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Thread: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

  1. #1
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    Default Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Earlier this month I capsized my Shellback while gybing at the leeward mark in a heat at the Shellback Worlds/Frank Pedersen Memorial Shellback Regatta in Jamestown, RI. John Horton, one of the organizers of the event and fellow racer was first on the scene -- he was a big help in sorting me out. I could right the boat easily enough but there was no chance to bail it out as the water entered through the dagger board trunk faster than I could reasonably dewater. In the end, I boarded the rescue dinghy and Albert Nichols, another fellow sailor guided the tow from the stern of my Shellback to shore and safety. Thank you Albert.

    I have perhaps 100 hours at the helm of my Shellback altogether and this is the first time I capsized. It was shocking to me how quickly it happened. I caught a gust at an inopportune time and was not paying enough attention. Lesson 1 you know this already always wear a lifejacket. Lesson 2 bring the daggerboard cap with you and tether it to the boat. I am exploring how I may retrofit a rubber seal to the cap to plug the trunk in the event of capsize. Lesson 3 these boats have no built-in flotation so it may be prudent to install some air bags to make self-rescue possible. Im going to look into some Opti airbags for starters. One of our fellow racers had done so and Im looking forward to testing this.

    I hasten to add I dont believe I was ever in danger. I had a lifejacket; the waters of Narragansett Bay are warm compared to my home waters of Casco Bay and I was in the company of some of Rhode Islands' finest sailors.

    Lastly, let me thank all the Shellback Frostbiters of Jamestown and Jim Pedersen for their warm hospitality. We had a blast.

    244479703_10218774193166258_646573632954845844_n.jpg
    Tom Greaves

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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Some dinks can be rapidly de watered ,at least to get below the db trunk,by rolling them rapidly side to side while the (former) occoupant is IN the water ."specially if you have 2 people.
    Worth a test when things warm up a bit.
    bruce

    lifejackets....pfffft

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    "lifejackets....pfffft"?
    Tom Greaves

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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Glad you made it home with a lesson learned. Needing a way to plug the center/dagger board trunk does seem to be a recurring theme.
    Steve

    If you would have a good boat, be a good guy when you build her - honest, careful, patient, strong.
    H.A. Calahan

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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    It always shocks me how many venerated boats are, in my opinion, poor and incomplete designs with almost no thought given to capsize behaviour and self rescue.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    I hope that the first realization that spring to mind was that you should have been practicing self-rescue all along. First in benign conditions, and working up to worse.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Quote Originally Posted by Clarkey View Post
    It always shocks me how many venerated boats are, in my opinion, poor and incomplete designs with almost no thought given to capsize behaviour and self rescue.
    I may not have put it as strongly, but definitely agree. The fundamental job of a boat is to stay afloat and keep its occupants alive. Builders are free to build how they wish, but if designers included flotation in all their open boat designs, most would build them that way.

    Jack

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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    as my years add up and my athleticism declines self rescue is becoming more n more important

    one of the more concerning items is an open top slot below the level of the wales in a vessel w/o substantial floatation chambers

    as mentioned above the Opti sailing folk have a set of air bags as do many canoeists and kayakers

    CYOA

    sw
    "we are the people, our parents warned us about" (jb)

    steve

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Thank you for your report, it may be very helpful to others.
    I was sailing my Shellback yesterday for only the second time. The breeze was gentle, but I tied a substantial float bag under the middle thwart. I hope that would float it enough to bail if need be. In my harbor it would be easy to swim ashore, but I may not always be in the harbor. Not a racer, I sit in the bottom and count on my 230# to keep her level.
    Fair winds, sail safely.

    Quote Originally Posted by TGreaves View Post
    Earlier this month I capsized my Shellback while gybing at the leeward mark in a heat at the Shellback Worlds/Frank Pedersen Memorial Shellback Regatta in Jamestown, RI. John Horton, one of the organizers of the event and fellow racer was first on the scene -- he was a big help in sorting me out. I could right the boat easily enough but there was no chance to bail it out as the water entered through the dagger board trunk faster than I could reasonably dewater. In the end, I boarded the rescue dinghy and Albert Nichols, another fellow sailor guided the tow from the stern of my Shellback to shore and safety. Thank you Albert.

