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Start with a mistake

follow with another

and another

then when you get bored, make another mistake.

Seriously though,

I capsized my Hinemoa. 

In brief:

Shortly after sunset on 21/11/2018, while on starboard tack from Middle Percy Island, QLD to Sarina, the hatch cover on my Starboard foredeck came free. This allowed my Stb hull to fill with water. Once the hull was awash, the vessel jibed and capsized. 12hrs later I placed a mayday call, and activated my Epirb. An RACQ helicopter arrived and had me onshore within an hour.

In not as brief:

winds were 15-20knots North, predicted to build and back to NW by the next day. Seas were about a meter, and short and steep. It was about halfway up on a 5.4m tide, flooding South. I was sailing my 23ft Hinemoa named Isis with a single reef in the Tiki21 rigged mainsail. The wind vane was steering. I was catnapping in the port hull as I was mildly seasick. I was wearing a wetsuit and full length jacket, standard for me sailing at night. I left middle Percy at 1100

I came on on deck when I heard/felt Isis slow down. the stbd hull was awash with the hatch covers (fore, aft and companionway board) adrift, with things starting to float out of the cabin. At this point capsize was not in my mind, I was concerned about my stuff floating away. As the windward hull was awash, I thought the main would help to keep the boat upright. I was shortly to be proven wrong. As I  went forward to try and secure the forward hatch, Isis began to jibe.  Immediately I dropped the hatch and started to free the halyards. The main jibed and Isis rolled. I was thrown/kind of jumped and was brought up short by my safety harness. Fortunately the tether was long enough that I was able to surface and disconnect my self. Then came a blur of swimming after floating water jugs and dinghy and tying them to Isis. After the initial flurry of trying to save things, I rested on the upturned Port hull. It was quite high out of the water as it had an air pocket inside. The waves were slamming me off the hull and back in the water every few minutes, so I decided to try to assemble my dinghy so I would have somewhere to sit out the night. My dinghy was an outrigger canoe, and I managed to lose the outrigger in the fiasco. Using empty water jugs and a length of bamboo a makeshift outrigger was cobbled together. I then tied the dinghy off on its seven fathom anchor line, climbed in and waited for sunup. Now I had a bit of an opportunity to sit and think, “wow what a beautiful night”. It was a night shy of the full moon and there was a rather chaotic array of clouds. 

Throughout the night I intermittently bailed the dinghy, re-lashed the makeshift outrigger, plugged holes in the canoe by wedging myself in the bottom, vomited, and watched stuff drift away. I didn’t much care at that point as cold, fatigue, and dehydration were hitting me.

By sunup, I had the grand scheme of releasing my mast and re-stepping it on the capsized deck. This would then allow me to hoist some sail and force her to re-capsize. In theory this may have worked. Flat seas, mask, fins, a knife,well rested, yes it could happen. As it was all I managed was to tire myself even more, and consume copious quantities of seawater.

At this point I decide my options were to:

1) wait and hope a passing yacht saw me

2)swim inside and retrieve my waterproof VHF and EPIRB, and call for help

3)attempt to paddle the dinghy to the nearest island downwind

as my water jugs had ended up contaminated or broken free I was without water (other than a liter of homebrew) so option one was discarded, and three was put on the back burner. This left me option two, I just had to hope I could get to the box in which the VHF and EPIRB were kept.

back into the water I went, and swam down into the port hull. The large air pocket in the cabin allowed me to breathe while I grabbed the box, then struggled to get it out. It’s damn difficult to force a waterproof box with a volume of about fifteen liters underwater, I don’t recommend it. Afterwards I sat and held my VHF for about half an hour before I was able to bring myself to call mayday. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, to admit I failed myself and my boat. My mayday call was received and I was instructed to activate my Epirb and await a helicopter. I then dove back inside to see what I could salvage. I managed to grab a bag, my bosuns chair, a shirt, and three liters of honey.  Why the honey?? It is damn good honey and beyond that I don’t know. 

I then sat on the upturned hull and waited. Faster then I expected, the RACQ helicopter was there, circling me twice, then approaching from downwind, with a diver dangling below. Upon entering the water he stuck me in a harness and whoosh, up into the sky we went. It was a damn fun ride. And the view from the chopper was amazing, except for seeing my home of the last three years leaving my life.

Elapsed time from Epirb activation to being on the ground and in a hot shower was about an hour. 

So that’s about it.

Now for the mistakes.

I continued on through the night for no good reason, to get somewhere I didn’t need to go. I had even anchored an hour before sunset to make dinner, then carried on.

i was queasy, and so not the most attentive to my boat. I am quite certain in the time it took to fill the hull, I could have averted disaster,rather than getting on deck once it was mostly full. 

‘The forward bulkhead has an inspection port to allow ventilation between the cabin and forward locker. I did not close the port before going to sea.

the lashing line holding the forward hatch down had been recently replaced with a new length that was quite stiff and slippery. Only inspected it closely shortly after getting under way

my first action on coming on deck was to grab stuff rather than drop the mainsail. Without the main forcing her to capsize, I could have dealt with a flooded hull.

My Lazarete hatches had no tie downs so all of that gear fell out immediately, along with the cabin contents as the sliding cabin tops were a bit skewiff. Rather than modifying the cabintops, I had been sailing the last two months with all the supplies.

my water jugs were not lashed to the deck to begin with, I usually fill the dinghy with them. 

