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Masthead flotation?

Oct 21, 2020
2
O'Day Widgeon Burdett
I am a new to sailing. Having just purchased a 1979 O'Day Widgeon, I am looking to make it solidly "turtle" proof. She's go the foam flotation in the hull but I would hate to have her invert all the way. How does one calculate the floatation requirements for a Masthead devise.? There are foam and inflation types that are "precious" on the pocket book. Does one base it on the weight of the vessel? Should I bother with pursuing this safety measure? Thank you to one and all.
 

Dave Groshong

SBO Staff
Staff member
Jan 25, 2007
1,701
Catalina 22 Seattle
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Jun 2, 2004
3,041
Hunter 23.5 Fort Walton Yacht Club, Florida
I learned on and sailed Widgeons a lot in the 70s. Occasionally one would take on enough water to turtle and it was a difficult task to get it up right and keep it that way long enough to get enough water out to make it stable. This was in a very controlled environment with warm water and help readily available.
Not sure you need to make the addition but I'd suggest one of the Hobie "Baby Bobs" mounted to the top of the mast if you feel you need to go that route.
 
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Jan 19, 2010
8,931
Hunter 26 Charleston
Hobie's have a rotating mast so the mast float will also point in the direction of the angle of attack when mounted on a Hobie. You will not have that on a fixed mast. What would be a cool trick is if you could put a Hobie baby on a spindle and have it double as your wind vane. It would take a little engineering but it would definitly be a value added exercise.
 
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Sep 22, 2018
1,665
Hunter 216 Kingston
I am a new to sailing. Having just purchased a 1979 O'Day Widgeon, I am looking to make it solidly "turtle" proof. She's go the foam flotation in the hull but I would hate to have her invert all the way. How does one calculate the floatation requirements for a Masthead devise.? There are foam and inflation types that are "precious" on the pocket book. Does one base it on the weight of the vessel? Should I bother with pursuing this safety measure? Thank you to one and all.
I’m not sure if your boat has anything routed through the interior of the mast. If the halyards are external etc and the mast is “hollow” you could try packing the top with something like a pool noodle. This won’t stop the boat from turtling but it will help.

From my experience a boat will turtle if the waves are big and the boat lays on its side for too long. I would suggest you find a safe location and actually flop the boat on its side so you can work out how to get it back quickly. The key is to stay calm but work quickly.

The Hobie bob device is proven tech so if that gives you confidence in getting out on the water then that is a good choice.
 
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Jan 1, 2006
5,292
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
Having sailed small boats, turned over and gotten the mast tip stuck in the bottom I can say it isn't a way to improve your day. The wind may turn the boat so the mast is to windward. Trying to right the boat from the leeward side is hard. I don't think it's overkill to find a way to keep the mast tip from submarining. To upright the boat the sail needs to be completely released to with the sheet running freely.
I'm not sure what the cockpit of the Widgeon looks like but Opti's have air floatation bags strapped inside the cockpit. The bags do not help right the boat but they will prevent more volume of water from filling the cockpit making it easier and faster to bail it out.
Always have a tethered bailer on board.
And as it is in skiing, once you are going to crash it's best to give up trying to stay upright and begin managing the crash. In sailing this means getting off on the windward side and not falling down to the leeward side where you would have to swim around to the windward side and there is some danger in getting caught in running rigging. In gusty conditions do not cleat the main.
Practice.
 
Jun 2, 2004
3,041
Hunter 23.5 Fort Walton Yacht Club, Florida
Our experience on more than a dozen 420s in our youth sailing program is that sealing the mast, stuffing the mast with pool noodles, or the floats that attach along the mast don't do the job.

The Hobie Bob works. we have laid the boat over left for hours and it just sits there on its side.

Installing it can be as easy removing the pins in the sheaves on the masthead and replacing them with bolts. Make sure you get bolts with a long enough shoulder that the sheave is on the shoulder not the threads. Some of the mastheads pins are not quite the same spacing as the bracket on the Bob and the holes will need to be elongated to accommodate them.

It's been a long time and I do not remember what the masthead on a Widgeon looks like.
 
Oct 21, 2020
2
O'Day Widgeon Burdett
Thank you to everyone who has weighed in regarding my current masthead flotation question. Really great ideas.
 