    I have perhaps 100 hours at the helm of my Shellback altogether and this is the first time I capsized. It was shocking to me how quickly it happened. I caught a gust at an inopportune time and was not paying enough attention. Lesson 1 – you know this already – always wear a lifejacket. Lesson 2 – bring the daggerboard cap with you and tether it to the boat. I am exploring how I may retrofit a rubber seal to the cap to plug the trunk in the event of capsize. Lesson 3 – these boats have no built-in flotation so it may be prudent to install some air bags to make self-rescue possible. I’m going to look into some Opti airbags for starters. One of our fellow racers had done so and I’m looking forward to testing this.

    I hasten to add I don’t believe I was ever in danger. I had a lifejacket; the waters of Narragansett Bay are warm compared to my home waters of Casco Bay and I was in the company of some of Rhode Islands' finest sailors.

    Lastly, let me thank all the Shellback Frostbiters of Jamestown and Jim Pedersen for their warm hospitality. We had a blast.

    244479703_10218774193166258_646573632954845844_n.jpg

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Wizbang 13 Thank you for expanding my vocabulary. I learned just this morning that "pfffft" is a modern word used to express contempt. I'll continue to wear my lifejacket when the conditions warrant and for me, dinghy racing qualifies. I have rescued two people from drowning in the chuck in the past six decades, neither of whom were wearing life jackets and this experience reinforces my preferences for enabling self rescue. For dinghy sailing, wearing a lifejacket means fewer bruises too; the padding is a feature, not a bug. My aim in relaying my capsize experience was to help others, not to proselytize.

    Clarkey, Jack-Loudon: I remain a big fan of the Shellback in particular, and Joel White's designs in general. His boats are beautiful, fun to sail and a pleasure to build. It is a very special pleasure to sail with a small fleet of these boats. Following Johngsandusky, most of the time I sail mine while seated on the hull, not the seat. However, the best racers -- and I certainly do not include myself in this group -- seem to sail from the middle seat and in this position, the center of gravity is no doubt higher than the center of buoyancy. Roll tacks, for example, can be executed from the seated position and this seems to offer a competitive advantage. For most of us the mass of the sailor exceeds the mass of the boat and so if stability is preferred to speed, staying low seems like a reasonable answer. Retrofitting air bags seems like a reasonable accommodation for racing. Most of the time my Shellback serves as a tender and I like having the space for ferrying my stuff.
    Tom Greaves

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    For the Small Reach Regatta we always looked at floatation. Bags can be set up using webbing so they can go in and out depending on your mission. Do run a test.

    A tshirt or other rag(s) can work nicely to keep water coming in the DB trunk especially if you have your DB down. You don't want to pull it.

    I've set up floatation in Ran Tan and in the ducker to keep the DB trunk above the waterline.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Tom...My humor may be a little too much for you.If you want to focus on a dry joke and ignore what I actually said though....
    oh, I've saved 5 from drowning ,( and one from electrocution).
    I carry a pair of air bags in my skiff,seats from old dead zodes. I have tested them thoroughly.Blue things under the thwart.


    My bride carries one in her El Toro..that is all it takes to keep the trunk opening up.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    My dinghy has 1.5" hard pink foam full-length under the seat, and pool-noodle fenders. It floats enough that it can be bailed out as long as the waves aren't too rough. I've done it.

    dinghy.jpg

    IMG_8928 sm.jpg

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Another trick I've used on a couple boats is a cap for your dagger/center board case. Friction fit. On a lanyard. You can use it to prevent wettbutt syndrome when rowing into a chop. Or it can be popped into place to stop/slow the 'fountain effect' in the case of a capsize.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Quote Originally Posted by TGreaves View Post
    Wizbang 13 Thank you for expanding my vocabulary. I learned just this morning that "pfffft" is a modern word used to express contempt. I'll continue to wear my lifejacket when the conditions warrant and for me, dinghy racing qualifies. I have rescued two people from drowning in the chuck in the past six decades, neither of whom were wearing life jackets and this experience reinforces my preferences for enabling self rescue. For dinghy sailing, wearing a lifejacket means fewer bruises too; the padding is a feature, not a bug. My aim in relaying my capsize experience was to help others, not to proselytize.

