My First Capsize in Years and Years...

L&VW

Well-Known Member
Thread starter #1
About 6:15-AM on Saturday (today), sailing happily in 12-knot winds, I got into the "wind-shadow" of a large island. Another Sunfish sailor (all-white sail) had taken advantage of this large and temporarily-empty lake to do some downwind "surfing" from the northern part of the lake to his destination about in the middle of that same island.

But in tacking for a return trip, I suddenly found myself sliding backwards into the lake -- my first capsize in a Sunfish! 'Don't know how it happened -- but for some unaccustomed deep swells -- never felt there was a good reason for the tipover. The wind had picked up a little.

In seconds, the boat "turned turtle", and I found myself attached to the inverted topside of the deck
-- mainsheet tangled with PFD -- and totally under water! Quickly, I managed to free myself —thinking at the time—this is how an Olympic sailor drowned!
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I reviewed what could have gone wrong: I later found perhaps one to a ½-gallon of water inside the hull. The result of a suspected daggerboard-trunk leak in today's 2-mile reach in a decent wind?

While "turtled", a small amount could have snuck in through a 6" Holt and Allen inspection port that never was equipped with a rubber seal. (But I wasn't very punctual in removing what water had collected yesterday). Could that "bilge-water" have contributed to exaggerate the motion of capsize, AND to ease the righting? :oops:

From my position floating slightly upwind and using the daggerboard as a lever, the Sunfish returned to right-side-up rather easily. There wasn't all that much water inside the cockpit -- a good thing, as I had closed off the troublesome Sunfish bailer. It took a few pulls on the opposite gunwhale to get my whole--entire--self back inside the cockpit. While partially immersed, I took the opportunity to bail some water out which seemed to ease getting the rest of me safely (lifted?) back into the cockpit.

So far, the only losses are a very old canoe paddle and a pair of socks. "The jury is out" on camera and cellphone, which are presently undergoing "intensive-fan-therapy". 'Guess I'll know in a few days. While inverted, both would have been pressed against the top of the cubby in an open-topped container, and didn't appear very wet. Would the "roof" of the cubby stay dry in a "normal" turtle?

I could have retrieved the paddle, but was very inclined towards getting back to home base! :rolleyes:

Even though fully immersed, I never lost my hat! :)
 
#2
LVW, glad you made it out okay, especially after being tangled up underwater! I haven't capsized in a year or two, but have plenty of times before that - almost all of them resulting in the boat turtling as well. I'm not sure that the small amount of water in the hull would have made much difference for the capsize or the righting.
 
#3
But in tacking for a return trip, I suddenly found myself sliding backwards into the lake -- my first capsize in a Sunfish! 'Don't know how it happened -- but for some unaccustomed deep swells -- never felt there was a good reason for the tipover. The wind had picked up a little.

In seconds, the boat "turned turtle", and I found myself attached to the inverted topside of the deck
-- mainsheet tangled with PFD -- and totally under water! Quickly, I managed to free myself —thinking at the time—this is how an Olympic sailor drowned!
__________________________________
OK. Ease my mind here. You mean that if I get tangled in the mainsheet when boat turtles it could drag me under? I would think my PFD would hold up under that scenario.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
Thread starter #4
OK. Ease my mind here. You mean that if I get tangled in the mainsheet when boat turtles it could drag me under? I would think my PFD would hold up under that scenario.
Tangling with a mainsheet has now happened to me twice. The first time was when I was thrown off a catamaran, but the catamaran had stayed upright after my encounter between two big cruiser wakes that struck at weird angles--simultaneously. The hulls are skinny, so there really wasn't a problem, except for being pulled behind my own Tornado--having a real tangle of several mainsheet lines around my legs.

(On a catamaran, yards of mainsheet run through a pair of triple-sheaved blocks).

I think falling backwards off the Sunfish meant I couldn't control where the mainsheet would have tangled with me. In this case, it was the PFD that caught it, and I also felt it around my left leg when the boat turtled. I was able to pull myself promptly from under the deck, as the Sunfish isn't a very big boat, but didn't save me from that "flashback". :eek:

But I'll bet I was back in the Sunfish in less than two minutes! :cool:

Still, it was an unsettling circumstance--knowing what I knew from Olympic catamarans. It was under the mainsail of an Olympic Tornado catamaran that kept the crew-member from getting air, while held against it by his required PFD. (The drowned crew member was an identical twin of the Austrian Olympic-Tornado skipper). :(

Looking back, now I'm thinking that I was simply not accustomed to the large swells that day, and was careless while tacking. The only other consideration was that, over winter, my daggerboard had "cupped", and I wasn't able to put it all the way down, leaving about 6-inches less board in the water. :confused:

I was surprised to find how easily the Sunfish righted from a "turtle" (in 100' of water). :)

I'll be checking the "electronics" later today. It's possible the cubby never sees water in a "turtling"--plus, the items were kept in an open-topped makeshift "drawer" that could have kept them from complete immersion.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
Thread starter #6
:oops: 'Can't be certain. I hadn't made the transition to a port tack as yet. I found myself suddenly sliding backwards, and the boat followed me over--and kept on going. A highly-regarded sailor-friend agrees with Tag, saying that the water in the hull wasn't enough to be a factor.

Since my Sunfish is stored on a steep ramp, I intend to install a 5/8" [baitwell] drainplug to monitor daily in-flow. The last drainplug I saw mounted was about six inches starboard of the centerline. Is there some agreement here as to the placement?

After three days of sitting over a fan at room temperature, I reinstalled the batteries and only the cellphone is showing a sign of water damage--and even then--it seems to be just a slightly cloudy screen. Just to be certain, they're going back atop the fan for a couple-more days. :)
 

Duckfat

Golden God
#7
I tend to be a little paranoid about getting tangled and trapped when I capsize. I keep a small cheap knife either in my pocket or clipped to the outside of the PFD, just in case I ever have to cut myself free underwater. I seriously doubt I will ever have to do this, but it makes me feel better. It actually has been quite awhile since my last non-consensual capsize.

LVW, best wishes to your phone for a full recovery.
 
#9
Scary. This is why I carry a knife with me. I will actually be buying a dive knife for this season so that it is strapped to my ankle for quick-draw access. Where I sail there are fairly high winds and odd wind patterns so it's not uncommon to capsize. I second danpal I have a carabiner holding a small dry bag for a cell phone. These are usually waterproof to 15 feet.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
Thread starter #11
:oops: Since my Sunfish is stored on a steep ramp, I intend to install a 5/8" [baitwell] drain plug to monitor daily in-flow. The last drainplug I saw mounted was about six inches starboard of the centerline. Is there some agreement here as to the placement?
I installed the plug about three inches from the centerline—'didn't need any water cooling for the drill bit! (Had plenty!) :rolleyes:

'Suggest using a hole-cutter bit instead of a spade bit. :(

After a "high-amplitude sail" :eek:, I pulled the plug on its normal steep incline, and the hull inside was only damp to the touch. :) Now I think the water intrusion was from cracks inside the cockpit—which I'd sealed with Gorilla-Tape. What a relief that the daggerboard trunk appears strong...
____________________

As to the electronics, the camera appears normal after forced-air fan plus rice worked their wonders.

The cellphone, however, displays all their images backwards! :confused:




:)
 
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