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Knock Down Drills?

5670 Views 21 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Sabreman
Excuse my paranoia, but last weekend on a perfectly tame day I watched two larger boats (a Catalina 28 and a Benateau 30-something) almost put their spreaders in the water when we were hit with out-flow from a passing thunderstorm. I saw it happening and had barely enough time to douse the genny and point up.... I still cleaned the windows and took on water.

Granted my little cat is really tender, but still I would like to avoid a salvage operation that cost more than my boat.

In a previous thread I posted this link about The Science of ballast and heeling for a Catalina 22 and as you can see from the analysis, anything more than about 70lbs of weight on the midpoint of my mast will keep the boat from righting after a 90 degree heel.

70lbs is not much margin when you consider water in a sail, a crew member hanging on, etc.

So I guess my question is, how do I vet my "knock down" plan. I know its going to happen someday, though I try my best to keep her on her feet. Its not like a MOB or Hove to drill... its more a thought experiment or plan. What things would/have you folks done when the mast is in the water and there is not enough counter torque to right the boat?

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I have never laid a big boat over but I have laid 21 &< over on ocation...

First boat was a mac21..she laid on her side for a good 30 seconds before one of the crew grabed the keel and pulled himself up on it at which time she righted herself with force and with a full mainsail of water and me standing in the sail to boot..I would not worrie about the righting so much..I would worrie about the down flooding.

We almost lost a buckaneer 20 due to that.
Interesting post, MazeRat.

Great link too. Having filled the cockpit a couple times on very windy days,:eek: I can tell you that the first thing to do is to keep your hatchboards in place and find a way to make the cockpit drain faster. I invested in the kit from Catalina Direct that allows you to drill holes in the transom to mount their thru-transom scuppers. They work great, draining the cockpit a whole lot faster than the little factory-mounted drains in the forward end of the cockpit. The instructions in the kit are straightforward, and the tools they send you almost assure a professional result. Mine look great and don't leak into the bilge.:)

Something else I've toyed with is finding a way to fill mast with styrofoam popcorn, or otherwise making it somewhat water-tight by somehow sealing the ends of the mast to limit how fast water can get into and fill the mast. This wouldn't make the mast bouyant enough to keep the boat from turning turtle, but it would slow the ingress of approximately 2.7 cubic feet of water entering the mast. This might at least slow the capsize process long enough for the skipper to regain his wits, and to climb onto the keel to re-right the boat before it's too late. Has anyone else done this?

C22 'Stargazer'
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I seem to remember someone making an automatic inflatable bag for the mastheads of boats that won't self-right.. much like the inflatable collars many of us wear these days.

Put the mast in the water, the bag deploys and prevents turtleing.
I think that was Donald Crowhurst. Not sure you'd want to follow his example...
In a knockdown, the most important thing is to keep water out of the boat. If it fills, it'll sink. When foul weather is expected, the hatchboards should be in place, and all opening hatches should be secured. Also, people often forget to secure the cockpit hatch lids, and, if the lids fly open in a knockdown and the locker fills, it can quickly sink a boat. A padlock or other device should be kept in the hasp at all times.
The only thing you do is keep things like hatches doged closed(fasten them closed) so they cant allow large amounts of water in

On the bigger boat when we get into dicy conditions we use a different lower hatch board that locks into place which keeps water out of the cabin if the cockpit floods

In are last distance race on the J24 it got crazy near the finish and many bigger boats that had failed to reef early got into far more trouble then we did by carrying less sail and being aware of the changing weather
Good idea for a thread. Some real good tips here. Check out from the top of page 151 on the BFS thread for some interesting pics of a boat that got pretty close to this position in last Wednesday's race. The good news is they made it.
I think that was Donald Crowhurst. Not sure you'd want to follow his example...
Yeah... but this was more recent and with today's auto inflating technology it could actually work.
One thing I didn't see mentioned was to place some flotation like a life jacket or throwable flotation device under the mast head should the boat go over and lay on its side. This is standard for small boats like a Blue jay, etc. when going about righting them. THis goes along with getting weight on the keel which was already mentioned. When I first learned to sail way back in 1963, it was on a blue jay and was one of the first things we were tought. I believe on your CAT 22 this might be helpful. Of course, your going to have to getwet, but from what you describe looks like that may be a given anyway, Rick
If I'm offshore and the combination of wind and sea conditions lend themselves to a knockdown (i.e., gusting, 40kts, 10'+ seas), the techniques described by Sailormon6 and tommays are correct.

