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Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2018 5:27 pm
by BananaCollision
So I capsized for the first time today, and I got some unpleasant surprises from my 1960s DS1. I'd really like to hear what other people's experience is with the DS1 or other versions so I can learn what techniques and equipment might make my next time better than my last time. I will go first!

1) When we went over, the mast immediately sank to about 30° inclination below the water and stayed there. It did not pause on the surface to give us a chance to right it, just went right under. Judging by the mud smeared on the mainsail head afterward, it was not any good floatation characteristic that kept us from turning all the way over. The boat was extremely eager to turtle. The mast has styrofoam inside it (which I can see because the folding mast exposes the inside of the extrusion to view) but this was not effective.
Questions: What are other people doing to keep their mast from sinking? Is it that my styrofoam is 60 years old and not floaty anymore, new styrofoam would help? Is it that styrofoam bars in the mast aren't enough and a masthead float is required? Is it normal for this design that the hull bottom feels a joyful pull towards the light and the sun?

2) I thought righting should have been easy -- just stand on the centerboard and lever it back up. But when I put my weight on the end (just hanging, still half my body in the water) and started pulling, the centerboard was making alarming groaning/crackly noises as it bent slightly under my weight. It really sounded/felt like it was going to break, and I am a very skinny guy. I did not stand on it, much less stand on it together with my buddy to right the boat.
Questions: Was I just being timid? Has anybody broken a centerboard this way, or had a dance party on the end without breaking it?

3) With the help of a passing motorist, we did get righted. I looped a line around the shroud chainplate which was out of the water, held it with my hand only (ready to release if anything alarming started to happen) and the motorist pulled directly opposite the mast. The boat rolled back upright pretty easy. I let go the line once we were upright, but the boat wanted to keep rolling and tip back over the other side. It was much more stable upside down than right-side up. With just me in the boat, the bow was out of the water, but the transom was under the water with the coamings just barely above the surface. I tried bailing, but the boat wasn't stable enough to keep both sides out of the water long enough to make any progress. With weather incoming, we had our helpful motorist tow us in semi-submersible mode to the nearby boat ramp / shore. Without a tow, we would have been completely boned here, as we could not bail. Judging by the amount of water that poured out of the under-bench floatation chambers when I pulled the plugs, later, the chambers were both a) not watertight, and b) not full of foam. Bow chamber was dry though.
Questions: How high does your boat float after righting? Are your floatation chambers watertight, with foam inside as backup, or not-watertight, with foam inside as the only floatation? For people who have cut open / replaced their old foam -- how much foam was in there? Was it full of blocks, or crumbled dust, or what?

4) Somewhere in all this adventure, my rudder fell off and sank to the bottom. Goodbye rudder. Goodbye handmade mahogany tiller and tiller extension. <sniff>. I do have a little swinging flap above the pintle that keeps it from coming out of the gudgeon, but the flap swings free and only stops the pintle coming out when the boat is vertical with mast-side up.
Questions: How do you keep your rudder attached to your boat besides making sure that gravity is pulling in the correct direction? Do you like your method and feel it's secure?

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2018 7:05 pm
by Alan
Yipes! Glad you made it out in one piece.

I can't give a definite answer to the flotation questions since I have a DSII. I would guess that the water in the flotation chambers contributed to the instability, based on an experience in a sit-on-top kayak. The ones we have are normally rock steady and you actually have to make an effort to capsize, but when one of them got enough water in through the porthole cover to fill the hull about one-third full, it became impossible to keep upright.

I can give a definite answer on what keeps my rudder in place - a cotter pin that goes through the upper gudgeon pin below the gudgeon.This keeps the pin from sliding upward out of the gudgeon.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 12:48 am
by GreenLake
I use the little swinging flap, but also a springy strip of stainless steel attached to the rudder head and which braces itself against the gudgeon unless pushed in. More convenient than a cotter pin, but also more positive than the little swinging flap. . .

