self rescue : LUSENET : Open-water rowing : One Thread

Fast open boats tend to be narrow and a bit tender. It would be helpful to hear from boat designers, builders and rowers who have knowledge and/or experience in getting back into swamped or capsized open boats and getting them bailed out and underway again. Many beach boats have raised floors and hull openings to provide quick drainage. Closed-hull ocean-sculling boats have a small foot well with operable bailer. However rowing an open boat, particularly a light and narrow one on big water, presents a safety challenge that should be addressed.

-- John Mullen (, October 03, 2000


John, I find myself wanting to discuss ways of preventing the water coming in, and flotation. But in regard to de-swamping the boat, I would hope to see-saw the boat enough to release sufficient water, to allow bailing from outside the boat.Say pushing one end deep in the water by standing on it, therfore raising the other end.

Like you, I think designers should consider flotation, bailers, height of cockpit floor, even tarps that act as decks, to prevent spray, rain, and even deflect waves. Gig Harbor Boatworks sells an inflatable snake, that you place around the boat like a rub-rail, to add flotation.

I have added access ports and many styrafoam floats to my dingy's seat chambers, and am working on a deck-tarp. I made a plywood deck with a hatch, but didn't like the weight up h

-- David M. Bean (, October 05, 2000.

David Bean & all. Re: Flotation. I have successfully used a spray-in- place foam called "Good Stuff" from Home Depot that works really fine in awkward spaces. I not only use this stuff for flotation in small boats, but also use it to foam in place fuel cells and water cells in my larger power cruisers. Understand of course, this is not the most economical gloop to use under large stretches of deck- 4" styrofoam is cheaper. Better still, are the 2 part foams that are commercially available. Finally, I'd like to refer you to an artical written by Arthur Edmunds for Boatbuilder a few years ago " Lets Build Boats That Float". Sorry I don't have the issue, but you can call Arthur at 941-921-1553 and I'm sure he would send you a copy. By the way, he tells how to add foam so the boat not only floats- it floats upright! Most helpful feature.

-- Dale R. Hamilton (, October 06, 2000.

Dear John,David and Dale,

I know of no open rowing craft, that are currently being manufactured commercially, that have insufficient flotation for normal use. Also I know of few that can't be easily modified with supplimental flotation should the owner desire it. Before doing so the rower should carefully consider if the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. About 10 years ago Small Boat Journal ran a test of open rowing boats (some of them quite sleek) and concluded that the lot of them were more seaworthy and reassuring, in choppy water, than all of the recreational shells available at the time. Remember, Captain Bligh and his band of loyalists sailed and rowed a small, overloaded, open boat with only 7" of freeboard more than 3,600 miles across the Pacific Ocean. I wouldn't recommend a stunt like that, but it shows that seamanship can overcome a lot of serious limitations. One of the nice things about open boats is their spaciousness. Flotation in amounts great enough to be signifcant usually takes up a lot of room. Often there is a significant weight penalty that can render a boat "loggy" making it more likely to swamp than without it. There are ways to add flotation on a temporary basis. Whitewater canoe shops sell a wide variety of lightweight, inflatable bags that can be chosen to fit nearly any space. Some have waterproof closures so that they can double as dry storage for items like clothing and camera equipment. If money is a factor, you can always tie in good, old-fashioned tire inner tubes. If you want to go the permanent route, be careful about pouring those 2 part foams into rigid, enclosed spaces. Some are so volatile and expand so rapidly that they could rupture your hull.


Andre de Bardelaben

-- Andre de Bardelaben (, November 19, 2000.

Hi Guys,

Check out: Technical and Safety Last Tack at the Needles

This is an excellent account of a capsize in a 16í Wayfarer cruising dinghy offshore in force 5 conditions. The author was one of the three crew members aboard the boat and pulls no punches in describing the ordeal. He offers much advice and sound conclusions about offshore cruising and survival in small open boats. Itís well worth the read.

Cheers, Don.

-- Donald H. Kurylko (, December 02, 2000.

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