In summertime situations where thunderstorms are prevalent, we use a watchful eye and are ready to reef or douse at a moment's notice or sooner. Thus, our knockdown plan is to be thoroughly versed in seamanship techniques like reefing and reading the weather. Thunderstorms don't develop instantaneously; there is always enough time to have preventative measures in place, if diligent enough.

Last year we were racing the Maryland Governor's cup and were hit with a succession of thunderstorms. There was a minor debate regarding whether to reef; the go-fast light air racers in the crew wanted full main. I overrode them and put in a single reef....... they thanked me afterward and commented that the boat actually sailed better with the reef. Imagine that!

I don't mean to preach, only to pass along what we do. I really don't think that extra gear aloft (that can fail) is the answer. Diligence is. IMHO, the only place for flotation at the masthead is on a small school boat
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Way back when the earth was young, I suffered a knockdown in my C22 in the vicinity of the slot here on Bay</ST1:p. Pretty intense experience. I echo the advice from previous posters. Lock down the lazarette hatches with hasp hooks. Ours never flew open, but if they did&#8230; Also when things look rough put in the hatch boards and close the slider. When we went in the water came very close to down-flooding into the cabin from the open slider and not the companionway due to it's trapizodial shape. I like the idea of putting in some transom drain holes. We were shin deep in water for a long time once we were righted

The boat will (slowly) come up if there isn't much water collected on top of the sails. You must blow the sheets so water can spill from them and allow the boat to right itself. We had the swing keel lock bolt in place which kept the keel from retracting into the trunk. The natural instinct was for all of us to go to the high side (takes a little courage to go down and release the loaded jib sheet) so our combined weight helped bring the boat up. Needless to say, we were a mess once we came up. Sails flogging, water in the cockpit, lunch, cushions and various articles of clothing floating away, outboard "downed", and a girlfriend rapidly rethinking her options.

<O:pObviously, the best advice is to never get into the predicament in the first place. You really want to replace your 110 jib as the 130 will easily over power the boat. If you have to fly one sail, use the jib as it will twist off easier and spill the wind. The reef in the main does a great job in de-powering it but you will need a small jib to keep the boat pointing and moving. When the wind increases, you want to drop your traveler. My 1972 vintage boat didn't have much of a traveler so I used the vang a lot going to windward. If you do too, ease the vang, in windy conditions as you want to have twist in the main. You also want to move the jib fairleads back as far as you can (again, my old boat didn't have much in the way of fairlead track so I would ease the sheet). And most importantly, sail it like a big dinghy! Don't be afraid to sit on the windward cockpit coaming to do a little weight trim. Good luck and have lots of fun!<O:p
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First I would like to thank everyone for their comments. While I hope to never find myself in such a situation I must agree 100% that diligence at practicing good seamanship is the best preventative.

Here are a few take aways for me personally: (This list may continue to expand I'm sure)

1) Make sure the lazerettes are latched closed before leaving the slip. I generally do this, but have been known to be lazy and forget. Be sure all other hatches are closed and dogged down when underway.

2) I need to build some new crib boards. When I took title to the boat almost 2 months ago it came with a one-piece, homemade companioinway cover. Its heavy and almost impossible to stow. That opening is always wide open. Looks like down flooding is my biggest risk here. This will be a good winter project for in the shop and a top priority. (I do keep the sliding hatch closed however, FWIW).

3) Buy a new working jib (the one that came with the boat is shot) and use the new 135 only in light to moderate air.

4) When we see the thunderheads building, get that first reef in before its needed. I have been known to do this before leaving the slip since mine is a simple system that requires me to go to the mast. Perhaps I should look into a single line kit to make it easy to do while underway so I don't have to go on deck.

5) Keep working on sail trim techniques (ie traveler & genoa car position, vang tension, etc).

6) The keel bolt is always tight before I leave and something I check regularly - keep doing this.

7) I've looked at the thru-transom scupper kit from CD and am now convinced they are a must add this winter as well. Those factory scuppers are slow and easily clogged.