    Clarkey, Jack-Loudon: I remain a big fan of the Shellback in particular, and Joel White's designs in general. His boats are beautiful, fun to sail and a pleasure to build. It is a very special pleasure to sail with a small fleet of these boats. Following Johngsandusky, most of the time I sail mine while seated on the hull, not the seat. However, the best racers -- and I certainly do not include myself in this group -- seem to sail from the middle seat and in this position, the center of gravity is no doubt higher than the center of buoyancy. Roll tacks, for example, can be executed from the seated position and this seems to offer a competitive advantage. For most of us the mass of the sailor exceeds the mass of the boat and so if stability is preferred to speed, staying low seems like a reasonable answer. Retrofitting air bags seems like a reasonable accommodation for racing. Most of the time my Shellback serves as a tender and I like having the space for ferrying my stuff.
    Tom, thanks for the reply (and sharing your original story) and hope I didn't come off as too preachy, as we all have the right to make our own choices in these matters. Where I do most of my boating, the water is cold year round and there typically aren't other boaters in sight. In the event of a capsize, which thankfully has only happened once in these conditions, I was/am responsible for my own rescue. In warmer waters and among other boaters, I might feel differently about flotation.

    Jack

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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    Some dinks can be rapidly de watered ,at least to get below the db trunk,by rolling them rapidly side to side while the (former) occoupant is IN the water ."specially if you have 2 people.
    Worth a test when things warm up a bit.
    bruce

    lifejackets....pfffft
    Like this?


  17. #17
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Glad to know that you use yours as a tender Tom, I bought mine to replace my dory tender.
    Bruce, I also use seats from inflatable boats for float bags. Mine are new replacements, they are tough and inexpensive.
    Ben, I love the tee shirt idea, thanks.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Fuller View Post
    For the Small Reach Regatta we always looked at floatation. Bags can be set up using webbing so they can go in and out depending on your mission. Do run a test.

    A tshirt or other rag(s) can work nicely to keep water coming in the DB trunk especially if you have your DB down. You don't want to pull it.

    I've set up floatation in Ran Tan and in the ducker to keep the DB trunk above the waterline.
    The SRR, especially in the early years, taught us a lot about safe boating...I recall another boat design by a venerated designer had to be rescued similarly at that event - and that boat had flotation!

    Ben - I wonder about a bit of a gasket around the top of the trunk to help "seal" the board to slow water ingress there should it happen (and it shouldn't if there is enough flotation) - and does a fairing strip on the bottom help, too?

    All my designs have excess flotation and I urge my customers to test the boat if it is a newer design. It isn't just about how much flotation but it's distribution is important too. I recall my Drake 19 had plenty of flotation but I needed a bulkhead forward because the water wanting to flow into the bow making her float too bow down.

    Also, some one commented about his amazement that such well known designer would put out boats without thinking this all through. I agree - but as a designer I also know that we work on precedent often and that is what JW did to some extent. He certainly was forward thinking in a number of ways, but many early ply-epoxy boatbuilders/designers came from trad-boatbuilding where flotation was inherent in the hull. It wasn't on their minds so much perhaps when ply-epoxy construction was still relatively new. Also, there wasn't such easy access to these designs - in many ways the kit industry has brought about the change in making flotation more built-in than ever.
    Clinton B. Chase
    Portland, Maine

    http://tinyurl.com/myboats

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Quote Originally Posted by ejds View Post
    Like this?

    pretty much. But from IN the water, not balancing on the rail.
    something to consider when adding side decks.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Quote Originally Posted by Clinton B Chase View Post
    The SRR, especially in the early years, taught us a lot about safe boating...I recall another boat design by a venerated designer had to be rescued similarly at that event - and that boat had flotation!

