Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Friday, September 2, 2016

CATCH: Reboarding Revisited

As a follow-on to last Sunday’s post on getting back aboard,  John Welsford, in a private email conversation, provided additional insight on reboarding…
“When Howard Rice and I were designing the sling system for reboarding SCAMPs, which are very high sided, something that came up was that, particularly with small  sailing boats, boarding over the stern is not a good idea. 
What happens in that case, when the weather is bad enough to blow the boat over, it will be drifting fairly fast when righted, even if swamped.  In that case, if one swims around to the stern and hangs there in an attempt to climb over the transom the boat will turn downwind and the windage will cause it to move away from the person in the water.  Encumbered by lifejacket and heavy clothing the persons drag in the water is very high which makes it extremely difficult to hang onto the boat, and near impossible to climb in even with a ladder deployed. 
Hence the “sling", most small sailing boats tend to sit side on when left to their own devices, and we designed the sling so its possible to reboard from deep water over the lowest point of the sheer. 
Another point, when floating shoulder deep in rough water and hanging onto the boat it’s very difficult to reach up and unclip a ladder type device in order to deploy it, and the sling, when secured along  a side deck with knitting yarn or similar, is very easy to get down into action. It simply requires a reach up and a pull to break the yarn, pull it down and it’s in action. 
We’ve run a number of SCAMP sailing skills classes now which include capsize recovery practice, and find that even very obese and unfit people, with a little coaching, are able to reboard our school SCAMP using this method.  The stirrup was ok for fitter people, but even then three attempts in cold water and they were “done", so we’ve changed our recommendations for that, and the other boats we deal with.”
I asked John about reboarding long narrow hulls typical of oar cruisers, in which the boat blowing away is not as severe a problem. His response…
“[I’ve] tried reboarding] Seagull, and found that I could pull the rail down under the water surface, roll myself in and let the boat come back up, there was enough stability there to sit on the floor and bail, the boat gaining stability as I got the free surface effect under control. There is no way I could get back in over the transom. 
Oar cruisers are a problem, though, in that they’re skinny so don’t have much stability, low so they don’t have a lot of freeboard and very fine ended so there is not much ability to support a load out near the ends of the boat. 
[My solution is] to carry a pair of sausage fenders, big ones about 30 in x 8 in, strapped under the gunwale just forward of the rowing position.  That gives enough buoyancy to allow me in over the rail and keeps the boat stable enough for me to get her bailed out.”
Cabela sells fenders that are 10 by 30 inches (254mm by 762mm), weigh 7 lbs (3.2kg), inflated to 1.5 PSI.
Cabels's Fender

John continued…
“The float on an oar trick is a good one, but there needs to be preparation so the oar can be strapped securely across the boat, in that case a stirrup might work well.”
Three final points I want to emphasize:
  1. Test your reboarding method.
  2. Really...test your reboarding method.
  3. I'm not kidding about this...test your reboarding method.
My thanks to John for his willingness to share his experience.

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