FAQ: What Should I Do To Prevent Turtling?


Staff member
We've been getting swamped (no pun intended) on our website Message Board with reports of Capri 14.2s turtling. I was puzzled by this rash of reports, as I’ve been racing these boats for 17 years in the largest fleet in the U.S., and I’ve never actually seen one happen to a Capri 14.2. Lots of capsizes, yes, but no turtling. But after thinking it through, I think I know why. Here in San Diego, the weather is mild and we seldom see winds over 15 knots. But in places like the Great Plains, the wind howls.

A fleet in Wichita, Kansas was concerned about this, as they routinely sail in winds of up to 25 knots. (Kids, don’t try this at home.) So they solved the problem by adapting streamlined Hobiecat floats to their mastheads. It provides 32 lbs. of lifting force. Problem solved. No more turtling. It costs $88.50 and it is part number 30115. Go to Hobiecat.com for the name, address and number of your nearest dealer. But it’s up to you to make an adapter for your Capri 14.2 mast.

But why does the boat turtle in very high wind and merely capsize in lighter wind? It seems the main cause of turtling is the wind pushing against the boat as it lies on its side. It’s a light boat, and the broad bottom acts like a sail, driving it right over.

A year ago we ran an article in the Mainsheet on turtling, and capsizing in general. We think parts of it are worth repeating:

First Steps - If you are all wearing lifejackets, as we highly recommend, it might help for one of you to swim out to the mast head and try to hold it up while the other one climbs out onto the centerboard. But if you can both get onto the C/B before it turtles, that’s even better.

The boat usually capsizes slow enough that a quick-witted sailor can usually slide down the side and be on the centerboard by the time the masthead hits the water. And it helps if that same quick-witted sailor pops the mainsheet loose as soon as he/she sees the boat going over. Getting the jib undone under that circumstance is harder, because it's hard to get upward leverage on the jibsheet as one is going over. But getting the sheets undone helps the recovery immensely, as the sails no longer act as giant sea anchors.

Of course, it's best not to capsize to begin with. One of the main causes of capsizes is having the slack jibsheet not run free when tacking. It can hang up on the jibcar adjusting knob, or simply fall back into the jam cleat. To prevent this, we remove the restraint strap that goes over the top of jam cleats--it's not needed for any reason. Be careful when taking out the machine screws that hold the cams in place, or you can lose the roller bearings. Have one person hold each cam in place while the screws are taken out and re-inserted.

Another problem is having the jibsheet wrap around the jibcar adjusting knob. What some (including myself) have done is to cut the knob off, grind the top of the post smooth, and cut a screwdriver slot in the top of the post. This requires removing the jib car from the track. To do this, remove the back three track machine screws and lift the back end of the track a half-inch or so.

Another contributor to turtling is the fact that most older Capri 14.2s don’t have a water-tight mast. Having a mast that floats is clearly better than one that doesn’t. The current boats use a foam plug at the masthead. Does yours have one? Just drop the mast and look. You can see it just under the main halyard sheave. Some people have made them by simply wadding up a sheet of bubble wrap. I think a more elegant approach is to fill the mast with the “foam in a can� sold at hardware stores for helping winterize houses by plugging airleaks.

The Following is from a post by Matt Schneider on the Capri 14 Comments board.
I found an alternative for the buoy method.
I took out the pulley at the top of my mast and peered down the length of it. I discovered the cause of my turtling problem. The plug that Catalina designed and installed into the mast of my 14.2 had nearly disintegrated, changing the mast from a buoy to a dead weight.

To solve this problem, I did my best to wrench out what remained of the old plug. Then I went to Home Depot and bought a can of water proof foam (>$5.00) that is used to hold windows in place. I sprayed this foam down the mast and let it expand to re-plug the whole (After spraying this foam as a liquid it expands to the size of your opening and then dries hard). This allows the air trapped in the mast to naturally keep the boat from turtling.

Being an engineer, I followed (actually proceeded) this procedure with some calculations. Trapping the air inside the mast changes the mast from a dead weight (that wants to sink) weighing 14.6 lb(f) to a buoy (that wants to float) with 18.3 lb(f) of buoyancy. That is net swing of almost 33 lb(f)! If the mast is 20 feet long, that changes the mast from being a proturtling torque of 146 ft-lb to a 183 ft-lb anti-turtling torque. A real help in keeping the boat from turtling!
You are right about the wind pushing against the hull. Here's an interesting story. I lived on the beach on lake Superior wherr i would haul the boat up to the beach grass for storing overnight, always stowing everything, sometimes with a painter to a tree. One night we had the powerfull north wind blowing the way it does (30 knot if 10) and I returned to find the boat overturned with the mast in the sand as if the boat had capsized and slid on its side. I swear if the mast was not on it would have rolled away! The wind is wild up there in international Canada/American boarderwater; but the bottom of that boat can be like a sail when presented too.
I was reading this post just the other day about preventing the 14.2 from turtling. Now I am faced with the challenge of what to do about my 14.2, which is hull up and the mast lodged on the bottom of the lake.

It is on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, and it has been over for about 12 hours now. I have access to a tender boat, which is a row boat. Attempting to pull it with that, I confirmed that the mast is stuck in the mud. I am considering disconnecting the forestay from the tip of the bow, to let the mast rotate on its base. I know that the boom will eventually hit the hull, but the mast may rotate enough to free it from the lake bottom. The main sail is still on the mast/boom. The jib is not on the boat.

What to do/what to try next?
I had mine get stuck in the mud once, actually rolled while under full sail, but that is another story. I was able to go under, get all of the lines loose from the cleats, there might even be an air pocket under the boat. You have to be careful of getting tangled in the lines. I was then successful having someone hang on the center board, while I dove down and pulled the end of the mast out of the mud. We didn't have a tender boat close by, plus we wanted to get back into the race.

Another option is to get a hold of the boom lift line, which should be attached to the top of the mast. Take it to you tender boat, while the tender boat is pulling the line away from the boat, get someone on the center board to help roll it back up. If you don't have a boom lift line, then the main sail halyard, might also work, but you have to make sure it is cleated off.

If none of the above work, then sounds like you will need to get access to someone with a scuba tank, who can go down and then the mast out of the mud.

I wouldn't disconnect the forestay. Once the mast starts to pivot, the shrouds won't be able to prevent the mast from bending sideways at the foot. You could cause some serious damage to your deck if something gets twisted.

Oddly, yours is exactly the opposite experience I had when my 14.2 turtled. Myself and two others couldn't get it upright until the boat was blown several hundred yards into the shallows where the mast caught the bottom and the wind forced the boat to rotate out of the turtle position. Since yours is so stuck firmly in the mud, I'm thinking it needs to get towed or pushed in the opposite direction from what it traveled to get there in the first place. I take it there are no motor boats on your lake? How about running a line from shore? Removing the main might help since it impedes rotating upright but I wouldn't disconnect the whole mast unless you mark it with a buoy to indicate the hazard to navigation should you not ever get it removed. (just kidding)

Regardless, let us know how you get it out, even if it's just a strong wind that blows the boat back on its side.
Good luck!

Your message came in about 24 hours too late for me to heed your advice.

Due to the windy conditions and nightfall, we had to let the boat sit overnight in the turtled condition. During the night (Friday), it took in a lot of water. Power boats are not normally permitted on the lake, although there were two boats out yesterday that appeared to be associated with a regatta. No one offered help. The mast was firmly planted in the clay bottom, and it would have required significant force, which would have likely lead to some damage, possibly a broken forestay or bow plate.

My 16 year old son helped me, and we pushed on the hull to create some slack in the forestay, and I disconnected it from the bow plate. Because I do not have scuba gear, I was not able to release the main sail from the boom and mast. Once the forestay was released, we were able to swim the boat to deeper water. Thankfully, lake conditions were calm. With my son on the center board and I on the gunwale, we performed a slow roll, which took about 10 minutes. The mast did twist the tabernacle and broke one of the four screw heads. I think the tabernacle can be hammered back to its original shape; the mast step of the hull was not damaged. Judging by the black clay on the mast, it was buried about 18" inches. I think that pulling on it with a power boat would have released it only after the forestay or the bow plate broke. I think the mast was preventing the boat from sinking deeper.

We removed the main sail, and using row boat, I oared it to the boat ramp. The Capri was very unstable due to the water in the hull, and it would dive under and turn to the side. The self bailing ports were well below water level. I got it on my trailer, where the hull gushed water for over two hours.

While it was turtled, two of the three main sail stiffeners exited the sail and were lost, as was the tiller hiking stick.

I was surprised at how much water the hull took. Though not sealed, the hatch cover was in place, and in good condition. If not for standing on its mast, it seems this boat was headed for the bottom of the lake. It seems some Styrofoam billets or expanding foam might be a nice addition to this cavernous hull.