Joe

.
Jun 1, 2004
7,160
Catalina 27 Mission Bay, San Diego
Should I bother with pursuing this safety measure?
Honestly, I wouldn't. Rental companies equip the device to save the labor in having someone go out to assist their customers... But you're not renting now, so you're better off practicing a capsize and recovery a few times to get dialed in. The key to prevent turtling is to send your crew to the mast head right away, then hold it up while you get the boat positioned and ready for the recovery. If you're singlehanding, go directly to the center board and get your weight on it.. if possible you can stand on it and crawl back in as the boat comes upright..... avoiding the swinging boom of course.
The widgeon is pretty heavy for a small boat, so it'll be fairly hard to capsize, much less turtle. Where I took a lot of small boat sailing classes at San Diego State Univ., each student was required to capsize and right each boat if they wanted to be qualified to rent one for recreation. Handling a capsize in a small boat is basic stuff.

If you want to avoid capsizing altogether, DON'T cleat the mainsheet.... when you feel the puff, just ease out the sail a bit to keep the boat upright. When you gybe, pull the boom across by hand so it won't slam and injure someone or cause you to lose control.
 
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May 1, 2011
1,783
Pearson 37 Lusby MD
If you want to avoid capsizing altogether, DON'T cleat the mainsheet.... when you feel the puff, just ease out the sail a bit to keep the boat upright. When you gybe, pull the boom across by hand so it won't slam and injure someone or cause you to lose control.
:plus:
 
Jul 27, 2011
4,158
Bavaria 38E Alamitos Bay
Haven’t seen everything, of course, but I have noticed fleets of small-boat rentals equipped with the masthead flotation. Otherwise, I basically don’t see it. Those boats so equipped are usually signed out by beginners taking lessons, etc. So, as Joe intimated, it is a “training wheel” for beginners who can’t quite do it (recover capsize) right. I don’t think you really want to be sailing around with a strange-looking “football“ at your masthead. It’s pretty silly looking, IMO. The best thing is to do is to learn how to sail the boat and in what conditions, etc.
 
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Jul 7, 2004
7,131
Hunter 30T Cheney, KS
Several small boat sailors in our club sport flotation devices. We get some really squirrely winds here in Oz.
 
Jun 2, 2004
3,041
Hunter 23.5 Fort Walton Yacht Club, Florida
The Bobs on top of masts are not at all unusual and are becoming more and more common.

If you are going to rely on self rescue then I'd say the Bob is a must particularly if in colder water or an area that is isolated.

I sailed Widgeons quite a bit and while not a tippy boat at all it is not uncommon to capsize one. Most times it was easy to right and go on. Occasionally the boat would turtle and most of the time it was still easy to right the boat and sail on. A smaller lighter or less agile person would have more difficulty. if the mast ends up in the mud or if the centerboard falls back into the trunk anyone is going to have a tough time getting the boat back upright.

A new sailor is going to have a greater propensity for dumping a small boat over. Then as one becomes more proficient and pushes themselves more there will be an increased likelihood too.

I think all of this is universally true for all sailing dinghies a couple of summers ago we had some guys on a Flying Scot turtle they were in no way novice sailors it took a dozen guys a couple of hours and two power boats to get the boat back in, it happens.
 
Oct 22, 2014
13,458
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
Sailing in Lidos, as a kid, in the warm waters of San Diego Bay we never had floats on the mast. The hull had floatation. When you went over with a gust, you climbed over the side and stood on the center board. If you were efficient, the boat would start to rotate back and you climbed back into the cockpit. Grabbed the half Clorox bottle and started bailing.

Only once did the crew get launched onto the sail, and the boat started to rotate upside down. Even then it was a matter of releasing the mainsheet so that the sail would not hold water (the sail and boom were free to align with the mast to come back up). 2 kids stop on the rails holding the center board and a line to the center board in the cockpit. We leaned back and the boat rotated up right.

I have seen floats on the top of the mast of dinghies. Usually these were on rental or club boats with a lot of novice sailors. Rarely have I seen a float on an owners boat. It is usually a building of confidence that resolves the issue. Take the boat out with out sails and flip it. Then recover it. I would wait till you have warm water again.
 
Sep 24, 2018
1,080
O'Day 25 Chicago
The best lesson I ever had was two straight weeks of capsizing drills. By the end of those two weeks we'd be on the daggerboard before the mast even hit the water. It gave us the confidence to push the boat to its limit and not to be afraid of falling in.
There were only a few boats at the camp that had masthead flotation. They were used mainly for rentals and the smallest of kids. For the most part turtling wasnt a big concern. I dont recall any incidents were the boat couldn't be righted after turtling (although sometimes it took a while)
 
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PaulK

.
Dec 1, 2009
582
Tillotson Pearson J/36 Southport, CT
Is that how the rumors about JS winning a wet t-shirt contest got started? When our Junior Program runs capsize drills they tie a lifejacket to the top of the mast to avoid turtling. Getting the mast stuck in the mud here would not be good. Besides possibly bending the mast, It might come up with oysters and you'd be needing a shellfishing permit...
 
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