Capsize Preparation

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After capsize and making your way to the top of the inverted multihull you need immediate access to the following:

• Lifejacket

• Calamity pack

If you cannot get these things when capsized then redesign your multihull before it occurs! This section looks at the ways to maximise survival chances by being prepared.

Capsize hatches

These need to be above the inverted waterline. If your particular design of multihull has capsized then contact the survivors and find out at what level the hulls floated. An access hatch too close to the water can create problems of ease of entry or exit and having to get wet all the time. The hatch does not have to be in the perfect spot if you have the ability to make another one.

Multihull Seamanship Rule:

Always have the ability to access the hulls when inverted.

Ideally the access hatch would be along the keel line - but this is not structurally possible. Your multihull designer should be able to give information about positioning a hatch.

Multihulls made of material that cannot be readily penetrated (e.g. aluminium or kevlar) must have an access hatch. The minimum diameter of an access hatch should be 450 mm and be able to be opened from either inside or outside. If a hatch cannot be readily positioned then there are a number of options.

Capsize hatch options

1. A small porthole that can be opened when inverted and the tools reached to cut an access hatch. Have suitable areas marked on the hulls so that you are not cutting into bulkhead areas or tanks.

2. A hatchet or ice pick strapped to the netting or back of a beam. This can be used to cut at a predetermined

CAPSIZE PREPARATION: The inverted hull & cockpit

Kevlar is very difficult to cut with an axe. A hole should be made with a pick (e.g. ice pick) and then a cutting blade inserted to make the hole. Save the piece cut out as a simple hinge can be made to make a hatch cover to exclude the elements.

The inverted hull

The bottom colour should be visible. Rescue Orange is the recommended colour. Antifouling colours such as white or blue do little to facilitate rescue.

All inverted walking areas (trimarans wing decks and catamarans bridgedecks) should have suitable hand holds, footholds and non-skid areas. At least two stout ropes should be set beneath the wing structures, one close to each side of the multihull and bent (not spliced) into a secure anchorage at each end of the wing structure.

If your hulls are not capable of providing live-in inverted accommodation then there should be adequate rope attachments to 'spider' your liferaft between hulls. The ties to the liferaft need to be strong and chafe resistant. Regular checking of these attachments are needed to ensure you do not lose the mother-ship.

Standard liferafts do not have adequate tethering points. Request additional, reinforced attachment tags to be added to your liferaft during its next service.

Automatic inflation devices are not required on a multihull liferaft. After a capsize it could auto-inflate under the trampoline.

The liferaft is your chance at last ditch survival. The supplies most off-shore liferafts are packed with are appropriate and should not be reduced. Consider adding an EPIRB (emergency positioning indicating radio beacon) to your liferaft when packed. Capsize is but one disaster. Your multihull may be run down by a ship, hit a whale or burn - with nothing left but the liferaft.

Cockpit preparation for capsize

Multihull Seamanship Rule: A tie for everything and everything tied.

The cockpit hatch boards should be capable of being secured from both inside and out. The boards should be tied and accessible even if they are floating underwater. Cockpit lockers usually hold important survival tools - fishing lines, boathooks etc. Ensure the lockers have secure clasps. Portable fuel tanks should be tied on.

CAPSIZE PREPARATION: Calamity packs & Capsize cabin preparation

Calamity packs

Calamity packs have added advantages on multihulls. Set these waterproof packs up to contain essential equipment for survival when inverted. Standard equipment should include flares, distress V sheet, signalling mirror, torch and knife. Of relevance to survival inverted you could add the following:

• portable radar reflector (empty aluminium wine bladders do not work).

• fishing line and hooks.

• a file and hacksaw blades/hacksaw or keyhole saw (to make a hatch or jury rig a mast).

• flippers, mask and snorkel.

• hand held radio in a properly designed waterproof bag (strongly recommended).

• hand operated desalinator.

• hand drill and bits for starting hacksaw cuts in fibreglass, kevlar or carbon composite hulls.

Sails, either in sailbags or loose on the floor of the cockpit or cabin are a major hazard after capsize.

Multihull Seamanship Rule:

Close sailbags firmly and secure the bag to the hull

Capsize cabin preparation

Lie on the floor and look at the roof. Imagine everything upside down and make a mental list of where things would be. If possible create an area inside one of the hulls that will remain dry in the inverted position. Ask your multihull designer where the inverted waterline should be. There are many simple ways of securing objects so they will be available to use and not washed out the hatches.

Have tags sewn into the corner of mattresses and tie them to the bunks. If the ties have enough line on them the mattresses can become hammocks upside down and may provide a valuable area above the inverted waterline.

Stowage netting should have strong elastic closures so that when it is tossed about the contents do not fall out. Unsecured carpet is a major hazard as it creates a blanket over the entire cabin contents - including any persons.

Lockers must have secure clasps. Essential tools (all of them!) should be bagged and the bag secured to the hull. Keep clothing in bags in lockers. A simple tether from the bag to a tie-down fitting may save someone from developing hypothermia or exposure problems.


Batteries must be secure and not leak when inverted. Ideally, store batteries so that the terminals are above the inverted waterline. Batteries need to be quickly isolated to prevent power drainage.

If batteries are enclosed, and the terminals greased or sprayed with water retardant, very little or no chlorine gas will be produced. The batteries may be salvaged and used to power lighting or radios. Store batteries separately from the accommodation area.

Lighting systems can be positioned to provide light upside down. A simple inversion switch on a torch will provide essential light to orientate yourself in the event of night time capsize.

Water storage must be secured and have easily accessed closing valves. The loss of water when inverted is disastrous to long term survival. Some tanks are designed not to drain when tipped upside down.

Multihull Seamanship Rule:

Always carry a spare water container that is totally separate, sealed and secured to the hull.

Emergency equipment

All freshwater containers should have an air gap so that they will float.

All through-hull fittings should have seacocks and wooden plugs to ensure they can always be closed. Hatches should be able to be opened from both inside and outside the hull.



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