Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Steve and i am the lucky owner of a John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. I built her over three years with the help of my father, father-in-law and two children. She was launched in August 2007 at Queen Anne's battery marina in the barbican area of Plymouth. This blog is a record of our voyages together around SW England.
Arwen has a YouTube channel of her own. Search "plymouthwelshboy".

Monday, 21 May 2012

righting lines on dinghies like Arwen?

Does Arwen need 'righting lines'?

This is a question perplexing me a lot at the moment. I can’t even remember what started me thinking about it either. I mean Arwen is unlikely to invert should she capsize..........but there remains a niggling doubt in my little old head.............’what if she did?’
How would I get her back upright because that hull and those sails will be heavy; of that I’m in no doubt! I also suspect she will ride quite high in the water too. A reader of the blog ‘Keyhaven Potter’ had a good tip before we even start the discussion about righting lines. He had seen what some sailors had done locally to help themselves get back into their boats after capsize – basically a length of rope with a plastic horse riding stirrup at the bottom. The length of the rope can be adjusted. It is tied to the shroud plate and stored inside under the coaming. In the event of a capsize, it is found, shaken out and hey presto – a step to help you get back in over the side......pretty neat I thought. I have a rope with knots and loops in on the back port aft corner but i quite like this idea too.

Anyway back to righting lines.

There doesn’t seem to be much on the web about installing righting lines on boats like Arwen; plastic dinghies and multi-hulls – yes! Wooden day sailing boats – no!

I’m not sure whether Arwen needs them or not; even if I did, I don’t know where to tie any on. Could they be tied onto the shroud plates somewhere? Is this the best location for them........if I’m using one to throw over the upturned hull and then hauling my weight on it as I walk up the hull side and lean back to try and bring the sails up to the horizontal? What forces will such a move exert on Arwen?

Then there is the issue of where to run the ropes and what kind of rope they should be. They will need to be knotted at intervals. Floating line is probably best. I could run them along the gunwale just under the wood rubbing strip at the top of the sheer plank. They would need to stretch quite some way if they are to be long enough to throw over the whole boat and then reach the water the other side. So they would need to go around the back of the transom. Elastic line at the ends would help to secure them to some hooks that would need to be stuck to the transom somewhere. Robin suggested using the jib sheet...which is a possibility but it depends on how you have arranged the jib sheets in the hull; where they are secured, cleated off etc. I would think there will be a fair degree of force exerted trying to pull the weight of the main sails plus mizzen etc up from inverted to horizontal!

Of course there is the whole question of capsizing. How many people have capsized a navigator thus far; in what conditions; how many got inverted and what did people do? Do you sail to avoid capsizing in the first place? I have yet to do a proper capsize test on Arwen. I know, don't say anything; unforgiveable really. However, as soon as I can - it is over to Cawsand and the very first thing I do this season!

I’m a curious little bod but sometimes I worry....I always seem to ask lots of questions; most of which I can rarely answer myself! Maybe I just ask too many damn fool questions. I should give my poor little brain a rest.......but then just as it begins to pops another question.......will it never end?

Anyway over to you readers – righting lines on Arwen – what do you think? Do let me know via comments if you have any interest.



Joel Bergen said...

My thoughts regarding righting lines: Every bit of safety gear is a good thing, but where I sail they would not be on the top of my list. In all honesty, I would not depend on the system working. Here, it is vital to be able to summon help and stay alive until it arrives. At least where I sail - offshore may be a different story. To me that means wearing a life jacket packed with as many signaling devices as possible. Mine has a VHF radio, cell phone, flares, whistle, and air horn. I'm considering adding a SPOT transmitter to the arsenal. Now, I confess, in the past I have been very bad about not always wearing mine, but a fellow drowned here a week ago, right where I'd been sailing two days before and I hereby swear I will ALWAYS wear mine from now on. This fellow and his buddy capsized their john boat a short distance offshore of Jetty Island, within sight of the Coast Guard station at the second largest marina on the U.S. West Coast. Neither was wearing their life jacket and they had no signaling devices. By a sheer stroke of luck, one was spotted by a passing boater in the water an hour later, hypothermic, and was rescued. The other was never found. A couple years ago, four young people drowned under similar circumstances 5 miles away just off Camano Island. They would all be alive today if they had been able to summon help. On the other hand, had they been able to right their boats and re-board (in less than 10 minutes), they still may not have survived. They would have been unable to start their motors, and with no signaling devices, would have drifted unseen and likely perished due to hypothermia. The ability to summon help is vital, unless help is more than an hour away, in which case self-rescue is vital.

steve said...

