Re: Bernie's P15 improvements

Gordon (
Mon, 3 May 1999 21:43:42 -0700

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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I added my comments to your list of things to do.

>Things I am going to do before I go out on the ocean again:
>1. Install one or more cockpit drains at least 2 inches in diameter.

Okay. My early model did not have any drain. I added one drain 1-1/2 inch
in diameter. It has a rubber flap on the outside of the transom to prevent
reverse flow into the boat.

>2. Fill under the liner, and between the liner and the hull sides with
>pour-in rigid foam.

That will be very difficult. The stuff expands 10 to 1 so it's easy to pour
too much for the available space (voice of experience), and it will keep
pushing until it has the room it needs, while generating heat at the same
time. It's also very adhesive so drips and spills are almost impossible to
remove. I once used pour-in foam under the plywood V-berth deck in my P14.
I tried to do it in several small applications in order to watch the
expansion and not get too much in, but my third pour was just a little too
much. I frantically bored multiple holes in the plywood deck with a 2-inch
hole saw to relieve pressure while the deck bowed upward, accompanied by
splintering sounds. While the foam was curing the bottom of the hull was
quite warm to the touch. After expansion stopped and things cooled down, I
glued the cutouts back in the holes, but the deck was permanently convex
and ultimately rotted out when rainwater entered the little splits in the
overstressed plywood. When I rebuilt the deck I first shaved off the
excessive foam so the new deck is more or less flat.

>3. Replace the hatch "door" with removable boards with an appropriate
>capture system.
> Said boards to be stout, well fitted, incorporate interlocks, be
>gasketed, and well married
> to the sliding hatch.

Okay. My boat doesn't have a sliding hatch, but the hinged vertical hatch
and the strips of wood that are supposed to hold it in place are pretty

>4. The keel raise and lower system to be accessible in the cockpit
>(without having to remove the hatch boards). Said system to incorporate
>a positive lowering arrangement capable of opening a jackknifed keel
>against gravity in the case of a turtle.

My first generation Potter has the centerboard lanyard routed through a
notch in the bottom of the hatch and cleated on the CB trunk in the
cockpit. Of course it's not much use if the CB is tied down inside the
cabin, so, like you, I would have had to open the hatch to get to the
tiedown. At that point however, it might be better to pretend you have a
keel boat, leave the CB tied down, and find another way to get unstuck. So
far I haven't heard of anyone turning turtle with the CB lashed down and
the hatch secured. But I'm not saying it couldn't happen.

>5. The relatively dead volume remaining under the cockpit to be filled
>with closed cell block, glassed in.

Good, but it may not need to be glassed in, just secured some way. It would
seem to be very hard to do fiberglassing in that confined space.

>6. Get rid of hand knob on rudder. Replace with none clamp pivot.
>Provide positive raising and lowering of rudder, together with positive
>locks in either attitude.

The hand knob you refer to must be the nut on the pivot bolt. My very old
Potter just has a square rusty nut. I have a push-pull rod to the trailing
edge that works very well to raise and lower the rudder quickly and
positively. If I adjust the tension on the nut properly the blade stays
where I set it, and I haven't needed a locking mechanism but I can still
raise and lower the rudder readily.

>7. Provide a jib downhaul operable from the cockpit.

Absolutely, and very easy to do. Run the line from the peak of the jib down
outside the hanks, not inside, to a block near the stem, then back through
fairleads or blocks as necessary to a cleat within reach of the cockpit.

>8. Buy a new mast with a much stronger cross section.

I started to say that was probably unnecessary since most Potter mast
failures have resulted from hitting overhead trees, bridges, etc. or
hitting bottom after a turtle. But then I remembered the guy who was trying
to sail to Hawaii from California. He was dismasted, then jury rigged and
sailed to Baja instead, also experiencing a rudder attach failure along the
way so that he had to keep reattaching his rudder with rope. Still, the
greater weight aloft of a stouter mast will increase capsizing potential,
so there is a tradeoff there.

>9. Provide lifeline attachment points.

Okay. I haven't done it yet, but I should.

>10. Use a safety harness.

Same as number 9.

>11. Provide suitable reefing points.

Absolutely. Also relatively easy to do. Two reefing levels should be
sufficient. Use jiffy (slab) reefing. The reef points (patches and strings)
are optional.

>12. Provide some kind of floatation at top of mast to discourage a
>turtle. (The method used on catamarans).

I've often suggested that. Maybe a self-inflating lifejacket, but the
activation time may be too slow for a fast capsize. I think someone makes
foam upper sail sections for that purpose. Most other fixed flotation like
the "beach ball" used on AquaCats would seem to add additional windage at
the top of the mast, which would increase the tendency to capsize in a
strong wind.

>13. Install a heavy duty pump.

Okay. I haven't done that either. At what point would you use it?

>14. Take along a wet suit as emergency survival gear.

Okay. Or a survival suit if you can afford it.

>15. Provide miscellaneous safety equipment, minimum cb radio, maximum,
>you name it.

I don't know how many radios will actually work when you're in the water
and the boat is upside down. If your handheld radio was sufficiently
waterproof, and you managed to hang on to it when you dunked, the line of
sight from water level would be very limited, restricting you to short
range transmission. Still it's a good idea, and I will have a VHF radio if
I make the Catalina trip. I'm sure you would have been glad to have it when
you were on the rocks trying to summon help.

>16. Take along spare clothes, towels, in a waterproof container.

I usually do that, and on longer trips I sometimes carry a sleeping bag in
a trashbag in case I need to warm someone with hypothermia.
>Of course provide the obvious thing such as navigation lights, anchors,
>sea anchor, motor, extra fuel system, charts, compass, GPS, tools, food,
>etc. etc.

Okay, if you have room. I have thought about mounting on the transom a
waterproof box with flares, smoke signals, and such so that I could get to
them from the water in case of a turtle.
>I have almost finished my hatch boards, the rudder has been modified, I
>have a keel system designed (not yet installed). I am trying to find 2
>part pour-in foam, and foam block.

I think TAP Plastics and West Marine both sell pour-in foam.
>Since I do not plan on going out on the ocean for a time, a
>lot of the other things can wait. :)

If there's much more you will need a bigger boat.
Your plan starts to sound like overkill for a 14 ft dinghy with a cabin,
but after your harrowing experience, who can blame you?

ARE ON THE WATER in a small boat! But maybe you already do that. I may
have misread your account on that score. I have the impression you were
already in the water when you put the PFD on. You mentioned that you looked
like a "cork with legs," but I doubt if anyone noticed or would care.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I think we all learned
something and were entertained at the same time. I coded your story for the
web and sent it to Kent Crispin, the PY webmaster, so it should soon be
added to the Turtle Tales. I think yours is the first capsize there that
resulted from a stranding.

Just thought of another item - a spare pair of pants in your car. ;)

Harry Gordon
P14 #234, Manatee
Mountain View, cA