This is not something I have thought about in much detail but has been on my mind a lot lately. For me personally, having a plan of prevention is far more valuable than a plan of "correction" after-the-fact.

Thanks again everyone for your suggestions,
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Note - Usually, the advice for heavy weather is to tighten the vang. This flattens the sail (depowers). You might be able to increase twist a little by tensioning the backstay more (will depend on having sufficient foreward shroud tension). Mostly everything should be tight and flat: Halyards, cunningham, vang, outhaul.

I keep the mainsheet in my hand, uncleated, when things are getting interesting. The C22 really seems more like a dinghy than a keelboat in winds greater than 25 kt!
What would be the best strategy to prevent a knockdown in a C22?

In really high winds would it be best to fly only a single reefed mainsail, or a 110 jib on a Catalina 22?

Would a jib alone cause lee helm, preventing the boat from naturally turning upwind in a blow?

Which direction would be safest in a strong wind with a C22? I know people on here generally recommend running downwind with a drogue, but it seems like the low flat stern of the C22 would pound hard in the oncoming waves, and fill the cockpit quickly.
My father owned a C22 and I worked for a dealer when I was much younger so I know the boat. We sailed out of Ocean City, NJ so the weather could be "robust". A few suggestions:

1. For this boat "high winds" to me goes up to about 20kts. The boat isn't designed to be an offshore vessel. To prevent a knockdown above that range, stay at the dock.
2. If encountering gusty conditions while out, a) reef, b) shorten the jib, c) reef again, d) shorten the jib again. In that order. A roller furler is a great safety item.
3. Quickly ease/release the main when the "big one hits". The boat should flatten right up. Someone said to sail it like a dinghy. True!
4. I like to douse the main and sail with the jib. Yes, there will be a little lee helm, but not overpowering. We sail with jib alone quite often.
5. A drogue is good offshore with enough sea room, but I doubt that will fit the vast majority of C22 circumstances. Keep the head to the wind/waves; don't get fancy.

For the most part our weather is quite predictable; in 40 years of sailing I can't recall a single time that the weather gave me NO notice. With today's technology, we know if bad weather is in the area if we take the time to check. On a boat like the C22, there is nearly always enough time to take precautions. To paraphrase, the time to take action is when you first think of it. And that action is pretty simple - check the weather, sail cautiously, shorten sail early, dump the main, stay pierside if beyond the crew's ability.

In the interest of disclosure, I once went overboard on my dad's successor to the C22 which was a C27. We tried to outrun a thunderstorm and were knocked flat. Lessons learned: a) you can't outrun a storm except by pure luck b) we were negligent, we saw the storm, the knockdown was our fault c) if we'd dropped the main and stayed with the jib (or vice versa) we would have been fine.

Don't mean to preach, just my $0.02.
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Number one most of us have to sail some place when we misjudge the weather and need to stay away from land which makes things like downwind with a drogue and and unlikely option due to lack of space

You most likely skill is leaning how to heave to which still requires space and will not be and option if your close to land (i am almost always close to land )

Heaving to - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And unless your doing spinnaker stuff a knockdown is really pretty hard to do under main and jib without getting caught up in some crazy storm related wind burst ,Rounding up from weather helm would be the most likely outcome and this will just tell you REEF NOW

I can always find out whats going on before i even get in the car

Rounding up - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A J24 like i sail is a tender boat and as the wind speed picks up we can drop the jib and reef the main and sail UPWIND in 25+ knots without a lot of issues and get home fine.

If something really crazy happens then we drop the main completely and hope that outboard starts easy :eek: and it passes real fast
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The "dinghy" thing makes a lot of sense.

My '74 C22 seemed to sail a lot like a dinghy in 25 knot gusts with the full main and 110 jib, as long as we had all 3 crew on the windward rail, and kept the main uncleated to let it out quickly in gusts. We were going about 7.5 knots (hull speed 5.9) on a beam reach, and the leeward rail only went underwater when we didn't sheet out the main fast enough in sudden gusts. We should have reefed the mainsail, but I still need to learn how...
In the interest of disclosure, I once went overboard on my dad's successor to the C22 which was a C27.
Did you survive?:)

Seriously it sounds like an event, what happened?
Did you survive?:)

Seriously it sounds like an event, what happened?
I getting the sense my neighbor Smack may want this story in his BFS thread....


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