13-2013 04:13 AM

Re: Dinghy Capsize
Is it only the tiller you've put into Davy Jones' locker or the complete rudder assembly ? I wanted to know what's so special that they charge you $300 for it and checked out the DR Marine website:

The tiller indeed is "only" $33. If you've lost the complete assembly - ouch :mad: !

BentSailor 06-13-2013 04:20 AM

Re: Dinghy Capsize
Yeah, losing the rudder box is a real @#$% and might explain the cost (is this the case?). If it's just the tiller itself, someone handy in the toolshed could easily whip up one for far less than $300.

On our dinghy, we use a keyring threaded through pintle to stop the rudderbox from slipping off in a capsize. Saw someone lose a new rudder by not doing something similar. Not sure how the ODay's rudder is setup though, so YMMV.

W3ODF 06-13-2013 08:12 AM

Re: Dinghy Capsize

Originally Posted by FinallySailing (Post 1043490)
Is it only the tiller you've put into Davy Jones' locker or the complete rudder assembly ? I wanted to know what's so special that they charge you $300 for it and checked out the DR Marine website:

The tiller indeed is "only" $33. If you've lost the complete assembly - ouch :mad: !

Yeah it was the tiller and rudder assembly that deep sixed. I've though of piecing it together or building a homemade jobby. But someday I'd like to trade up in boats - and having less homemade would be better for resale.

jimgo 06-13-2013 09:23 AM

Re: Dinghy Capsize
Regarding the rudder:
a) if you do a good job, no one will know it was homemade;
b) a first-time buyer is looking for a rudder, not a professionally-built rudder;
c) if money is a problem, make one and start saving up for the "real" thing; and
d) if you really don't want to make one, check eBay and Craigslist. You may need to move the pintles but I'm sure you can find something that will, at the very least, tide you over.

Regarding the rest of your experience:
welcome to dinghy sailing! That's what happens with small boats. You learned a lot of very good lessons. If you decide to go with a mast float, I've heard of everything from tying some empty milk jugs to the mast to going with manufactured floats like or this one.

From a bigger perspective, I would not let this experience stop you from singlehanding. You are correct, you need to adjust your weight as the sail moves. Your position fore and aft, as well as laterally, make a huge difference in how a dinghy sails. Your boat probably weighs somewhere in the 200-400lb range. So, if you're an "average" guy, when you are aboard you increase the boat's weight by somewhere between 50% and 100%. Envision your boat as a see-saw (or teeter-totter) where the pivot point is around the centerline of the boat. On one side of the see-saw is your rear end, and on the other side is the sail which is full of wind. The sail balances out your weight (or vice versa). As the sail approaches the centerline of the boat, all of the "weight" (or, more correctly, the forces) shift from being somewhat balanced to being highly unbalanced as all of the forces are on one side of the see-saw. If you stay aware of the sail and pretend your body is the mirror image of the sail, and you'll help keep it from going over. It's not a 100% guarantee, but that's the easier way to do it. When your friend was aboard, I assume he sat on the opposide side of the boat as you. The see-saw in that case was never completely unbalanced, that's why you had a more "stable" ride.

More importantly, though, why gybe? In my admittedly limited experience, that typically involves much more signifcant forces and much faster movement than a tack. Stick to (mostly) tacking as you single-hand, and life is simpler.

None of this is a reason to not single-hand.

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