Safety

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Flotation Bags

Flotation bags in the bow area Due to the bags, the capsized and righted boat floats so high and dry that it is not swamped anew by each wave. When the boat is righted, there is not much water in the cockpit.
I have optimized the arrangement of the four inflatable bags with many capsize trials. They weigh a total of 1,800 grams and are strapped into the hull.

Hugh Horton, the Designer of Bufflehead, has also performed a series of capsize tests. Read them here and here.

Optimized Hull Shape

Sailing canoe Bufflehead, hull Good freeboard, full ends, a deck which sheds spray easily and a high cockpit coaming help to keep the boat dry in bigger waves. A dry boat is as safe as a cork on the water.

Hugh Horton, the Designer of Bufflehead, has written that wider boats are usually safer.

Safety-Related Components

All components of the Bufflehead sailing canoe are easy to handle in stronger wind and waves. Important features:

Practice Regularly!

Try to reef on the water, practice first in a calm. Memorize the individual steps and their sequence. Does the reefing routine work even when the wind whistles around your ears and shakes the sail?
Can you strike the rig on the water and stow it inside the boat? How many minutes do you need?

The Easiest Capsize Routine

Capsizing is not dangerous and can even be fun - if you know what to do. First practice in light winds. The routine presented here is not the fastest, but the easiest. It works always - even in higher winds and waves and in cold water.

Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine
Capsized! The sailing canoe floats high and dry. It won´t turtle, because mast and boom have enough buoyancy to hold it on its side. In lighter air, the rig can remain in place. But there is always the danger of wind catching the sail and capsizing the boat once more. Therefore I recommend to ease halyard and cunningham and lift the mast out of the mast partner. The rig will not float away, because the halyard stil connects it with the boat. When the sail floats on the water, the boat can be righted very easily. There is about one inch of water in the boat. Do not try to enter the boat yet. Take the bailer first and bail.
Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine
For bailing I am using a sliced 3L container. Bigger than the bailer from the sailing shop, and much faster. The bailer is tethered, so it will not swim away. Bail until the cockpit is nearly dry, which takes about 30 seconds. Re-entering is easy if there is not much water sloshing around in the boat. Grab the near cockpit rim with one hand and the far cockpit rim with the other hand. Now be fast. Push and pull your upper body as far as possible across the cockpit. Take a small rest...
Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine
and then swing the one leg and then the other into the cockpit. I'm back in the boat! You could simply step the mast back in is hole and sail on. But in higher winds I prefer to take the rig apart and take it into the cockpit, piece by piece. Finally, I take the sail into the boat and scoop and sponge the cockpit completely empty.

Is everything still in place inside the boat? The baggage - in watertight bags and drums, tethered to attachment points - is unscathed and dry. Now pick up the paddle and work hard so that you will get warm again.
This routine will motivate you to test your own limits and the limitations of the boat carefully but without undue anxiety. Sailing canoe Bufflehead, capsize routine

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