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Thread: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

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    Default Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    So, in preparation for my first big trip later this summer/fall, I did a series of capsize tests on my new Alaska. For me, knowing that a boat can be safely and quickly righted after a capsize, and then bailed out again without assistance, is an essential risk management measure. A capsize represents a worst-case scenario; if I'm confident I can manage it, then I can turn my attention to avoiding situations that might put me at risk of capsizing in the first place, while knowing that if I screw that up, I still have the situation in control.

    So, my first test was with an empty, stationary boat, with the 85 sq ft mainsail hoisted in the center step (I've elected to sail with mainsail only, not the ketch rig Don designed). Results:

    Alaska is a slender, slack-bilged pulling boat, and I expected it to be easy to capsize. Not so. I was unable to pull the boat over even when I stood on the gunwale (I weigh 220 lbs) and tried to pull it over. Impossible. By jumping up and down on the gunwale, I could dip the rail enough to scoop a bit of water, so I suppose with enough time I might have succeeded, but with me just standing on the rail and trying to pull the boat over, she hardened up with a significant degree of reserve stability, and simply refused to go further.



    In the end, I had to pull on the mast to knock her down, at which point the boat rolled over easily enough (in the photo below, I have already let go of the mast after pulling the boat over).



    When I did pull the boat over with the mast, the boat rolled immediately over upside-down, until the mast stuck in the lake bed about 10' down. Initially this seemed discouraging, but I later concluded that the only reason that the boat turtled in this first test was that I kept standing on the gunwale, and my weight forced the rail under enough to turtle the hull:



    No matter; I welcomed the chance to see how hard it would be to recover from full inversion. Results:

    The centerboard slid up into the case, and I was unable to pull it out. In the future I will rig a method to make sure the board is available--Don suggested a pin through the top end of the centerboard case, which would make it impossible for the board to retract all the way in a capsize. I might go that route.

    Without the board, I was unable to right the boat until I rigged a righting line from the opposite gunwale, over the boat, to my side. I was then, with considerable difficulty, able to right the boat alone (keep in mind I weigh 220 lbs), but I had to tie a couple of loops in the line to pull on--as the boat started to roll up, I had to switch to the next higher loop and pull from there. So, that worked. Whether it would work in any kind of waves... Well, I'm doubtful. But I'll sure try if I have to.
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 08-28-2017 at 10:39 AM.
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Bilge runners with hand holds will protect that nice shiny bottom on the beach.

    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    My next capsize test was launched while sailing in gusty stormy winds (maybe 20 mph) but no real waves, as it was a small lake. Again, this was with mainsail only, in center step. This time I had the boat loaded with my normal cruising gear (2 large waterproof duffles lashed in just ahead of the centerboard case), with oars stowed in their normal position (blades forward tucked up alongside the stemp, handles at the center thwart). I left out the 100 lbs of steel shot ballast I normally carry, as I didn't want to lose it. I also left my anchors ashore, as I haven't set up a permanent method of lashing them down yet. I also had my friend Ian along, but the results would have been similar had I done the test solo. No photos as it was evening and almost dark.

    Because I suspected it was my weight standing on the gunwale that had caused the boat to turltle in the first test, Ian and I planned to make sure to avoid doing the same thing this time. We both leaned our full weight on the leeward rail while sailing, and managed (not too easily) to roll the boat over to an almost 90-degree knockdown. At this point water was pouring in and the boat seemed capsized, so Ian and I jumped out.

    At which point the boat rolled back up on its own, filled with water almost to the seat tops but stable (more on that later). Ian and I jumped back in (not too hard) and re-capsized the boat, staying with the roll a bit longer before jumping free. This time the boat rolled over and stopped as soon as the yard/sail hit the water, and showed absolutely no inclination to roll further. I think that's because I made sure not to stand on the gunwale; the duffle bags lashed in up front may also have had something to do with it. Anyone have thoughts on that? Either way, I've concluded that the Alaska is no more prone to turtling than any other sail & oar type cruising boat, which was a nice relief after the first set of tests.

