View Full Version : Pram Hazard

Dave Carnell
09-18-2000, 06:45 AM
I think all 8'prams from the simplest to the elegant NUTSHELL have the same built-in hazard. If you are alone in one and find yourself in the water, you cannot get back in without swamping the boat and once swamped they cannot be self rescued, as I found in the Delaware River one night.

On the other hand, Phil Bolger's TORTOISE, a 6'-3" box can be reboarded without swamping because of its sizeable after deck. You just climb in over the transom.

I built a 10' version of UNCLE GABE'S FLATTIE SKIFF (Rabl's "Boatbuilding in Your Own Backyard") for a sailing club and challenged all members to a race I couldn't lose ahainst our prams; row out to a buoy, jump overboard, get back in, and row to shore. You can board those flatiron skiffs right over the side.

Ian McColgin
09-18-2000, 09:19 AM
Try going in over the stern. I weight 240# and it works for me.

Reread your post and see that you knew that it should work already. I'm used to lots of other small dinks and made the arrogant assumption that I knew what was up and that the acorn ought to have at least as much flotation as an Optimist, which is about the tiniest thing I've swum into.

This will take more looking into. Thanks for the warning/insight. Anyone on Cape Cod got an Acorn to test out while it's still warm???

[This message has been edited by Ian McColgin (edited 09-18-2000).]

09-19-2000, 01:38 AM
Umm, very sobering. I seem to flop into a boat from the water, puffing and blowing, like a seal floundering ashore. I had always assumed that I could get back in over the transom, because that is how you board the boat if you have had to wade out to launch her from a beach, but I am now unsure that I could board mine from the stern, if I was really swimming.

Thanks for a good observation. Experiment required!

Tim Brown
09-19-2000, 12:43 PM
This needs some checking out. Many of the sailing clubs in the midwest have youth classes sailing in Optimist Prams. Capsizing is common and is even required* in some races. These 8 - 11 year olds don't seem to have any problem righting, boarding and finishing races.

*Often in sailing school classes, races are set up which require the skipper to capsize the boat at least once just to teach this skill.

Dave Carnell
09-20-2000, 07:10 AM
I just learned that OPTIMISTs have flotation.

Dave Hadfield
09-20-2000, 07:47 AM
I made a 65 sq ft spritsail and installed it on a Bolger 8ft Elegant Punt. Too much sail. My son and my buddy both dumped it and couldn't get it bailed and back aboard.
The plans called for styrofoam to be mounted under the long, fore-and-aft seat. I should have done this, but didn't. Maybe next year.
Either that or flotation compartments are practical, I think, if you plan to sail beyond easy rescue.

Don Maurer
10-11-2000, 05:12 PM
If you are relying on the wood in a boat alone for floatation, your safety margin is too thin. A 100 lb. wooden dighy has about as much natural floatation as an adult life jacket. Add an anchor or an outboard and you are sunk if it capsizes (literally)!

10-12-2000, 03:32 PM
I've sailed 505's, Hornets, Int14's, etc. in my gay youth and allways came in over the stern if it was a swim back job. There is always a bit sticking out aft to help as a foot hold; a bung, the rudder etc. and the mainsheet horse to use as a handhold. Most of the time you just walk over the hull as she goes over till you can stand on the plate - hardly get your feet wet. The ultimate though was the Contender (una rig, single handed trapeeze job) If you got it right, you could capsize to windward still hooked on to the trapeeze, take the boat through 360 degrees and pop up on the other side still hooked on. Bit like a kyack. We used to play 'sailing football'; stand on the transom, steer with tiller extension and lash out with your foot at a beach ball. Great fun. Then there was underwater hockey in the yacht club swimming pool... Ah, happy days.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
10-13-2000, 03:40 AM
I recently bought a Firefly, a varnished hot moulded 12' Uffa Fox design from 1938, a classic tippy dinghy, well known for its downwind death roll and lethally low boom, just to see if I still could...

I can, and the 9ft Malcolm Goodwin Nutshell stem dinghy (an excellent UK glued clinker ply design, no relation to the Woodenboat Nutshell) which we use as a tender is no problem either. Both are quite big in relation to me and have loads of bouyancy bags and compartments. But the little 7ft and 8ft prams seem to pose other problems.

10-07-2001, 11:51 PM
One interesting idea is in the SF Pelican - a sort of sampan-like design. The designer, a Cap'n Short, I think, mentioned lining one side with flotation, and using that as the pivot-axis for righting a capsized boat.
Any thoughts?

10-08-2001, 08:03 AM
I have constructed the Great Pelican many years ago and I installed flotation all around and at 6'3" and 240 pounds I could board with a little effort. While in Alaska I was teaching a class in offshore safety and one of my things was to have everyone bring their favorite dinghy with them on a Saturday class.....we would put the dink in a pool and have the folks jump in a try to board it.......and then I would capsize the dink and ask them to try again......several folks swapped their inflateables for rigid dinks......

Scott Rosen
10-08-2001, 09:07 AM
You should be able to do it like this.

If the boat is swamped and you're in the water, then go to the stern, place your feet at the bottom of the transom, grab on to the top of the transom and assume a crouch position in the water. Then, with all of your might, kick your legs down while still holding on to the transom top. That will force the bow out of the water and up into the air, and will dump a lot of water out of the boat. Do that a couple of more times, and the boat will be close to dry. Then, climb in over the stern transom as fast as you can. You will get some water in the boat from this maneuver, but not enough to swamp the boat. Finally, bail like hell.

If it's a sailing dink, then you should try to plug the board trunk with a shirt or anything handy before you start this maneuver. That way, if the water rises above the level of the trunk, you can keep ahead of it by bailing. I don't know if you could do this with an outboard on the stern.

Wayne Jeffers
10-08-2001, 10:44 AM
I believe Dave is absolutely correct, but I would not limit the problem to small prams. It is important to have enough flotation and to have that flotation placed low enough and properly distributed so that she floats high enough and upright with sufficient stability when swamped. In the alternative, a generous rear deck will work wonders.

I once assumed that manufactured boats would have enough floatation, properly placed, so as to facilitate self-rescue. When I was young, we used to swamp aluminum skiffs at summer camp and re-board without a problem, just like Scott describes.

In the summer of 2000, we were sailing in a borrowed 12-foot fiberglass production boat in moderately heavy wind. She had what seemed plenty of foam flotation molded under the thwarts. I didn't give it a thought. I expected to get knocked down and I knew from my youth how to right the boat, get aboard, and bail. Well, we got knocked down. I righted the boat (repeatedly) only to find that she floated with the gunwales awash and that when swamped she was totally unstable, except when in the turtle position.

Message: Depending on the boat, righting, re-boarding, and bailing may be a whole lot more difficult than you expect. It is a good idea to try it under controlled conditions so you will know what to expect.