The super Blog "Proper Course" by Tillerman has listed 4 steps "not to die on your Laser" and he promised one more. Check out his blog for more on all this.
1) Wear the life jacket.
2) Wet Suit or Dry suit.
3) Hold on to the sheet if you capsize.
4) Be sure you can get back in the boat.
5) Yet to come, but I think it will be Sail in Company or something like that.
I am trying to figure out how to wrap up this blog so I can get back to sailing more regularly. That leads me to go ahead with these issues and a few more to write. (My problem is I keep thinking up other things to write.)
1. Wear your life jacket. Have one that is comfortable, won’t catch on the boom (you may want shirt to put over it to hold it down), that you can get back in the boat wearing, and that you can swim in fairly well. Tillerman wants you to have a US Coast Guard Approved one. Maybe if you go to a lot of regattas that require Coast Guard Approved, you need one of those. The ones that are legal in Europe seem OK to me. When I write up our regatta Notice of Race, I say "suitable life jacket". Somebody makes one for women and that might be a good idea.
2. Wet suit or dry suit. You need to be warm enough for your water and time in and out of it.
3. Hold on to the sheet when you capsize and let go of the tiller extension. Then you won’t have to swim after the boat and you will not have broken your tiller extension. When thing go wrong you may have already dropped the sheet. Someone has suggested tying the sheet to your ankle, but that has been vetoed. Sometime you may go one way, the boat goes the other and you don’t want to be tied to it.
4. Be able to get back into the boat. You should be able to swim back into the Laser. Grab the grab rail and then the hiking strap. Kick your feet and sort of swim in. Be sure your life jacket doesn’t hang up on the rail.
If you are righting the boat with the sail to windward, expect it to blow over the other way and consider hanging onto the centerboard, going under the boat, and getting in from the windward side (the San Francisco Roll).
5. Sail in company. Tillerman will probably do a good job with this, but here is mine. Another Laser sailor can always pick you up and take you home if nothing else works.
Here at Lake Eustis we have a relatively shallow lake (10 to 12 feet) so if you are unlucky with a late leap to the high side to try and rescue a dry capsize, you may be half turtled and the mast stuck in the really really sticky algae mud. It may be stuck so good that one person on the centerboard can’t get it out. Usually two people can, so a second boat can capsize near by. The two sailors right the boat. They both get on it to sail the second sailor back to where his boat has drifted.
Failing that, a motor boat or a sailboat can pull the bow of the stuck boat perpendicular to the hull in the direction of the bottom of the boat. That unscrews the boat from the bottom. Or two folks on the one laser may go "home" to get a motorboat. The stuck boat will be waiting.
6. In a big blow, storm or T-storm, etc:(This is number six, I know.)
A. Turn the boat on its side with half of the top mast in the water. Sailor sits on the high dry side, balance the boat and wait for the thing to blow over. Then right the boat and go about your business.
B. If "home" is broad reach or downwind, let the sail out in front of the boat and proceed at a leisurely pace and the sail at full luff. If you have the standard length sheet you will have to take the knot out of the end. Pass it through the rachet block and then put a figure eight in again so it won’t run through the boom blocks. Now the boom will go out in front of the boat. If you change your mind, head up and grab the sheet at the forward boom block and you will be in business again.
C. To go upwind in a storm, release all the vang or disconnect it so the boom can rise. Then close reach home with the top of the sail luffing and the bottom aft section pulling. I had a friend that called this the fisherman’s reef.
D. Another for the big blow upwind is to take the top batten out, tighten the Cunningham, and wrap the sail 2 or 3 times around the mast. The outhaul will need to be longer to reach the clew. Maybe use that 2 foot long piece of line that you have been saving for repairs. Remember you have it knotted around the hiking strap. I think you will have to go ashore someplace to do this. If you figure out how to do it on the water or in the water let me know.
7. If you are sailing alone with the wind up or maybe going to be up, stay near a friendly shore. Generally we say "stick with the boat" but cold water and you might want to go ashore, get out of the water and get the boat later.
8. If you are sailing no place in particular, stay up wind of home. If you break something it will be easier to go home.
9. If the boom had been hitting you in the head, practice with the super vang on, getting used to ducking low and always getting the vang off before turning downwind. Get the habit.
10. No wind.
A. Rock and roll home. Tie the sheet to close reach setting and stand on the bow. Push the mast right and left to go forward and lean hard right or left to turn left or right.
B. Not very far to go. Paddle with one hand.
C. To go faster. Lay on the bow, chest down. Legs can be on one side of mast and do the butterfly breast stroke.
D. Chronic problem like my narrow channel in Key West with mangroves on the east and easterly winds. Try a plywood hand paddle similar to the plastic job used by Opti sailors. Gives you more power and lies flat in bottom of cockpit when not in use.
Some recent posts on my new blog
2 months ago