Capsize practice


I've known for long time I ought to practice capsizing, but I've never quite got around to it. On Sail Caledonia, the evening at Loch Oich is scheduled for capsize practice. After initial reluctance, in view of the cold weather, I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss and climbed into my drysuit.



The only other boat to go for it was Elsie, a Caledonian Yawl, seen here bailing out.




Over we go. I capsized by sailing a beam reach, pulling the boom into the centre line and moving myself to the leeward gunwale.



With bouyancy tanks fore and aft, and forming the side benches, the Walkabout floats high.



Floating high, and the wind on her hull, she's turned turtle.



The bungie which holds the daggerboard down did its job even while inverted. It was easy enough to grab the board, and pull Scratch back onto her side.



Keep pulling. I can't remember if I actually had to climb onto the board, but she certainly came up very easily.



And up she came. I was easily able to boost myself over the gunwale without needing a strop for my foot.



Once aboard I discovered the water came to just below the seat tops, and – at least in these calm conditions – she was stable enough for me to stand up to bail her out.

Martin Balcombe, chair of Sail Caledonia, and an experienced dinghy cruiser and sailing instructor, was very impressed with Scratch's performance in the capsize practice, a testament to John Welsford's excellent design.

A couple of days later I capsized for real (at the bottom of this post) and was grateful I'd taken this opportunity.


Lessons learned – and stuff to think about:

  1. Capsize practice is important. If you haven't already done it, do it!
  2. Keep everything secure so it can't float away. For the practice I'd taken all my kit out. I had already been securing it all with lanyards, but the test reinforced the importance of this.
  3. When I capsized for real, I didn't have the daggerboard down – but I knew I'd need it so it was the first thing I grabbed to prevent it floating away. Not sure I'd want to tie it in with a lanyard though. Anyway, I'm almost sure I'm going to change to a swinging off–centreboard over the winter.
  4. My anchor lives in chocks under the foredeck and is held in place with bungie. It was fine in the test, but did shift in the real capsize test, although it didn't actually come loose. I think I'll replace the bungie with lashings.
  5. Capsizing for real, there was a lot of stuff floating around attached with light lanyards, including the oars. There's a real risk of getting tangled in the lines. I plan to keep lanyards as short as possible to minimise the risk.

All images © John Macpherson)



About Osbert Lancaster

Creating ripples to foster sustainability. Seeking solace & clarity on the sea by sail & oar.


  1. Anonymous

    I’ve been thinking these past few warm water weeks that I’d like to try a capsize with the skiffs just to see what happens to the boats, to the crew, to the oars and the stuff we normally have rolling around our feet. I think the lagoon might be best so we can repeat it all afternoon. I can’t assume I’ll be able to get back into a boat by myself anymore, or that fellow crew know how to best heft each other over the gunwales, and I think that for various reasons many folk will find it hard to manage at first. Perhaps we should try it first with the (soon to be) coaches, after the regatta.How long did it take you to bail out Scratch, btw?

  2. Anonymous

    I’ve been discussing this with Andres. Might do it at the regatta so all clubs can profit from doing and/or watching.

  3. Anonymous

    Now that would be something nicely dramatic for onlookers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: