A third situation, (the one with which we were faced in the North Americans), is what to do when a boat turns turtle prior to the time that the crew can stabilize her position on her side. This is one of the most difficult situations a crew can face in the water, however, it can be effectively managed.
There have been circumstances where the crew was able to right a turtled boat without assistance. If the boat is all the way up in the trunk, this is most difficult and requires extraordinary effort. Getting the boat broadside to the waves is helpful in getting the boat back on its side.
Most likely once you have turtled the boat you will require assistance from a crash boat. Most crash boats will not know what to do to help you and you will have to direct their activities. First, get your boat broadside to the wind. Then have the crash boat go to your weather side a safe distance from your boat and throw you a line. At this time you should have one crew on the weather side of the boat and two crews at the rudder. The crew on the weather side should take the line from the crash boat, run it through the spinnaker guy down-haul hook on the weather side of the boat and cleat it in the spinnaker guy cleat on the weather side of the boat.
The crash boat should then continue in a wide circle around your boat stopping directly downwind of the capsized boat with the line then trailing across the bottom of the capsized boat, perpendicular to the keel. The crash boat should then be directed to proceed slowly dead downwind, with the crewmember who had been on the weather side of the boat going to the bow of the boat. By pulling across the bottom of the boat to a point on the weather rail, a force will be exerted which should pull the capsized boat out of the turtled position. It is important to stop pulling and maintain only enough pressure to keep the boat on its side, rather than attempt to completely right the boat at this time. As soon as the boat is on its side one of the crew members at the rudder should go to the center of the boat and lower the centerboard to the full down position, retighten the preventer, lower the sails and return to the rudder. The other two members get on the centerboard, and then without assistance from the crash boat return the boat to the full upright position. You are then ready to attach the line from the crash boat to the mast and take a tow to the beach or to re-hoist your sails and proceed to the beach.
There are a few basic points regarding personal safety which are most important:
- Never allow a crash boat to approach from leeward. The wind will be blowing you down into him and he may have difficulty in maneuvering to stay clear.
- Never allow any of the crew to leave the capsized sailboat unless they have a line from the crash boat.
- Be realistic about your own strength and that of your crew. Heavy exertion in the water, which sometimes may be considerably colder than the air temperature, and when you may be wearing heavy and bulky clothes, drains your strength quickly. An insured boat can be replaced and if you feel you or your crewmembers are reaching the limits of your strength, by all means board the crash boat or hang quietly off your own boat, saving your energy and waiting for assistance.