As for making salvage easier, I should have anchored post capsize. The water is less than 20meters deep in that area, and I had a 20kg anchor set up with 100meters of 12mm nylon and 10meters of 8mm chain.


oh well

i am alive

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I agree with Adriano. I hope you have a better future.

This story proves again, that hatches are one of the THE weak points of boats! If ever I'll build a new boat I design them as Roger Taylor did on his MingMing. Designers and builders do NOT give enough attention to this! A boat must be dry and a hatch should also withstand hard wave impacts. 

What did Roger Taylor do? 

Hatches can be trouble but without them, how do you stow or access things inside? I suppose you could build hulls like a surfboard, fully foam filled, and stow everything on deck. Seems a bit extreme though

for sure my next boat will have built in waterproof compartments or foam. 

Sure a boat should be unsinkable in these days. How ever - most hatch-coamings are not double walled and do not withstand high waterpressures. Also gaskets are mostly underdimensioned. Most boats (more and more designed as swimming lofts) I have been on, had leaking portholes or hatches! Heavy duty and over dimensioning is the only way to go and of course a stiff hull. Special attention should to be given to sliding hatches. I'd rather choose a larger but well sealed hatch to get into a cabin. For ventilation I had well designed dorade vents on my Tiki 33 (quite wet sailing in high winds and waves) and they did the job very well. 

Wow, what a story.  Thanks for sharing.  Are you still in QLD?  I'm currently located in Airlie Beach.  Would love to buy you a coffee one morning, and talk Wharrams!


I am back in Hawaii. Working away on a Tiki 30. Realizing its way more boat than I need/want. Wish I was still in QLD. Somewhere down the line I'll take you up on a coffee.


Okie dokie Levi, you are on. I'm buying! 

Coincidentally, we love Hawaii and spent 18 months there in 2014 / 2015 while passing through on our big boat.   Also celebrated 2019 Christmas there (Big Island) for 3 weeks.  Just love it.  I was quite happy to hear that you think the T30 is too much boat, because I was seriously beginning to think that it may be too small for me!  Would love to hear more about yout build.  Do you have a blog or something?

Not building, I'm reftitting. Too lazy to build anything bigger than a dinghy.
I don't think most people would find the tiki30 too big, more likely too small. I'm a dinghy sailor at heart.

Yeah, I’m with you on the small vessel sentiment.  I bought the plans for a Tiki 26, but I bailed out and have gone back and finally begun building the Hinemoa like I planned years earlier.  The length (possibly years) of a Tiki 26 build might prove too discouraging.  I hope to have the Hinemoa complete by the end of the year.  And I hope to be able to raise and lower the mast myself.  And even paddle it in certain situations. I think about that sort of stuff a lot.  It’s just me, and this will take me wherever I want to go.  Everything gets big fast with larger designs, but, man, a Tiki 30 would still be very nice.  Good luck!

The smaller your boat the bigger your adventure !

Tim Gardner said:

Yeah, I’m with you on the small vessel sentiment.  I bought the plans for a Tiki 26, but I bailed out and have gone back and finally begun building the Hinemoa like I planned years earlier.  The length (possibly years) of a Tiki 26 build might prove too discouraging.  I hope to have the Hinemoa complete by the end of the year.  And I hope to be able to raise and lower the mast myself.  And even paddle it in certain situations. I think about that sort of stuff a lot.  It’s just me, and this will take me wherever I want to go.  Everything gets big fast with larger designs, but, man, a Tiki 30 would still be very nice.  Good luck!

There still is an obsession with capsize and multihulls.  In reality capsizes usually involve racing and pushing to the limits, or Sh_t Happens situations like yours.  Thanks for the story!   It reminds me of a 40' (12M) Searunner trimaran lost in a similar manner in the Gulf of Mexico a few years back.   Ironically people focus on capsized multihulls and ignore sunk monohulls it would seem.   A Wharram sailed safely through the '79 Fastnet disaster where so many monohulls were abandoned and/or lost.    Another sailed through the infamous Queen's Birthday storm after being abandoned, and was recovered later...(Ramtha a Simpson).. NONE were capsized or sunk.  Yet another survived a close call with an Indian Ocean cyclone.... with damage, but able to make it in.   And there is the story of Richard Woods abandoning Eclipse off Central America.... Later found 100% intact and covered with bird poo by fishermen.   During those years literally  hundreds of monohulls were abandoned and lost... sunk.  Many for relatively trivial reasons.... a rudder failure, or a single component in the absurdly complex standing rigging we have been conditioned to accept as normal and necessary...... resulting in dismasting, the mast often punching a hole in the side of the boat it is still tethered to....... The crew taking refuge in a "death raft".   I'm personally an advocate of the free standing mast and the junk rig..... Your mileage my vary.   There are countless cases of multihulls NOT capsizing when one would have expected otherwise......   But as with anything else, the press focuses on those that did capsize.     For a bit of entertainment I like to read the old Sports illustrated article titled Hey Ho and Up She Rises from 1968.... We've come a long way since then.    Enjoy if you enjoy such nonsense.


Hey Ho and Up She Rises

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