It takes very little force (given the long lever arm represented by the mast) to balance a boat sideways. For the same reason, very little flotation is needed to resist or slow turtling. You can estimate the righting moment by taking the volume of your mast profile at each distance from the bottom and multiplying it by said distanced and then summing the result. I haven't done the exercise but am willing to believe that the mast, if water were to be kept out reliably, would make a good part of the required flotation.

Your suspicion that you have 60 year old styrofoam that's no longer "floaty" is most likely spot on. Pool noodles are the modern choice for replacement. (Sealing the entire mast would work, but would need to be perfect!).

Next, having the gunwhales awash is indeed a problem, even for modern boats. A friend had one of those ubiquitous Walker Bay dinghies (with a sailing rig) and heeled it too far and it filled. Stayed afloat, but he was stuck because he couldn't bail it. The mid-sixties DS1 has three flotation chambers. One in the bow, and one under each seat. These chambers are filled with aging foam that may well be waterlogged, therefore non-functional.

If restored to their intended level of functionality by making sure the chambers are dry and sealed with non-waterlogged foam (pool noodles), they will generate positive flotation. Should be pretty straightforward to work out, from the volume, how much flotation in relation to the approximately 5-600 lbs of hull and rigging. (I haven't run those numbers, but perhaps someone will).

Now, I have a hunch that with flotation chambers working correctly, you could have just opened the transom drain in the back and the boat would eventually float higher in the water, up to the point where the combined weight of that part of hull and rigging above the water line equals the flotation. The reason you didn't see that in your case is that raising the boat would mean raising the trapped water. (If you open the transom drain, it can escape, until everything is equalized).

To finish bailing, you'd need either a self bailer or a 5 gal bucket. To use a self-bailer, the boat would need to move, of course. For a bucket, 5 gals is about the best size for bulk bailing, but you'll need something else for once the puddle gets shallow. So far the theory. I wish someone would run some of those numbers to see whether this could even work.

When it comes to practice, I've subscribed to a strict "no capsize" policy :shock:

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 10:11 am
by Alan
I have one of these, which works well: ... table-pump

I use it mostly for pumping big puddles out of the boat cover, but it would be just the thing for getting the last couple of inches out of a cockpit.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2018 10:59 pm
by BananaCollision
Alan wrote:it would be just the thing for getting the last couple of inches out of a cockpit.

With the transom underwater, my problem was the first couple of inches. :D

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2018 12:46 pm
by GreenLake
For up to about 2" I like a "scoop" cut out of a bleach bottle. Followed by a large sponge. Younger crew will like the piston type squirt guns.

But, @BanaCollision: what's the status and state of your under seat/bow flotation?

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2018 8:36 pm
by BananaCollision
GreenLake wrote:@BanaCollision: what's the status and state of your under seat/bow flotation?

I haven't cut a hole yet to look in there. Will update when I do, maybe this weekend. My floatation chambers have little 1" holes, sized to fit the same plug as the drain plug in the transom, but without any wide, smooth flange to allow that plug to make a proper seal. I had been assuming the chambers were full of foam, and the hole is there to let them air out. But I kept the plugs in with their imperfect seal anyhow as an "it can't hurt" gesture.

On the road on the way home, 45 minutes after the boat got bailed out, I stopped for gas and noticed water was weeping past the plug on one side. I thought to pull them. The water coming out of the bench floatation chambers was enough to fill the cockpit front to back, maybe 6" at the deep point and maybe 3" above the bench floatation chamber drain holes. It looked to me like the water coming out would have filled those bench chambers pretty much 100% full of water leaving room for no foam at all in there. There was a bit of dust and gunge coming out with the water, but not much, not any quantity of disintegrated foam. Right now my guess is those chambers never had any foam in them from the factory. And even with no foam in, and assuming my half-assed plugs did nothing at all to keep water out of the chamber drain holes, I can't think of any way the benches could have gotten that full of water unless the fiberglass join at the edges where the bench attaches to the the hull was cracked and letting air out.

At that gas station, when I pulled the front floatation chamber plug (under water at that point from the emptied bench floatation chambers) it burped air out. One out of three chambers was doing its job; without it we would not have been able to right the boat and tow it home.

