Jim Michalak's Boat Designs
1024 Merrill St, Lebanon, IL 62254
A page of boat designs and essays.
(1 April 2017) This issue will about capsize lessons. The 15 April issue will look into ways of measuring leeway.
THE BOOK IS OUT!
BOATBUILDING FOR BEGINNERS (AND BEYOND)is out now, written by me and edited by Garth Battista of Breakaway Books. You might find it at your bookstore. If not check it out at the....
ON LINE CATALOG OF MY PLANS...
...which can now be found at Duckworks Magazine. You order with a shopping cart set up and pay with credit cards or by Paypal. Then Duckworks sends me an email about the order and then I send the plans right from me to you.
OH!, to be in England! Tom Hart's new Twixt.
1024 Merrill St,
Lebanon, IL 62254
Send $1 for info on 20 boats.
...is an Englishman, now living in Canada, who designs trimarans. But he has extensive dinghy sailing background and is an expert at capsize recovery. During Sail OK 2012 he spent a couple of hours explaining to all of us the process and details of recovery.
I've never gotten too deeply into this subject. I am essentially a non floater, thus a non swimmer, and for me to go overboard without a life jacket is like skydiving without a parachute. So I don't enjoy practicing capsizes and stop doing it long ago. The subject scares people away. But Richard's demonstrations certainly show it can be done reliably with proper preparation. And that is the point I took away from his excellent effort. Most of our boats are sort of prepared for a capsize, provided the designer has designed in the require emergency buoyancy and the builder hasn't compromised it. After that it comes down to nitty gritty details that most of us ignore. Luckily at the demostration Richard rubbed our noses into those details.
TO START WITH...
...he discussed the best type of life jacket to have. Unfortunately it sort of started with "they don't make this anymore" but I bet they do. You might need a bit of a search. Not supposed to have bulging pockets or straps, anything that will foul as you try to slither your way back into the boat. Richard is holding between his knees the jacket he used in the tests and to me it appears to be what I used to call a kayaker's jacket, many small segments, zippered without straps. The one I had long ago was I think an Omega and it was my all time favorite, for reasons other than capsize recovery, but it died of old age.
...Richard walked down the line of boats at the meet, maybe 20 or 30 there, and one by one discussed the good and bad points of each boat with regard to capsize recovery. It was sort of cruel, although Richard is likeable and jovial. He didn't ask "whose boat is this?" or anything, just lit into each one. He was going to capsize test a boat to demonstrate the details of recovery and was chosing a subject as he did this. But this is when the real knowledge came out as he discussed details that would make a boat better for recovery.
I think right now would be a good time to say what type boats are best for capsize recovery. Not too difficult to guess at this - the board sailing boats of yore, like the Laser and Sunfish, might be the best. They are totally decked so they take on no water, and they are low in the water so the swimmer can simply roll onto the righted hull with little hoisting required. One issue with really small light boats, to me, not sure if Roger discussed this, is that they can be so dominated by the swimmer's weight that reboarding might not be possible. Imagine a 250 pound swimmer trying to get into a 70 pound boat. You might think that as he presses down on the boat's edge to reboard that the boat might simply flop over on top of him. This wasn't demonstrated but I suspect it can be true.
Anyway, down the line of boats we went. Who wants to be Richard's test boat??
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS...
OK, LISTEN UP! If there is any message I took away from this it is that your boat must be prepared in detail to allow a routine recovery. Don't leave anything to chance. If anything can go wrong it will! Be prepared! WHEN A REAL CAPSIZE OCCURS IT WILL LIKELY BE IN VERY BAD CONDITIONS. IN VERY BAD CONDITIONS THERE MAY BE NO ONE AROUND TO HELP YOU!
Hope I haven't scared you away.
When your boat goes over don't get trapped beneath the rig if you can. Don't get tangled and Richard advised all carry a knife at the ready, secured and tethered to the life jacket for instant grabbing, with one handed easy blade extention, with which you can cut yourself loose if you do get tangled. I'm not a knife expert but I think he added it should have saw teeth on both edges so you need not worry about its orientation.