I am going to check the mast to see it is sealed, which seems unlikely, and I am going to consider some other options for mast buoyancy.
Hey Steve,
Sounds like you escaped any major problems. Your mast is probably sealed and there should be some bagged floatation under each of the seats. Still, it's amazing how much water it can take in while upside down. When mine turtled, I found the main water entry spot was under the deck at the top of the cuddy hole.

It also seems the most reliable turtling prevention comes from a Baby Bob mast float. It's what I put on my boat and you simply can't turtle them with one attached. They're also lightweight and you hardly notice it while sailing. Of course some people object to the expense or the appearance, but if there is any chance the wind might turn nasty, there isn't any better solution, IMHO.
I agree that the boat did survive without any major issues. Before going back to the lake, I will test my mast to see it is sealed, and add expanding foam if needed. After the boat came up, I also noticed a lot of water coming out of the boom too. I will likely foam that too.

The trouble occurred when my wife was sailing alone. It seems that she needed me, if only for ballast. It does seems like a load does help stabilize the craft.
It would seem that sealing the mast helps since Catalina saw fit to seal mine at the factory. Unfortunately, when we turtled, the boat was upside down in under 15 seconds. The wind increased from about 10 knots to over 20 knots in about half an hour and there were four of us aboard - my wife and two daughters. Since installing the Baby Bob, I've capsized twice, both times sailing alone, and managed to right the C-14 without incident. In one case, my lunch fell overboard and I swam a short distance to fetch it. The hard part for me has been getting back in the boat. Still haven't figured out an easy method yet, short of losing about 25 pounds. ;)

I think sealing the boom will only make it heavier. When a C-14 capsizes, assuming the wind isn't strong enough to roll it upside down, most of the boom sits out of the water, as does 3/4 of the hull and also the mast. The only way the boom can fill with water is if the boat is already turtled.
I think that the benefit in sealing the mast is that it will have positive buoyancy rather than negative buoyancy; a sealed mast will have the same effect, though likely not as great, as the baby bob. I am going to test the mast seal with a garden hose. Expanding foam has a very low density, so I may put some in each end of my boom too. I am also considering making a better fitting hatch cover out of 1/8-inch aluminum. The water pressure in an overturned situation should help keep it sealed. I think the buoyancy of the wood cover caused it to shift in position, permitting water in to the hull at a faster rate.

Today, I coaxed the mast tabernacle from its twisted state back to near original form (photo attached)
Capri Mast Tabernacle.JPG
The engine should be able to pull it out, but here is another idea.

Drop an anchor and a buoy (or float) in deeper water, really embed the anchor as much as possible. Then tie a pulley or carabiner near the buoy. Attach a line to the Capri, run it through the carabiner and then pull. It is does not work you can add another pulley to the system for more leverage.

Fill up truck inner tube and shove them under water to lift the boat up at the same time.
Sealing the mast won't prevent turtling. My mast is sealed with expanding foam but the boat still turtled on my last outing. The problem comes from the hull of the boat acting as a giant sail with the wind pushing on it causing the boat to roll. After I recovered the boat, towed it back to shore (with the help of the fire and rescue boat), drained out the water (it took about an hour) and got the boat back home, I ordered a baby bob. It wasn't hard to install using a couple of stainless steel "T" brackets. From now on I won't be worrying about turtling when the C14 goes over.
Walt, that is wicked! I can't tell you how much fun I had reading your C-15 pages. It's so rewarding to see someone having so much fun working on their sailboat.

About your mast float, I would perform one more test. Lay the boat over in the shallows like you did, and then push on the hull bottom to simulate the effect of strong winds. If the mast top doesn't dive, you've got yourself a winner. Then stop at the patent attorney's office on the way home.
I likely wont get around to doing any more tip over testing (somewhat of a pain and that water was 41F when I did that) but if you look at those pictures, the float is still maybe 50% in the air and the mast tip has not even started to contribute to the boyancy. So I think there is plenty of margin to keep the mast from sinking. Next test will probably be a real knockdown if I get to sail the boat as much as I would like.

There is another option also that I didnt know about until yesterday but try googling a "laser Vago mast head float" or something like that. It would probably also work for the C14.2 - but of course Ive never tried it.
Could someone help me find a video of the Baby Bob adaptation to fit the Capri 14.2. I have had the "bob" for some time but am unsure of how to adapt it to secure to the mast. I am a newbie at mechanics, so the written description doesn't always do it for me. Thanks much from the visual learner.
The Capri I just picked up a few weeks ago already had a Baby Bob mounted. It is not the most eloquent installation, but it it is simple and requires no drilling of the mast. I may rework it at some point, but until then, it mounts it just fine.