Joel, I am sorry about these tragedies. I was out last year when I heard the mayday call for a lady who fell overboard without a life jacket on; by the time they had realised she had gone overboard and they had turned around she had drowned; none of us could reach where she was in time.

In the Uk we had a car seat belt campaign many years ago called clunk click every was very successful. Our RNLI operate a similar campaign about wearing life jackets. it is amazing how many UK sailors don't put them on automatically they step aboard their boat. No-one boards Arwen unless they are wearing a PFD or a life jacket - my boat; my rules; take it or leave it policy! leave it - means dont come on board.

i wear a PFD always; on it is a VHF, a mobile phone; mini flares; whistle; and a SPOT. within plymouth sound - there is plenty of boat traffic most days plus the MOD police for the dockyard - someone will get to you within minutes normally; just stay with your boat.

along our open coastline - a different matter - its normally a leeshore with strong along the coast currents; a huge number of headlands and exposed coastlines with cliffs and exceptionally rocky beaches in places. getting help - well expect to wait 20 - 30 minutes. during summer less so - as many yachts pass along the coast between Falmouth and Dartmouth. you have to be pretty self reliant. with righting lines - I wonder whether it will help me if there is an inversion, get arwen back up to the horizontyal from which I can then right her and either drop anchor or put out a drogue to slow drift rate whilst I summon help

I am ambivalent about them; I have as much safety gear on me as i can; I always use the spot every 30 mins to send Ok message; my boat is in the coastguard boat registry scheme we have; I've inserted plastic 2 lt drink bottles in every floatation chamber so if I'm holed it will stay put and still float the boat (he hopes!)

Maybe I'm just paranoid and ultra cautious; i know one thing....I even wear my PFD when on the pontoon or launching the boat off the trailer....if i'm within 5m of the water - it goes on!


Joel Bergen said...

The safety precautions that you have incorporated thus far would easily put you in the upper 1% here. They seem more than adequate to me, in my non-expert opinion. I know one can survive at least one hour before hypothermia sets in here. Assuming water temps are similar where you are, and help is 30 minutes away (worst case), you would have plenty of time to spare after promptly summoning help, even under the worst case scenario.

Personally I won't be bothering with righting lines. I have my doubts that I'd be able to re-board, much less right a capsized or inverted Navigator. I'm too old, fat and physically out of shape. Instead, I've chosen to focus my safety efforts in the two directions that I think are most beneficial for me, which are to avoid trouble and to be able to summon help.

My paranoia is not capsizing, but falling overboard and watching Ellie sail away. Before I even started building her, I planned to rig Ellie so I could control everything from a seated position in the cockpit. I don't like walking around on her. I do all I can to keep clutter at a minimum for fear of tripping over something and going over. I always reef early. I chose the gaff rig with lazy jacks and led the halyards aft so I could easily pop the halyards and drop the main in an instant while remaining safely seated.

If I were to end up in the water, I put little faith in by ability to self-rescue, due to the lack of my physical capabilities.
This does not concern me because I know for sure I would be rescued provided I can summon help, I have my PFD on, and I stay with the boat.
Like I said earlier, the ability to summon help is vital. I sail in populated areas where help is readily available, so I feel my VHF, phone, flares and horn are adequate. On rare occasions I do go to remote locations, like Sucia, which might possibly be out of range for my handheld VHF. If I had a SPOT, as you do, I'd be covered under all circumstances.

steve said...

um - actually i know exactly what you mean and physically I'm not sure about being able to right arwen so i sail cautiously. i agree with absolutely everything you have said. I bought everything back to cockpit as well and have rigged lazy jacks on a sprit boom rig - which was an interesting exercise in itself

thanks for taking the time to talk this through with me - really appreciated because i am now moving towards not having righting lines for the very arguments and reasons you have elucidated so well