Mikesboat Capsize

By David Chase – Holland, Michigan - USA


I managed to capsize our MikesBoat yawl during the second day, Tuesday, May 25, of the 2010 OBX (outer banks) 130 in Core Sound, North Carolina. The fleet departed Cedar Island the day before in a moderate east wind that was predicted to back to the NE and strengthen.

Launching at Driftwood Motel, Cedar Island, North Carolina.

A small craft advisory was posted for the afternoon of Monday through Thursday. Monday night’s destination was an abandoned gun club on the barrier island that makes up part of the Cape Lookout National Seashore. During the night, I heard the wind increasing as it kept the rain fly of my solo tent in constant motion. Morning brought a forecast of NE winds 20 to 25 kts.

Being new to this type of cruising and not having much heavy air experience with the MikesBoat, I decided to withdraw from the event and head for Harker’s Island a few hours south where I could get a ride back to my car and trailer. Before leaving the gun club, I put in the second reef in my main before hoisting both it and the mizzen.

At first all was well as the boat was consistently sailing fast and feeling secure on a broad reach with the wind coming over the starboard quarter, both sails eased out to port, and with the leeboard down about one third. After about an hour, however the wind and waves continued to build to the point where I thought that I should come up into the wind, lower the main, and continue on under mizzen alone. Within ten minutes of that thought, I was in the water.

Andrew Linn took this from Laguna Dos. Asked about the focus, he later said: "I have issues with photographing other people's tragedies."

To the best of my memory, the stern of the boat was swung off to port (possibly by wave action?) causing a heel to starboard, the WINDWARD side of the boat. Releasing the main sheet and pulling the tiller to take the boat back downwind did not stop a capsize to WINDWARD. I noticed that the boat was riding high on her side with the mast angled down into the water. I swam around to the bottom of the boat and climbed onto the leeboard, but that did not right the boat.

At this point, Laguna dos sailed by and the crew asked if I could right the boat myself, to which I replied that I could not. A moment later, Sean Moffitt from Laguna dos appeared in the water next to me and suggested that we try to point the boat into the wind. We were unable to do this, but he further suggested that we try to furl the main. Furling was successful, and I once again stood on the leeboard causing the boat to right easily.

Sean quickly climbed aboard, but I was unable to do so. I hooked a foot over the wale, and Sean literally dragged me aboard. After expressing my thanks, I was amazed to see a foot or less of water in the boat that we were able to bail out quickly. We then proceeded to Harker’s Island under power where Sean was able to rejoin Laguna dos, and I was able to retrieve my car and trailer and haul out for the trip back to Michigan.

Even a quick reading of the above shows that I made several mistakes.
1. I should have acted the moment that I sensed that the boat was overpowered.
2. I could have started with just the double-reefed main.
3. Instead of using the main, I could have set the small jib from my West Wight Potter that I had with me using a cleat on the foredeck for the tack and the main halyard. This would have moved the center of effort forward and possibly prevented the round up and capsize.
4. I should have made provision for a boarding ladder. We intentionally did not add the toe hole in the rudder that Jim Michalak suggests believing that it would take away form the rudder’s efficiency.
5. I was most certainly using the boat in conditions that the boat was not designed for.

I was very lucky in that the water was warm and the boat capsized to starboard so that the leeboard was available to help right the boat. By far, my greatest luck was Sean Moffitt’s willingness to lend a hand while inconveniencing himself.

Tying up at Harker's Island.

Looking ahead I know that I must add a boarding ladder and devise a system to right the boat if the leeboard is out of reach. A few decades ago, I raced a NACRA 5.8 catamaran. We always carried a coiled righting line under the trampoline that could be thrown over the upper hull to right the boat in the event of a capsize. My crew and I used it more than once!! For the MikesBoat, I believe that a line could be connected to a strong point inside the wale on the port side of the boat. In the event of a port side down capsize, the line could be thrown over the vertical hull, led over the leeboard, and then used to right the boat. In the event of a retracted leeboard, a STRONG person might climb it a bit to reach the leeboard. Alternately, loops could be tied in the line for foot holds to reach the leeboard.

I was so grateful for Sean's help that I gave him the rigging knife that I have carried for 30 years.

This experience has not dampened my enthusiasm for the MikesBoat yawl. I believe it is a very versatile and comfortable daysailor/beach cruiser/expedition craft far more capable than its length might indicate. I will handle the boat with more care off the wind in the future and will work on the modifications listed above.

At the helm on day 1 - notice the nice weather. More of this please.



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