Seamanship and Water Safety – Capsize Recoveries

Once you know the basics of sailing, you should learn a few seamanship skills. Good seamanship helps you handle situations even when you’re not sailing. Your boat may need to be towed for some reason. You may need to paddle from a dock to a mooring. And, of course, there are specific knots for specific jobs on board!

Water safety is always important. Sailors can unexpectedly find themselves in the water. The best sailors in the world have experienced capsizing and falling overboard. Wearing a lifejacket and being comfortable in the water make sailing a safer experience for every sailor.

Capsize Recovery – Scoop Method

Most often, when a boat tips over it capsizes to leeward because the force of the wind overcomes the ability of the crew to hike or let out the sails. It is important to practice capsize recovery drills before you need to use them on your own. Once the boat is on its side and the sails are in the water, you should act promptly to right the boat. The Scoop Method of recovery gets its name because one crew is “scooped” into the cockpit as the other rights the capsized boat.

1. Tread water near the stern until the scooper has control of the centerboard.
2. Move to centerboard trunk and free the mainsheet, jibsheets, and boom vang if possible. If necessary, throw the windward jib sheet over the high side to the scooper to assist the scooper in getting up on the board.
3. Hold on to a cockpit structure as the boat goes upright and get scooped in.
4. Balance the boat and steer it into the safety position.
5. Help the scooper on board over the stern.

1. Move around the boat to the centerboard.
2. Climb up onto the board, using the jibsheet if necessary. Remember to avoid putting pressure on the tip of the board or you may break it.
3. Once on the board make sure the scoopee is ready for the boat to be righted. Place your feet close to the base of the board where it enters the hull and lean back, bracing yourself with the tail end of a sheet or halyard for leverage, until the boat gradually becomes upright.
4. Swim to stern to climb back on board.

Capsize Recovery – Single Handed Boats

1. Boat capsizes and helmsman falls into the water.
2. Helmsman uncleats the main sheet and boom vang.
3. Mainsail should be lying leeward of the hull in the water. If the mainsail is lying to windward of the hull, the boat can be either rotated so the sail lies to leeward or it can be brought upright which will result in the boat quickly capsizing again but with its sail lying in the water to leeward of the hull.
4. Helmsman moves to centerboard, climbs onto it, and while holding onto the gunwale leans back to bring the boat upright.
5. Helmsman climbs in over the stern.

Capsize Recovery Guidelines

– Stay with the boat.
– Check for injuries.
– Don’t go under the boat or sails.

For more from our Small Boat Certification Series and to get started on the right tack, visit our website to purchase “Learn Sailing Right.”