Next, give a lot of thought to how to right the hull. Normally you would step on a lateral board of some sort like a keel, but it might not be accessable to you for several reasons. It might be retracted at the time or too high out of the water for grabbing. So you really need something else and he suggested lines tied securely, and to hefty fastenings, on each side of the boat, clipped under the wale, that can be grabbed and used to pull the boat upright. He suggested securing the ropes with clips made of slitted pvc pipe that would secure the rope in normal use, but would easily release the rope when it is tugged. So that is one detail to think about.
ONCE THE BOAT IS RIGHTED...
...most of us will be faced with the task of getting back in. If you have a very low freeboard boat like a Sunfish you can just lean on one side and grab something and pull yourself back in. Sounds easy but many boats have no detail that allows you to "grab something". So you need to put it there. I think Richard preferred ropes that run along the inside of the side seats or decks that can be reached by the swimmer. Again they need to be stout and well attached. They will take the full weight of a frightened man. Another simple option is a grip lip on the inside of the seat. I suppose there is less chance of snagging that but I think it might require better hand strength than the rope. OK, so that will work with a shallow boat.
Also there should be nothing around to snag the recovering swimmer as he tries to reboard the boat. Richard pointed to external oar lock sockets as a real danger. The reboarding area needs to be slick and free of any brackets.
If you have a boat with a deeper hull that alone won't do. You will need a well planned step of some sort to allow you to reboard. A ROPE LADDER WON'T DO! I was glad Richard pointed that out because I had one once and found it impossible to reboard with one at any time, even after jumping over for a casual dip. As you step into one of these you almost always have you legs swing under the boat's bottom and you can't get up the ladder then. What Richard suggests, and what he used in the demostration, is to rig a stirrup which you can easily get to as you swim. The length of the stirrup needs to be just so and that part wasn't quite clear to me. I think it needs to be such that when you step into it and pull up that your knee is sort of even with the wale, allowing you to get right in. But I'm not sure and there was discussion about it and Richard did rerig the stirrup he rigged in the first demostration before he did the second. All this stuff again needs to be stout and secure enough to take the full weight of a frightened man.
There are other options of course. A real ladder would be great. I've suggested a simple toe slot in the rudder, although I notice no one ever builds a real boat that way. Then the rudder and its fittings need to be stout enough for the weight. I am sure Richard would point out that entering over the rudder, with its tiller and brackets and gear, is an invitation to a snag or sliced skin. A few of the boats at the meet did have a stirrup rigged which is a bit of a surprise.
I guess the big message is don't trust to luck. Have a plan, practice if you can. The details are actually pretty inexpensive. Have a reboarding zone with nothing to snag or cut you on the way up. Have a stirrup or ladder to give a boost up over those high sides, and have good hand grabs for the final pull. Richard also noted that you shouldn't reboard face down into the cockpit, as you would if you simply pulled yourself up and over the side on your belly. Do a bit of a roll in the end so you go over face up. Again, avoid all tangles and snags.
At the time we had a strong onshore wind with whitecaps and no one was boating voluntarily. But Richard pointed out those things were ideal for testing, giving a chance for a real capsize and a fetching up on the launching beach if the recovery failed. It was cold as you see in the photos, no more than 50F, although I'm sure the water was warmer. Richard told of breaking ice in England to give capsize lessons so he was not deterred and no special suits were worn.
He chose Stan Roberts' nice new Family Skiff for the demo, saying it probably had the emergency buoyancy needed and also had the high sides that would make for a good "high sided boat" demonstration to show us the of the special rigging he was suggesting. He removed the mizzen to simplify things a bit. Family Skiff was designed without the mizzen so it would still handle well. Richard pointed out that although the mizzen was a complication on the stern that might need watching in a capsize, it also would provide more strong handholds for reboarding.
The Family Skiff had no motor mounted so the cut down area for the motor was open and Richard immediately rigged a stirrup for reboarding there. So if the outboard had been mounted the reboarding process would have to be rethought. He also rigged a rope running the length of the cockpit as a grab rope to be used when coming over the side, if needed.
