Arwen's meanderings

Hi everyone and welcome to my dinghy cruising blog about my John Welsford designed 'navigator' named Arwen. Built over three years, Arwen was launched in August 2007. She is a standing lug yawl 14' 6" in length. This blog records our dinghy cruising voyages together around the coastal waters of SW England.
Arwen has an associated YouTube channel so visit to find our most recent cruises and click subscribe.
On this blog you will find posts about dinghy cruising locations, accounts of our voyages, maintenance tips and 'How to's' ranging from rigging standing lug sails and building galley boxes to using 'anchor buddies' and creating 'pilotage notes'. I hope you find something that inspires you to get out on the water in your boat. Drop us a comment and happy sailing.
Steve and Arwen

Monday, 10 August 2020

Getting back into your boat after a capsize

 An annual event, 'her indoors' accompanied me out on a day sail yesterday. Pleasant weather unlike last week - with light winds, F2 from NW around to SE and back again - so fickle! Sunny and a lovely temperature of 25C. 

Launched at QAB as normal (they are back open doing self launching once more), we drifted out on the outgoing tide (HT at 10.0am - allowing 'her indoors' time to wake up, have a civilised breakfast and get a latte before we departed the pontoon).

Unlike last week, everything went according to the plan - after we almost collided with the enormous steel hulled 'Pelican of London' - a tall training ship - that was coming through Sutton Harbour to negotiate the locks into the Marina (we were coming out of a narrow canal between moored boats and didn't see the tall masts of 'The Pelican' The accompanying pilot and harbour master launches escorting her - didn't see us - smiles and laughs all round but only after I executed an exceptionally fast and tight right angled turn with the outboard and tiller). 

The sails raised smoothly, once out in Jennycliffe Bay (now that I have put the cleat back towards the mast base below the fore-deck - I can 'sweat' the main sail halyard far more efficiently). The top yard still doesn't quite attain the top of the mast below the mast sheave and today I worked out why - I have left the old wooden block pieces on the mast that used to support the base of the bronze mast ring and so the loop of rope that runs around the mast and holds the yard tight against it - keeps catching on it - what a simple revelation that was. So, sometime this week those old blocks pieces will be removed and the holes filled in and sanded.

We made good progress in light winds across Plymouth Sound - reaching 3.7 kts - tide assisted of course. We headed for the eastern end of the breakwater, caught a lucky break on the winds which allowed a beam reach along its length westwards and into the centre of Cawsand Bay where we sailed between two sets of moored boats (each long, long line anchored in the lee of either the northern or southern shorelines), before dropping sails and gently motoring right inshore to drop the old hook for a lunch time picnic and swim. After lunch, we set sail out of the bay, eastwards along the outside of the breakwater and then turned north back through the eastern entrance, by which time the winds were almost due south again and so we ambled downwind all the way back to the Dunstone Buoy where we neatly pulled up rudder and centreboard, sheeted in the mizzen, turned head to wind and dropped sail. We later learned that the small blue hulled boat with white sails that was ahead and veered off towards 'The Bridges' and the mouth of the Tamar, was the partner of a friend we both know who we worked alongside in the city education service. And, apparently, he follows 'Arwen's Meanderings' - well go figure - a small world it is indeed. 

Which brings me neatly to the point of this post - an opportunity to try the 're-boarding loops' on Arwen. I shamelessly stole the idea from Howard Rice, Joel Bergen and Simon Baldwin on their Scamps and navigators. 

My loops, made of woven tape, tuck under the coaming cut outs and are securely tied to eye-bolts that run through the bulkheads either-side of midships. 

There is a boarding loop on both port and starboard sides. The idea is that after a capsize, I can reach over the coaming and pull one of them out. The loop hangs down in the water at a sufficient a length that I can get one foot onto the loop and then stand straight up on it. 

With both feet inside the loop, my legs then sort of stick out under the water away from the hull but also give me sufficient height that my midriff comes level with the side deck and by pushing against the loops I can 'tip' myself into the boat.  Well that is the theory. 

Tried using the mast step on the transom to get back in - but between the boomkin and the rudder there isn't a lot of space and so it proved energy sapping and time consuming. Apart from which, what impact would it have on the boat with me trying to come back in over the stern? 

Standing up on the boarding loop with legs extended out behind me in the water 

So, the short video below shows the re-boarding. Of course, there are considerable caveats.  The boat was at anchor, the seas were calm and I wasn't wearing a life jacket or PFD with bits hanging off it. 

But what did I learn in doing it? In no particular order, initial thoughts:

  1. the side deck was around 6 inches above my head when I was in the water - didn't expect that - though granted after a capsize, the hull will be full of water, swamped, and so settled much lower in the water
  2. that 6" above my head, plus the 8" side deck, plus the 2" high coaming rim - all combined to defeat me in reaching my arm down over the coaming to access the tape which is tucked behind a coaming cut-out - 'the boss' had to help out
  3. the way I store my oars on their rowlocks along the side deck outside of the coamings was also a pain - and the tape comes over the top of them - so when my weight is on the tape, the oars are pressed against the coaming edges. 
  4. in the water, the tape was around 6" too shallow - I needed that extra little bit of 'depth' to them. I could get my foot into the loop, but I had to be right on my back virtually to get my feet raised high enough in the water - trying to do that in a wavy sea - could be interesting!
  5. the actual standing up on the loops and pushing my extended legs out behind me under the water was surprisingly easy and so my mid riff did come level with the side deck and I practically tipped myself in an ungainly roll into the boat - that was quite easy. 
So, in summary, he big question is did they work - answer - YES! Do I need to make alterations - MAYBE. Could I do it with PFD on in rolly seas - MAYBE!

I think the issue hinges on how much lower the boat will be in the water swamped - if you said the boat was six inches lower in the water - then yes I could reach over, yes the tape would be lower below the waterline and so easier to get my feet into and yes I'd be able to do it. 

Huge amount of assumptions there - aren't there! 

Still smiling with lots to ponder on

Of course, I could be overthinking this. In a capsize, if Arwen is lying on her side, then it is likely I will be able to reach up and pull down the 're-boarding loops' and the knotted 12' long ropes which I would use to help me clamber up onto the centreboard, in order to right her. 

I have only ever capsized Arwen once, deliberately when she was first built and empty over at East Portlemouth - I think it is time to arrange with the marina a new capsize test with a few of the marina yardies on hand to help out. Full sails up, gear out - to see if the hatches are still watertight and to retest the boarding ropes and loops. 

'Merlin' - I wondered if it was a Falmouth Oyster boat?

Heading eastwards towards Bovisand

Homeward bound on a downwind run


Rational Root said...

I think I need to do the same exercise, I may have a little trouble re boarding myself.

Rational Root said...

I think I need to do the same exercise, I may have a little trouble re boarding myself.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, good to read that you have got the yard further up the mast. You have been needing to get more downhaul tension. The front of the sail MUST be tight. When you get it tight the snotter (outhaul) will be able to properly flatten the sail as it will have something 'rigid' to pull against. And Arwen will be off like a rocket - hang on! Cheers, Alan, Navigator 'Lucia', NZ.

steve said...

Hi Alan,.yes things are improving except for that tack to clew.crease which never disappear.

RR, yep it is definitely worth thinking about....and better to work out before you need to

Both of you take care now in these strange times

Rik_Studio said...

Thanks for the clear post Steve.
I had a hot capzise recently. See post. No boarding lines or straps. Boat was listing because of the water ingress so that getting on board was easy. The inflated lifevest was in the way. Howard Rice's setup seems to be a good one also. Strap along sides so that one can rise by spreading feet... Video of that is somewhere.

steve said...

Hyia Rik - yep the inflated life jacket is an issue - I normally wear a PFD but that has pockets on it and I hang a VHF radio and Garmin InReach Explorer Plus off I may need to give this some further thought - thanks for your post - most illuminating, informative and thought provoking. I have added a short post on my blog and a link to yours - hope you don't mind