    We swam around the bow and found the board still fully down. I was able to easily right the boat with a gentle pull on the centerboard. She rolled right up, with water about 2" below the seat tops/centerboard case--and no water at all in the duffle bag compartment forward. Because the drains between thwarts are small (1" dia), the boat comes up with more water on the opposite side of the boat, and much emptier on the side near the person righting the boat. This temporarily unequal weight distribution (it evens out slowly because of the drains) provides a nice counterweight to help climb in over the side of the boat to get back in.

    Now, here's the best part. For some combination of reasons, the Alaska is EXTREMELY stable after re-righting, even though it's basically filled with LOTS of water. I was able to easily row the boat to shore while my friend bailed. Had we wanted to, we could have started sailing immediately. This extreme stability while filled with water is the exact opposite of what I have seen in capsize tests with other boats. I might even go so far as to argue that the Alaska is MORE stable loaded with water than it is loaded only with gear and crew. This seems like a crucial safety feature to me, making it much more likely that a solo sailor would be able to re-right and bail out an Alaska safely.

    Here's why I think it works that way:

    1) The interior layout breaks the boat into separate compartments between sealed thwarts/bulkheads--separate cockpits, in effect. And the center cockpit is also divided by the centerboard case running through the center. The result is that free surface area--the room that water has to slosh around and destabilize the hull--is dramatically reduced. I simply could not believe how stable an Alaska is when filled with water.

    2) The hull shape is a classic Whitehall style, designed to carry big loads gracefully--these types of hulls were the pick-up trucks of their day. Beam and stability increases as the boat sits deeper and deeper in the water. Combined with the advantages of the interior layout and its reduction of free surface area, the Alaska is by far the most stable boat, post-capsize, that I have ever experienced.

    That's it so far. I am really impressed with this boats behavior--her surprising reserve stability, the ease with which a solo sailor can right her, and above all, how stable she is after re-righting. Yes, she comes up with a lot of water aboard, but I'm convinced I could immediately row or even sail her again after righting if I had to--she is that stable.

    All right, I'll probably have more thoughts to post here as I get ready for my fall trip. But I wanted to post here as I think these might have been the first intentional capsize tests done on this design.
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    Bilge runners with hand holds will protect that nice shiny bottom on the beach.
    True enough--but then, I usually prefer to take a line ashore from the bow, with an anchor from the stern holding the boat off the beach in knee-deep water. No bilge runners required!
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Excellent.

    Given how stabile she is, one wonders if the addition of a couple of Elvstrom self-bailers would enable you to simple sail or even row her dry. You need two things to make this work. One is the ability to go fast enough for the Bernoulli to really work. I don't recall what that speed might be but it seemed to work clearing water from my dory at speeds as low as three knots. (No, not that three knots.*)

    The other factor is that the boat must be buoyant enough that the Bernoulli can overcome the pressure of the outside water to flow back in. If she can float with inside water higher than outside, no forward motion is needed and she'll just self-bail, at least mostly. If inside and outside are even, some forward motion is needed. The greater the difference, the more speed you need. So a lot matters where inside and outside waterlines turn out to be when the boat's swamped.

    I don't know enough to calculate this. If your boat can sail and row in moderately boisterous conditions without taking an annoying amount of spray, maybe just not bother. But if you sail and find the need to bail as you go along, maybe put an Elvstrom on each side just above the turn of the bilge or even above the level loaded waterline (when closed they are supposed to not leak but . . . ) where you can kick the leeward unit open or closed with your foot while at the helm.

    I found when testing my dory, which also could be rowed when awash, a safe way in though the surf, that sailing her dry took quite a while and rowing her out took longer. In terms of net travel, it made sense when awash to open the elfstroms - she'd eventually dry out even dead still given the floatation I built into the bottom - and then bail till there was only three or four inches left.

    Your experience may vary and, as mentioned, might not be worth the trouble and expense.



    * Three Knots, from the Ozark folktale collection "P!ssing in the Snow" (in the actual book, the title is spelled out.) Retold here without embellishment but when I tell it live, it's a performance.

    A fellow from some small landlocked hollow deep in the Ozarks ran away and joined the Navy. And used his first leave after basic to return home swaggering up and down Main Street in his bell bottom double fly pants. He grabbed the town pump and took her up to her place where, as he whanged away, he shouted out, "How'm I doin' baby?"