Well, I gotta tell you as the designer that I had mixed emotions about having my design be the "winner" of the demo. Most likely Richard didn't know if was mine. But it needs to be done!
After the lecture and rigging of the emergency ropes, off they went into the blow....
A half mile or so out they forced a capsize (pretty easy given the wind)...
It nearly turtled, which surprised me since the lug rigged boats I tested long ago never would turtle because the buoyancy of the wooden yard would hold them sideways. It might have gone full turtle since it was felt the mast had struck bottom preventing that...
They had capsized it with leeboard up high on purpose so that would not be used to right the boat. Richard grabbed the painter (bow line) and held it aft while Stan put his weight on it to lever the boat (slowly, be patient) upright. But a designated line just for this should be secured, with easy access by the swimmer, just for this.
Once upright, Richard swam around to his recovery stirrup and got back in the boat at the stern.
Then I believe he helped pull Stan over the side, I've forgotten (if I ever knew)...
Then they sailed back easily. The whole process seemed fairly reliable and somewhat quick. I was impressed.
Once back on shore we had a peek at the carnage...except there really wasn't any. There was very little water inside and the did no bailing to return.
THEN THEY DID IT AGAIN...
This time capsizing such that they could reright the boat with the leeboard. Plus Richard had fine tuned his stirrup. Also Stan was instructed to reboard over the side solo, which he did, forgetting to roll as he entered so he went in belly down and got a bit tangled. But the second was a bit faster.
I guess that is about it. I really want to thank Richard Woods for the demo. Pretty sure it was the most significant demonstration I've ever seen at a messabout.
RIVER RUNNER, FLOAT BOAT, 15-1/2' X 45" X 100 POUNDS
This was a custom project for a man who wanted a Lowe Paddlejon boat but found they were quite rare, essentially a custom order. The idea of a boat like this is to float mild rivers with a guide in the stern directing with a paddle and a passenger or two up front fishing. You might recall the design I did last year called Ozarkian which is very similar, maybe the father or grandfather of the Lowe design. (I suspect southern Missouri is sort of jonboat heaven, the source of most of them both in spirit and in material. I recall driving the interstate down to Springfield, Mo. about ten years ago and near Lebanon, Mo I passed what seemed to be miles of aluminum jonboats and pontoon boats stored in fields along the highway. Even little children there must know how to weld aluminum.)
He sent me some photos of a paddlejon he had seen recently and a sales brochure. I tried to copy the lines, thinking all the time that these boats are a lot more subtle than you might think. At the time I had no real Lowe around to study but the brochure left me with the impression that the paddlejon was perhaps a regular small power jon made long and double ended with swept up lines both fore and aft to allow easier paddling. But it is not quite a true double ender in that the stern transom is raked for the usual 15 degree motor mount. As far as power goes, a boat like this won't plane nicely at all, trying to stand on its stern at the least excuse, so I say 3 hp max.
Getting back to the lines, I had the feeling that these are made from a constant width piece of aluminum, say 32" wide on the bottom and 16" wide for each side for a total panel width of about 64". Stiffening wales are already pressed into the panel. The flat wide panels are folded with a brake such that the proper flare of the sides is established. The end chines are notched and the end bottoms drawn up and the end sides are drawn in to close the notches which are then welded shut. But the chines for the main portion of the hull are not welded at all, just bent. There seems to be another trick in that the top of the sides bends inward a lot sooner than does the bottom of the sides, resulting in a rolling flare that gives the boat a somewhat elegant shape (I think). So you might think a manufactured jonboat is a dumb and brutish thing, but I'm quite certain most of them are actually pretty clever.
Jim Hauer built the prototype in Green Bay and sent these photos. I think it came out exactly as hoped. Remember, this is not really a rowing boat as much as a floating boat so the face forward rowing will be used more to steer than to propel. The photo of the man paddling in the stern shows that the aft transom is still up giving good flow lines there, unlike a square stern power jonboat. Under power Jim said that 2.5 hp is about all you can take, the boat not behaving well above that.
