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Attaching a sheet to one's PFD for safety

Thomas Wilson

New Member
I read in Dinghy Ownership by Geoffrey Nightingale that one should, for safety while single-handing or otherwise, attach a mainsheet, or other sheet secured to the dinghy, to one's lifejacket, in the event of becoming separated from the boat. I would be concerned of getting tangled perhaps though in the close quarters. Any thoughts?
 

old n cranky

New Member
I read in Dinghy Ownership by Geoffrey Nightingale that one should, for safety while single-handing or otherwise, attach a mainsheet, or other sheet secured to the dinghy, to one's lifejacket, in the event of becoming separated from the boat. I would be concerned of getting tangled perhaps though in the close quarters. Any thoughts?
I would never do that . The last thing I want in the event of a capsize is a rope attached to (or around me ) . If you ever fall out of a dinghy (to windward, leeward, or even over the stern), the boat will typically head to weather in seconds. If you can't swim that short distance back to the boat , I would probably recommend staying on land. I guess if you are soloing across the Atlantic , you want that rope attached. But if you are sailing in a bay , river or lake , I don't agree.
 

Thomas Wilson

New Member
Thanks for the advice!

I was concerned about sailing alone in Pamlico Sound at Ocracoke Island, NC (while staying within 1/2 mile of the shoreline) but getting hit unexpectedly by some large swells and being knocked off the boat. Nightingale is likely referring to larger, wooden dinghy's (his book was written in 1956) with considerably more inertia, and also is describing sailing in the open sea off England, as well as in its protected waters.

Question however from a novice - if one is sailing with lee-helm (ill advised) instead of weather helm by accident, perhaps the Sunfish wouldn't head to weather unmanned??
 

old n cranky

New Member
I have been separated from my Sunfish many ways in many conditions (mostly racing ) . Usually the boat goes head to wind quickly (if it stays upright) . If it sails on it's own , that is a fluke . In that case , you might have to swim 40-50 yards to catch up with it . The boat won't go far without someone on the tiller no matter how you sail her . Wear a modern PFD , of course. I had a bad experience capsizing with a belted life jacket years ago. PFD's no longer have belts (for good reason) . If you are talking Sunfish , I don't ever want a line on me . My other advice , always check the weather reports before heading out . Summer squalls can ruin your whole day!
 

Thomas Wilson

New Member
I have been separated from my Sunfish many ways in many conditions (mostly racing ) . Usually the boat goes head to wind quickly (if it stays upright) . If it sails on it's own , that is a fluke . In that case , you might have to swim 40-50 yards to catch up with it . The boat won't go far without someone on the tiller no matter how you sail her . Wear a modern PFD , of course. I had a bad experience capsizing with a belted life jacket years ago. PFD's no longer have belts (for good reason) . If you are talking Sunfish , I don't ever want a line on me . My other advice , always check the weather reports before heading out . Summer squalls can ruin your whole day!
Understood - thanks. Nothing like the voice of experience. No sheet on me then after checking for good weather.

I think Nightingale's dinghies also in some cases, included a jib, so they could keep sailing away. I get it that not the case then with the Sunfish.
 

fhhuber

Member
Generally with the sunfish, if you fall off, the boat is on its side or inverted and not going far.

The Vagabond I am sailing now could easily pop back up after ejecting the occupant(s) and yes, if the jib is up it can turn and sail off downwind.
 

Webfoot1

Active Member
The boat sailing by itself requires the sheet to be cleated and the
goose-neck set for zero weather-helm, two things that should
not be done on a Sunfish. If the weather is rough enough to worry
about separation your into another type of sailing. Wearing
a life jacket is your number one defense. Years ago I remember Consumer Reports
rating the Butterfly a zero for sailing away on it's own. I guess it could happen
if the sheet got hung up in the rudder or something.
 

Thomas Wilson

New Member
The boat sailing by itself requires the sheet to be cleated and the
goose-neck set for zero weather-helm, two things that should
not be done on a Sunfish. If the weather is rough enough to worry
about separation your into another type of sailing. Wearing
a life jacket is your number one defense. Years ago I remember Consumer Reports
rating the Butterfly a zero for sailing away on it's own. I guess it could happen
if the sheet got hung up in the rudder or something.
In an uncontrolled gybe, a sailor could get knocked off the boat and dazed, with the stopper holding the boat on a run.
 

fhhuber

Member
Even with the sail luffing and freely weather-vaning, its possible for the boat to sail off at a speed such that even Michael Phelps can't keep up... If the boat stays upright.

With the Sunfish, the boat would have to hold a fairly straight line to not end up getting flipped.
Without the weight of a person for ballast, even a luffing sail would probably turn it over if broadside to the wind. A majority of the sail + boom weight would be to the same side as the wind will be pushing the top of the boat toward...
So its probably not going far. Once it falls over, the sail in the water will ensure its slow enough to catch.

Something a bit more stable will just keep going.
 

Webfoot1

Active Member
On a run with very little wind, like 5 mph, the boat will sail away if the sheet is hooked. Many
years ago I had a almost no wind day where I swam behind the boat pushing it in front of me
when the wind died. A small breeze pushed the boat faster than I could swim at which point
I decided it was better to be on the boat than swimming. I think a stronger breeze would kick the
rudder over and cause a jibe but I would not try it without someone following in another boat.

Anyway, with a safety line we're talking about sailing a Keel boat where the boat will keep going
if you fall overboard. This can be fatal if you are single handed or the sole watch on deck. Even
having a crew member turn the boat around to retrieve you takes time and you can be easily lost
from sight.
 
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