Capsize Recovery Technique
If handled with care and due regard to the weather, there is no reason why you should capsize your sailing canoe. I personally have accidentally capsized only once in over 15 years of sailing, and i even learned how to sail in my canoe.However it is sensible to study what to do and as soon as possible practice capsizing the canoe and re-entering it.
When the canoe inverts in a capsize, swim round to the side with the leeboard, take hold as high as you can reach, put your feet up onto the deck edge and steadily pull back. This will slowly raise the canoe to a horizontal position.
As the leeboard comes down to the water, change to pushing down on the board and pulling down on the deck edge to slowly raise the mast out of the water, eventually righting the canoe.
Position yourself at the centre of the canoe, reach into the middle and take good hold of a seat or thwart.
Kick your feet to swim up, holding onto the near deck, trying to get out of the water as far as possible.
Pull yourself up and over the side deck trying to get as much weight over to the far side as quickly as possible.
Finally climb back on board and bail any water.
Although we have successfully practiced this technique it can be difficult. The most common problem is the weight of the wet sail and mast pulling the canoe over as you try to get in. If there were two people on board the crew can hold onto the deck on the far side and help to stabilize the canoe. They must allow the canoe to heel towards you as you try to enter but not so much that it capsizes again.
If you are on your own you should try to enter on the windward side. If you pull in the sheet as you try to enter the wind pressure on the sail will help to hold the canoe upright.
The most reliable solution is to remove the sailing rig when the canoe is upside down. Provided that the kicker is tight and that there is a knot in the end of the sheet, the mast can be pulled out and will hang under the canoe until it has been righted and you are back in.
When you have sorted yourself out and bailed any water from the canoe you can pull on the sheet and retrieve the rig.
The important thing is to practice and find out which method suits you. We usually wear dry suits when we are sailing and this allows plenty of time in the water before getting cold. It is best to try this first on a fine day, near to shore with an onshore breeze, preferably in company. The Open Canoe Sailing Group hold training weekends where such skills can be tried out under supervision.
Solway Dory Outriggers make capsize unlikely. They also make getting back into a canoe from the water much easier.
To see a video of Greg demonstrating capsize recovery in our Little Egret, a small open canoe click here