    "Oh, about three knots," the tart replied.

    "Three knots !?! That's navy talk. You a girl never left the hollers hundreds of miles from salt water talking navy talk ?!? You even know what 'three knots' means."

    "Sure do honey. You're NOT in. It's NOT hard. And you're NOT getting your money back."

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    True enough--but then, I usually prefer to take a line ashore from the bow, with an anchor from the stern holding the boat off the beach in knee-deep water. No bilge runners required!
    That went right over your head with a wooshing sound. The key words were "Hand Holds". Something to grab and pull her over with.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Nick, you are not seriously suggesting that bilge runners as you pictured should be considered on a Kurylko Alaska, or to guard against a potential capsize event? I'm confused here.

    Tks for posting your testing and results here and have a great trip this fall! / Jim

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by chas View Post
    Nick, you are not seriously suggesting that bilge runners as you pictured should be considered on a Kurylko Alaska, or to guard against a potential capsize event? I'm confused here.

    Tks for posting your testing and results here and have a great trip this fall! / Jim
    Not to "guard against", to recover from. Tom found that he had nothing to grab or hang onto until he rigged a rope. The hand holes in the bilge runners are to hang on to, pull on, and help you climb up as she rolls towards you.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    ... I usually prefer to take a line ashore from the bow, with an anchor from the stern holding the boat off the beach in knee-deep water. No bilge runners required!
    I take it there are no tides where you sail ... That is a lovely lovely boat you have there, Tom. And the tests sound very encouraging. Thanks for posting this.
    There is no rational, logical, or physical description of how free will could exist. It therefore makes no sense to praise or condemn anyone on the grounds they are a free willed self that made one choice but could have chosen something else. There is no evidence that such a situation is possible in our Universe. Demonstrate otherwise and I will be thrilled.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    I love that you're doing capsize tests. They're an adventure in their own right. I've done three capsize tests with Haverchuck, so far. Each one is really educational. I always spot something new that needs to be improved, either in the boat or in my approach. I'm at a point now where I understand what looks normal and in turn, what needs to be dealt with promptly. I plan to do a capsize test annually.

    The only thing that gives me pause in your tests is that you've left out your ballast each time. It's not a true 1:1 test, so when it happens for real I tend to think there will be a new variable in the game. It might matter, it might not. It'll make for an interesting story regardless. You might consider casting lead pigs and bolting them down inside the boat under the floorboards.



    I did a capsize test most recently about a month ago. We were at the north end of Lake Washington. Conditions were pretty sedate, but I'm not exactly out trying to be a hero these days. Here's my result.



    Lessons learned:
    This time out I decided that I wanted go back to a bigger bailing bucket (from 2.5 gallons to 5 gallons), I needed to improve how I lash my oars to the rail (one fell halfway into the water and I found that distracting), and that I needed to wax and maintain the zippers on my drysuit (I had a very cool dribble run down along my hip, and that was also distracting). Otherwise, the drill went well.
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    (I had a very cool dribble run down along my hip, and that was also distracting).
    Just part of getting older, they say.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Been my experience with these traditional designs that they downflood/ swamp before they capsize. Unless you let the rig get ahead of the mast downwind in a breeze and you death roll. Kayakers drill a little hole in the bottom corner of a skeg through which a little loop of 2mm line gets run. Makes for a handle to pull a jammed skeg down or a centerboard out of a case.
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    My one and only capsize test on Fire-Drake happened in anger, as it were, last year in the Sunderland Channel. It was due to the mainsheet being inadvertently cleated while hoisting after reefing and a big gust that knocked her down. On righting the boat and climbing back in I concluded that the first thing I needed to do was get the main sail down as it was still pretty windy and I didn't want it to happen again. I notice that dropping the sail was not something either of you did in your tests.
    Alex