Take-home lesson: Anybody with a DS1 who hasn't cut inspection ports in your floatation chambers to verify they are filled with good foam had better do so. You are at risk of sinking in a capsize.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 12:28 am
by GreenLake
A bit of an eye opener.

We have posts on this forum that report there are some older DS1's that do not have any foam. It's unclear whether that is due to a change in manufacturing or whether sometimes the crew just "forgot" to do the foam. Whatever, you're not the first.

Normally, with a single 1" hole, it would take a while to fill the under-seat chambers - unless air can get out in a crack somewhere else. I suspect it does. Mine were pretty airtight when I first got the boat, because it had cork in the holes and some air went by that noisily whenever someone sat on the seat or got up.

There's foam in mine, and I've checked occasionally that it is dry - but it's old, and I should really get around to putting better foam in...

Did my front, which was not dry after the boat had sat nose down in a rainstorm that filled the cuddy to 4".

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2018 4:14 pm
by K.C. Walker
Ha, capsize stories! Yep, I've had mine on its side three times. Fortunately, with toe straps in place and a crew willing to lean all the way back, even though the mast hit the water one of those times, it didn't go under and we were able to right the boat.

I have absolutely airtight tanks. I've checked them after each total swamping and they remain dry. I did have to redo them when I overhauled my boat. The new Cape Cod shipbuilding boats don't have any foam in the tanks and they spray a sealer on the inside to make sure they stay airtight. They also offer to reseal tanks.

On my DS1 there is extra flotation under the side decks, which helps a little bit when you're totally awash. It might help with the boat on its side, but I'm not sure (some flotation as the boat goes down on its side). Two of the times that we were awash I had three people on board and only had a couple of inches of rail above the water. It takes some fast bailing at first to keep ahead of the waves.

I've got two 2 gallon buckets and a smaller bailing bucket on board. Two times when the boat was full of water I had young crew on board… It's amazing how fast a scared motivated crew can bail out a boat!

I subscribe to Greenlake's policy of no capsizing! But, sometimes stuff happens. My three capsize prevention pieces of hardware are, and in order of importance, a ratchet block for the main sheet (and a no cleating policy), a long tiller extension, and toe straps. These three items go a long way towards capsize prevention. The tiller extension and the toe straps help keep the boat flat which gives you more time to implement your mainsheet release. I can't imagine sailing a dinghy without these pieces of hardware unless you had really small sails.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2018 6:33 pm
by GreenLake
While capsize recovery experience is a bit different between older DS1 and DSII and later models due do the double hull on the latter, I think, overall, this discussion belongs in the "Seamanship & Boat handling" part of the forum, so I've moved it here.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:19 am
by BananaCollision
K.C. Walker wrote:My three capsize prevention pieces of hardware are, and in order of importance, a ratchet block for the main sheet (and a no cleating policy), a long tiller extension, and toe straps.

Yeah, a no cleating policy would have helped here. The mounting for the cleat on my mainsheet block is old and loose, makes it hard to uncleat, I think if we had not cleated it we would not have capsized.

Where do you have your toe straps mounted? My boat has an anchor for a toe strap at the aft end of the centerboard trunk, but no matching anchor on the transom to stretch a strap between. I'm not sure how useful a toe strap would be in that spot anyhow as I'm usually sitting a little more forward.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2018 11:40 am
by BananaCollision
GreenLake wrote:@BanaCollision: what's the status and state of your under seat/bow flotation?

So this weekend I did some experimenting / research:
1) My floatation chambers *are* full of styrofoam. One big chunk in each side. I must have misjudged before how much water came out of those chambers. Getting the old blocks broken up and removed through an inspection port would be really hard, and filling with pool noodles would leave more air spaces in than before, so I'm planning to not do that.

2) Pulling the drain plug does not help the boat to rise out of the water when swamped.

