APS Mast float real-world test

Thread starter #1
I got my APS mast floats as an alternative to the Baby Bob last Friday and went out to the Redwood City estuary / south SF bay on Saturday. There was a small craft advisory in place, so I knew it would be windy. It wasn't any stronger than about 15 kts when I was out there though.

I was out by myself, so I used my reef point I had installed on the main set at 2'3" per the handbook. This put the APS floats about 3'-4' down from the top of the mast. I started out on main alone and made it out into the bay, where there were some whitecaps forming. I turned around and headed back in. Everything was fine at that point, but I got a little too confident and decided to deploy the roller-furled jib. Immediately after cleating it on the port side, I noticed that I made a huge mistake because I had tied the mooring line to the left shroud. That was causing the jib sheet to hang up too far forward. I was on a beam reach at the time and it wasn't really causing a problem, but I wanted to fix it in case I had to tack. I couldn't quite reach it to untie the line, so I had to let go of the tiller for a second. I almost had it when the boat turned back into the wind and kept going. The jib backwinded and I was dumped into the water.

The APS floats were working well, even with the boat broadside to the wind, which was pushing down the mast. Since the floats were a ways down the mast, the top of the mast was down deeper into the water. I got the boat turned into the wind and got it righted, but I made my second mistake, which was that I had not released the jib sheet. It took off, and I grabbed my boarding rope ladder and tried to get in. That's when I made my third mistake of not making sure the rope ladder was secured around the retaining piece. This is a pretty cool rope ladder from West Marine, but you do have to make sure it is properly wrapped before stepping on it. It came off in my hand and I watched the boat sail away, backwind again, and capsize again. I swam all the way across the channel after it, until it hung up in the mud on the other side. With the mast partially below the water it really wedged itself in there good, and I couldn't get it back up. I lowered the main and furled the jib and still couldn't get it out of the mud. Then I used the APS mast float to hold the mast up, turned the mast directly toward the wind, and righted it. This time I made sure the rope ladder was attached properly and I got right back in.

I was getting pretty weak by this time because somewhere along the way I got a 12 cm long fairly deep cut in my leg. I don't know how much blood I lost, but I was fighting to stay awake. I was also freezing cold by now. Luckily the water was 67-degrees or it would have been a really bad situation. The APS mast floats were lost in the weeds. I have a 2hp Honda outboard that fired right up and took me back. I was motoring back when I noticed the cut on my leg.

A trip to the emergency room netted me 12 stitches. Other casualties of the day were my new mast floats, my wedding ring (try explaining THAT one), and my Tivas which are stuck in the mud somewhere.

Anyway, the APS mast floats saved the day. I think a Baby Bob would work better for people that sail under a reefed main in strong winds though -- especially if your reefing point is farther up the sail. I have seen some people mention a 48" reefing point, which would definitely bring the mast floats down the mast pretty far. The mast completely filled with water and was very heavy. I might look into the foam idea, but I am a little worried about water getting in there through the various places where hardware is attached, which would make the situation even worse. At least the way it is now it drains out quickly when the boat is back up.

All's well that ends well, but I may be looking to trade my CB model for a Keel model! I mostly single-hand the boat and it's always a challenge in the strong winds we get in the Bay.

Lessons learned:
- Don't tie anything to the shrouds (duh!)
- Don't deploy the jib when single-handing in strong winds
- Release the sheets or bring in the sails before attempting to right the boat.
- Secure the rope ladder properly
- Find a way to temporarily secure the tiller for those times when there is no other way but to let go.
wild day on the bay

Geez skyfree, you really had an adventure! I have sailed a lot in the north bay and can attest to the strong winds and windwaves. I can imagine the sick feeling of watching your boat sail away. I am interested to hear any ideas about securing the tiller while sailing at a reach, but it might make more sense if your jib gets fouled, to heave-to and lash the tiller to leeward if you can, and then go fix the problem. Thanks for posting your experience. I hope you recover soon.
...and I just have to point out that if you have a Tiller Tamer (or some other way to secure the tiller), your boat won't come back if you fall out!

Thanks for the story!

-- Ed
Thread starter #4
The jib wasn't fouled in such a way that I couldn't have just pulled the roller furler line and just pulled it in out of the way -- I was just being stupid! I can reach it easily with the tiller extension, and it only takes one hand to do, whereas untying a line takes 2 hands usually.

I think a tiller tamer is next on my list. Getting the main up when I have to do it out in the water with wind has been difficult. I hear you on the dangers of the tiller tamer, Ed. That thought has occurred to me as well. Seems like everything is a compromise one way or the other when you are sailing. It's a learning process for sure.
A very exciting day on the water, but it sure beats staying home and watching TV.

I had a less exciting day where I too stuck my mast into the mud. After that, I think it's easier dealing with a capsized boat in deep water.

I bought a tiller-tamer last year, but never installed it. I don't think I will install it after reading your story.

Good luck with the wife on the missing ring.

Single-handedTiller Control

To keep my boat going kind of straight while working single-handing a whisker pole, I sometimes use a bungee attached to the forward part of the tiller onto a small loop on a line I placed there, and then to either the hiking straps below or sometimes to the main sail binnacle post. The end of the bungee is easy to connect or disconnect from the tiller. With the wind steady you can steer the boat on a reach or run by shifting your weight with the bungee only holding the tiller. Not sure it would work in very high winds, but I know that if the tiller is free it can turn quickly and cause a quick tack or jibe which gets your weight in the wrong place quickly-- I've dunked that way too though not without help nearby. RK