They used wood to fill the gap between the two Baby Bob brackets. There is then a piece of thinner wood on the outside of each bracket, which is then sandwiched with two Simpson strong-tie straps. The gap between the two straps is the same width as the mast. It is then connected to the mast with the masthead sheave bolt.

FYI, the mast is sitting on top of the garage door tracks.

IMG_20170913_102136911.jpg IMG_20170913_102125382.jpg
The Capri I just picked up a few weeks ago already had a Baby Bob mounted. It is not the most eloquent installation, but it it is simple and requires no drilling of the mast. I may rework it at some point, but until then, it mounts it just fine.

They used wood to fill the gap between the two Baby Bob brackets. There is then a piece of thinner wood on the outside of each bracket, which is then sandwiched with two Simpson strong-tie straps. The gap between the two straps is the same width as the mast. It is then connected to the mast with the masthead sheave bolt.

FYI, the mast is sitting on top of the garage door tracks.

View attachment 24534 View attachment 24535
I also wanted the security of the best mast float possible so opted for the "B0b". On my first season with Capri came close to a knockdown on one of my earlier outings but with lots of experiance have developed the skills which should make that event less likely. Running with reefed main only (had a mod done by a loft) when things are hairy helps (smaller sail area and only one sheet line to deal with). Hate to forgo a day of sailing just because the winds are 15+!! I also have an excuse not to lose that 15 lbs the wife wants me to do because I need the extra ballast for hiking out! Now my bracket was fabricated by a gentleman who made it up to snug tight inside the mast, just butting up to the sheet line pulley. Drilled a through bolt at the top so with the help of a wing nut it becomes easy to remove and install. Greatly eases the mast handling when trailering, also gives the option of not having to install it on lighter air days. Actually the only time I use it is when conditions would warrant, then it is a great security blanket. I can send a few pics once I figure out how to do so, along with contact info for the guy who made the bracket at a very reasonable price if anybody is interested.........
You can also get an elastic mainsheet to absorb the impact of a strong gust before you can release the mainsheet.
sealing the mast is not enough. Not enough flotation to keep boat from dipping the mast.

I have turtled a few sailboats. You are sailing along in total control, suddenly a very strong gust hits you and the boat goes over before you can release mainsheet. Within 1 minute mast is under water and straight down. Once it's over it's a bear pulling it out. I have never had success righting boat without outside aid. Hiking strap, righting strap and all. Once over it creates suction to stay that way.

I solved the issue by taking out the CB and making one with plate steel and Bondo. Final weight was 70#. Never went over again.. The weight down under prevents it.
wanhanlu - I like your steel CB idea. I sometimes sail in light winds with a trolling motor and two deep cycle batteries resting just inside the cuddy, wired in parallel. That's about 90 pounds at the waterline. Do you think that'd be just as stable if I got surprised by a sudden heavy gust?
A contrarian opinion:
Gusts are not sudden, but one needs to look ahead while going upwind to see them coming.
Assuming one pays attention, one can sheet out for the gust (and hike), or one can let go of the sheet altogether, if necessary.

Now, if the captain wants to enjoy tea and crumpets with a loved one, a heavy centerboard might make sense. Presumably, that would make your boat 'illegal' for serious competition.
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Take it from a Lightning sailor: a steel centreboard is a very bad idea. The only thing it's good for is hitting rocks at slow to moderate speed. The Lightning centreboard weighs around 50 kg and doesn't add any significant stability. It's just useless weight and a pain to handle. And it doesn't keep the boat from turtling, in which case it turns into a guillotine blade.
I had a turtle the very first time I sailed my Capri 14.2. It took almost an hour where I was in the water which was 60 degrees and the help of 2 men in a bass boat to get her upright. The very next day, my Hobie Bob came in the mail.
I made a mount and installed it. I sailed it the next weekend solo again and made too sharp of a turn and capsized it. This time I was back in the boat within 60 seconds. That Bob is the ticket!
A young friend (age 11) just bought a capri omega 14. She has no center board. I see this forum has gone on for quite a few years. I wonder if any of you owners could post demensions of the center board and even pictures if you have them. It would be much appreciated.