I ran an experiment: With the boat in shallow water, pull the drain plug, let it fill as much as possible. With two light people in the boat, I couldn't get it to take on more than about 6" of water, boat was floating high and fine.
Then we put the drain plug in and started bailing water into the boat. Bailed in a *lot* of water, boat continued floating high and wanted to stay that way. After bailing in a ton of water, we were able to get one corner of the coaming down under the surface to swamp the boat and completely fill with water.
--> At this point, as before, the boat floated with the coamings just *under* the surface, so it couldn't be bailed.
--> Pulling the drain plug and climbing out of the boat did *not* let the boat rise up, the boat did nothing and was happy to stay semi-submerged.
--> When the port-side flotation chamber went under it released air bubbles through the screw hole where the thwart seat is attached.

I'm really confused why the boat would refuse to sink more than it did with the drain plug out, but also refuse to rise to the same position when swamped with the drain plug out. I don't understand how it's possible to have two different neutral buoyancy positions.

3) My mast extrusion is full of styrofoam but it still sinks when dropped in shallow water. I don't know how this is possible.

Next step for me is sealing the thwart screw holes with epoxy, finding a plug for the floatation chamber hole which can be made watertight, adding a masthead float, and trying to mount enough pool noodles under the side decks so that the boat floats higher while capsized on its side, and comes upright less than totally swamped.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:23 pm
by K.C. Walker
BananaCollision wrote:
Where do you have your toe straps mounted? My boat has an anchor for a toe strap at the aft end of the centerboard trunk, but no matching anchor on the transom to stretch a strap between. I'm not sure how useful a toe strap would be in that spot anyhow as I'm usually sitting a little more forward.

I have the straps attached to the aft end of the centerboard trunk, running forward, attached to the bottom of the thwart, about midway, and then continuing to the front of the centerboard trunk. They have a little bit of slack in them. Mine are 2 inch webbing, like seatbelt material. To keep them out of the way when not in use, I've got lightweight bungee cord tied from the port and starboard ones and over the top of the centerboard trunk.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2018 9:30 am
by GreenLake
As K.C.'s location for the toe straps points out, you don't want to sit aft of the CB as that ends up with the boat dragging its transom. . .

@Bananacollision: thanks for doing the detailed experiments.

Re: Capsized stories?

PostPosted: Sun Aug 19, 2018 12:19 pm
by Lil Maggie
Whoops...well, it finally happened to me!

Five minutes into the first race yesterday, after my first tack, the wind headed us, and as I went to shift the jib, the wind switched back guessed it! I had cleated the main sheet to adjust the jib and as I was reaching to uncleat it, we went over...that's me and my 8-yr old boy!
Managed to get my boy aboard one of the other racing boats while I was sitting on the CB-that was the only thing keeping it from turtling...the boat would have righted perhaps if I had remembered to let go of the jib sheet...I tried to swim across to put the throw cushion under the tip of the main sail and as I was swimming to it the boat turtled over...

I was able to get the boat back on its side but by this time a power boat came to assist...after two tries and nearly ripping the shroud chainplate off the boat we got it righted! (my rescuer had the best of intentions but was a bit heavy on the throttle!)...started bailing and between me on the bucket and the rescuer boat with a portable bilge pump we got her dry (mostly). Few things I noticed is my flotation plugs had popped off and water got into the flotation under the seats. The boat was still afloat but one of the rails was under water, which we corrected by standing one of my rescuers over the bow.

Once dry a quick look at the damage (mostly in righting the boat showed a gash on the hull about 8 inches vertically next to the chainplate, a bent chainplate and a 12" crack on the lip joint between hull and phone was swamped (and dead) as was my action camera where I hoped I could see where things went wrong. Needless to say I am out of commission until I figure how to repair the hull crack and most importantly, the hull-deck joint. WIll post pictures when I get my new phone and most likely post the damage under "repair and improvement"...
Lessons learned: 1)never say never! and stay on the CB otherwise it will turtle! 2) if it happens again, make sure both sheets are uncleated before attempting to right the boat 3) seal seat flotation tanks! 4) there has got to be a better way to rescue these boats (I thought about the spinnaker halyard but it was underwater on the port side which we were on starboard tack and despite the crammed pool noodles the port seat took enough water to put the portside rail under after righting the boat.

Nobody got hurt (except my pride) and my boat