    Ben - I wonder about a bit of a gasket around the top of the trunk to help "seal" the board to slow water ingress there should it happen (and it shouldn't if there is enough flotation) - and does a fairing strip on the bottom help, too?

    All my designs have excess flotation and I urge my customers to test the boat if it is a newer design. It isn't just about how much flotation but it's distribution is important too. I recall my Drake 19 had plenty of flotation but I needed a bulkhead forward because the water wanting to flow into the bow making her float too bow down.

    Also, some one commented about his amazement that such well known designer would put out boats without thinking this all through. I agree - but as a designer I also know that we work on precedent often and that is what JW did to some extent. He certainly was forward thinking in a number of ways, but many early ply-epoxy boatbuilders/designers came from trad-boatbuilding where flotation was inherent in the hull. It wasn't on their minds so much perhaps when ply-epoxy construction was still relatively new. Also, there wasn't such easy access to these designs - in many ways the kit industry has brought about the change in making flotation more built-in than ever.
    Clint, most gasketed trunks have them on the bottom to help close a cb trunk racing. Even DB trunks on fast boats can have profiled gaskets. Buckets of drag. They would probably slow water coming in but better to design things so the top of the trunk is clear when swamped.

    The whole concept of self rescue comes from the dinghy racing game. 60s boats like the Windmill, Jet 14 etc could not be sailed dry as they can now with redesigns. In the sail and row game we mostly want to be able to get in the boat and bail so not as critical , but you do need to keep water from coming in. One of the reasons that I've set up RAN TAN's main halyard on a cam that I can reach from in the water so I can dump the sail.
    Ben Fuller
    Ran Tan, Liten Kuhling, Tipsy, Tippy, Josef W., Merry Mouth, Imp, Macavity, Look Far, Flash and a quiver of other 'yaks.
    "Bound fast is boatless man."

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Some advice on technique for rescuing boats without enough flotation.
    Arrange it so you can strip the rig out of the boat. You need to have it so you can get it back, so it should have a tether on it like the mainsheet. You need to get rid of the weight aloft because a hull awash has no stability. You also need the boat to float as high as possible. If you have a daggerboard, it should pretty much fill the slot, if it doesn’t it should. So that with the board in place the trunk will leak but mot as fast as you throw water.
    You should have a legitimate bucket 4 gallons or so, that you can use to bail while swimming alongside the boat. You should be able to get a bout half the water out before trying to remount. A bunch of water will follow you into the boat, but hopefully you have a chance to stand up and get rid of the rest. once again, a cute little bailer ain’t gonna cut it. A plastic bucket is a pretty nice for keeping stuff in so you shouldn’t feel too bad about having one with you .
    Practice getting back into a boat from the water. There is a trick to it. Reach as far toward the other side and kick like a bastard. You want to get across the gunwales as fast as you can so try to pull the boat under you more than pull yourself up into the boat.
    These are good things to practice on hot windless days, they can save your bacon on cold windy days.
    SHC

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    capsized shellback.jpg

    A pic I took of a young Milo Stanley standing on a Shellback. We were teaching a class at the WBS, and decided first to see how easy self-rescue would be in them.
    I do recommend supplementary flotation.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    Well put.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Lessons learned from Shellback capsize

    [QUOTE=DGentry;65535
    A pic I took of a young Milo Stanley standing on a Shellback. We were teaching a class at the WBS, and decided first to see how easy self-rescue would be in them.
    I do recommend supplementary flotation.[/QUOTE]


    Many builders of Nutshell and Shellback dinghies are neophytes who will learn to sail on their newly-built boats, and will likely capsize from time to time. I would think the Shellback designer, or it's trustees, has some moral if not legal responsibility to design a boat that won't sink. I say this not for seasoned boaters who can make informed decisions and build what they want, but for those new to boating who unknowingly trust that their boat has been designed to a reasonable standard of safety.


    Just my opinion,
    Jack

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