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by AJZimm View Post
    My one and only capsize test on Fire-Drake happened in anger, as it were, last year in the Sunderland Channel. It was due to the mainsheet being inadvertently cleated while hoisting after reefing and a big gust that knocked her down. On righting the boat and climbing back in I concluded that the first thing I needed to do was get the main sail down as it was still pretty windy and I didn't want it to happen again. I notice that dropping the sail was not something either of you did in your tests.
    One of the reasons I have open topped main sheet cams. I have them set up to fit into oarlock sockets. I have to shift the cleating from side to side but I can't auto cleat. I've set up my halyard to run aft to cleat. I can reach it from amidships, from crawling into the boat. A bit of a nuisnance to rig but I like the peace of mind.
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Thanks for sharing these experiences. Others are sure to benefit from them.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    I've never capsized my Alaska, intentionally or otherwise, but your tests confirm my suspicion that the boat would rather go "under" than "over". A couple of times I've had her on her ear, taking water over the gunwale because I was either sitting on the windward sheet (double sheeted) or standing on it with thick-soled rubber boots and couldn't feel it underfoot or underbum. I was singlehanded both times and up on the rail, watching the water flow smoothly over the gunwale. It took a few seconds to realize what was happening while the sprit on the main was dragging through the water, about to crack in two. She just patiently waited for me to figure out I was standing or sitting on the windward sheet. As soon as I lifted my butt or the offending foot a bit she popped back up. I never felt like she might go over.

    This was years ago before I knew anything. Both times I was daysailing without ballast under full sail. I don't go out daysailing without ballast any longer and I don't wear thick-soled boots except to go ashore. Needless to say, all the lines are kept clear to run.

    One other thing I've wanted to mention about re-boarding. I see everyone muscle their way back up over the gunwale but if you get your body horizontal and pull forward and press down at the right time you can easily get your belly on the gunwale. From there you can either pivot your hips to end up sitting or simply crawl over. It takes a lot of strength to muscle up vertically and, oddly, some neoprene clothing and some footwear create enough suction to completely prevent it.

    I may well be criticized for not doing a capsize test but I have jumped into 12 degree water to test the rest of my "system" with good results.

    Thanks for sharing your test results, Tom.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by AJZimm View Post
    I notice that dropping the sail was not something either of you did in your tests.
    I did drop the sail after re-righting during the second test. I didn't feel like there was any particular need to do so but it kept the sail out of the way for rowing and bailing.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Thanks for sharing. That reasonably hard bilge must be why she gets so stiff. Good news indeed about flooded stability, that can be a life saver in itself. As Tim suggests, trying it out with well secured ballast would be a good idea.

    Tim, well surprised how easy it looked to roll "Haverchuck" upright. Thanks both for sharing, nice to watch.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by WI-Tom View Post
    The centerboard slid up into the case, and I was unable to pull it out. In the future I will rig a method to make sure the board is available--Don suggested a pin through the top end of the centerboard case, which would make it impossible for the board to retract all the way in a capsize. I might go that route.
    I use a pin through the top end of the centerboard case in my Kurylko designed D18 Myst in order to keep the centerboard from completely returning into the centerboard case in the event of a capsize. I guess it would work well for that... All I can say is: don't forget to pull that pin when retrieving the boat on the trailer, because it buggers up the centerboard.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    I thought the same thing about the pin and trailering. I really like the idea of a small hole in the lower aft corner of the board with a small loop of 2 or 3 mm line through it.

    Such great news about the stability when flooded! Congrats on choosing an awesome design! ( And to Mr. K. for designing her!)

    Mike
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    I feel like Howard Rice described using a similar approach (small lanyard on the trailing edge of his centerboard) on his super-scamp. Was that on this forum, or maybe on Small Craft Advisor?

    Doesn't your boat seem nice and clean after capsize tests? Around here, capsizing in the lake is a really good way of getting the salt off your sail rig.
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    I use a piece of vb cord tied to the lifting rod and run to a clam cleat on the aft of the case to hold my board down in case of a capsize. It has more give than a pin in case I run aground, plus it is super easy to uncleat. You could even use an autorelease that will let go if you hit something but hold in a capsize situation.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    Doesn't your boat seem nice and clean after capsize tests? Around here, capsizing in the lake is a really good way of getting the salt off your sail rig.
    I wish. With runoff from fertilizer and concentrated animal feeding operations, local lakes are so high in nitrates by late summer that the water's so thick with slimy algae you have to wash your boat AFTER sailing it. Not so on the Great Lakes, of course, but the small local lakes in farmland can get pretty bad that way.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by Falcon1 View Post
    I thought the same thing about the pin and trailering. I really like the idea of a small hole in the lower aft corner of the board with a small loop of 2 or 3 mm line through it.