Anyway, River Runner uses five sheets of 1/4" plywood. The idea of the light ply is to keep the boat light enough to manhandle into a truck or onto a car roof but it will take a diligent builder to keep it light. I suspect the aluminum original would be no heavier. Simple nail and glue construction.
River Runner plans are $20 when ordered direct by mail from me.
Some of you may know that in addition to the one buck catalog which now contains 20 "done" boats, I offer another catalog of 20 unbuilt prototypes. The buck catalog has on its last page a list and brief description of the boats currently in the Catalog of Prototypes. That catalog also contains some articles that I wrote for Messing About In Boats and Boatbuilder magazines. The Catalog of Prototypes costs $3. The both together amount to 50 pages for $4, an offer you may have seen in Woodenboat ads. Payment must be in US funds. The banks here won't accept anything else. (I've got a little stash of foreign currency that I can admire but not spend.) I'm way too small for credit cards.
We have a Picara finished by Ken Giles, past Mayfly16 master, and into its trials. The hull was built by Vincent Lavender in Massachusetts. There have been other Picaras finished in the past but I never got a sailing report for them...
And the Vole in New York is Garth Battista's of www.breakawaybooks.com, printer of my book and Max's old outboard book and many other fine sports books. Beautiful job! Garth is using a small lug rig for sail, not the sharpie sprit sail shown on the plans, so I will continue to carry the design as a prototype boat. But he has used it extensively on his Bahamas trip towed behind his Cormorant. Sort of like having a compact car towed behind an RV.
And a Deansbox seen in Texas:
Another prototype Twister is well along:
The first Jukebox3 is on the (cold) water. The mast is a bit too short - always make your mast too long. A bit more testing will be nice...
A brave soul has started a Robbsboat. He has a builder's blog at http://tomsrobbsboat.blogspot.com. (OOPS! He found a mistake in the side bevels of bulkhead5, says 20 degrees but should be 10 degrees.) This boat has been sailed and is being tested. He has found the sail area a bit much for his area and is putting in serious reef points.
AN INDEX OF PAST ISSUES
THE WAY BACK ISSUES RETURN!
MANY THANKS TO CANADIAN READER GAETAN JETTE WHO NOT ONLY SAVED THEM FROM THE 1997 BEGINNING BUT ALSO PUT TOGETHER AN EXCELLENT INDEX PAGE TO SORT THEM OUT....
THE WAY BACK ISSUES
15apr16, Wood Vs Aluminum Spars, Mayfly16
1may16, Scarfing Wood, Blobster
15may16, Prismatic Coefficient, Roar2
1jun16, Figuring Displacement, Mayfly14
15jun16, Rend Lake 2016, Mixer
1jul16, Ballast Calculations 1, Dorado
15jul16, Ballast Calculations 2, Robbsboat
1aug16, Ballast Calculations 3, AF4
15aug16, Taped Seams, Cormorant
1sep16, Butt Joints, Vireo
15sep16, Old Outboards, Philsboat
1oct16, D'Arcy Ballast, Larsboat
15oct16, D'Arcy Ballast 2, Jonsboat
1nov16, D'Arcy Ballast 3, Piccup Pram
1dec16, Sail Area Math, Ladybug
15dec16, D'Arcy Thoughts, Sportdory
1jan17, AF3 Capsize, Normsboat
15jan17, The Weather, Robote
1feb17, Aspect Ratio, Jewelbox Jr
15feb17, Aspect Ratio 2, IMB
1mar17, Normsboat Capsize, AF4Breve
15mar17, Underwater Board Shape, Harmonica
Mother of All Boat Links
The Boatbuilding Community
Kilburn's Power Skiff
Bruce Builds Roar
Rich builds AF2
JB Builds AF4
JB Builds Sportdory
Puddle Duck Website
Brian builds Roar2
Herb builds AF3
Herb builds RB42
Barry Builds Toto
Table of Contents