    Such great news about the stability when flooded! Congrats on choosing an awesome design! ( And to Mr. K. for designing her!)

    Mike
    Yep, a small loop of line was the first thing I thought of. I could easily see myself forgetting to remove the pin...

    Thanks for the comments--can't wait to get out on a long-ish trip. Soon!

    Tom
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by cracked lid View Post
    I use a piece of vb cord tied to the lifting rod and run to a clam cleat on the aft of the case to hold my board down in case of a capsize. It has more give than a pin in case I run aground, plus it is super easy to uncleat. You could even use an autorelease that will let go if you hit something but hold in a capsize situation.
    A piece of garden hose screwed to the board edge, so that the screws compress the hose enough to make it bind in the case but not jam if you do touch bottom was common when I learned sailing a half of a century ago.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    A piece of garden hose screwed to the board edge, so that the screws compress the hose enough to make it bind in the case but not jam if you do touch bottom was common when I learned sailing a half of a century ago.
    That must be with a rigid handle or rod to push the board down, yes? In my Alaska, the board is weighted; it can be pulled up with a line, but has no rigid handle, so there's no way to push it down past the friction of that kind of set-up.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Yeadon,

    thanks for your input, and the video. Looks like you don't have much trouble at all self-rescuing with Haverchuck. As for this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    The only thing that gives me pause in your tests is that you've left out your ballast each time. It's not a true 1:1 test, so when it happens for real I tend to think there will be a new variable in the game. It might matter, it might not. It'll make for an interesting story regardless.
    I agree completely.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    You might consider casting lead pigs and bolting them down inside the boat under the floorboards.
    Yes, but that would require floorboards. I'm not a big fan of the idea--I prefer to keep everything as clean and uncluttered and easy to bail/sponge out as possible. Floorboards seem like an unnecessary addition, though Don's plans do in fact include them.

    I suppose, though, that unsecured ballast might drop to the low side and perhaps cause the boat to turtle in a worst-case scenario. Not sure yet how I'll deal with the issue. Straps might work if tight enough... I do have tie-down anchors installed at the front end of the centerboard case.

    Tom
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Hmm, interesting riddle. There must be a way to fasten down lead pigs in a way that aren't toe-stubbers - and without the need for floorboards. Mine as they are seem rounded enough to do the job.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    Hmm, interesting riddle. There must be a way to fasten down lead pigs in a way that aren't toe-stubbers - and without the need for floorboards. Mine as they are seem rounded enough to do the job.
    Quarter cylinders hard against the centerboard case secured to the hog/keelson. One could taper the ends if one was ambitious enough.

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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Something like this might end up being my solution in the end. But, alas, I doubt I'll get it done before leaving for my first sailing/cruising trip next week. Thanks for the suggestions,

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Kurylko Alaska Capsize Test

    Quote Originally Posted by Yeadon View Post
    The only thing that gives me pause in your tests is that you've left out your ballast each time. It's not a true 1:1 test, so when it happens for real I tend to think there will be a new variable in the game. It might matter, it might not. It'll make for an interesting story regardless. You might consider casting lead pigs and bolting them down inside the boat under the floorboards.

    So, I'm all loaded up and ready for departure on my Georgian Bay trip tomorrow morning--boat's in the water, everything loaded and lashed down. And now that it's fully loaded for 2-3 weeks, I am pretty pleased with how it all fits together.

    The entire area between mast and forward thwart is my "cargo hold," with two large waterproof duffel bags lashed in tightly to a strap on the bedlogs of the centerboard case. Turns out they fit that area so snugly, and are tied so tightly, that I think they will hold the ballast (4 25-lb bags of steel shot that lie underneath the duffels at the front end of the centerboard case) in place for me.

    (I'll add a photo later this evening with the load in place).

    Still, as Yeadon points out, new variables that I haven't tested yet. And I don't intend to test them on this trip if I can help it!
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

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