Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sunken Klepper Team Rescue

And it really was a team effort. I don't know about everyone else but I not-so-secretly thought this was actually quite a bit of fun, working together to get this boat back up the Paerdegat to Sebago's dock. With a real puzzle of a retrieval, a lovely afternoon, and no one in any danger at all, it was like the wackiest scenario the most creative coach could have come up with.

I was officially the "Assistant Trip Leader" but we actually had a plethora of qualified trip leaders, and the few non-trip-leaders did fine on our trip to Gerritsen Creek. Coming back was a bit of a slog, as we had a headwind & current against us, but everybody (including one of our seniorest senior members - I hope I'm still paddling at 83!!!) plugged away until we were (happily) turning into the shelter of the Paerdegat. Beautiful day, nice crowd, no trouble, couldn't ask for more. As we entered the basin, we saw the small sail of the Klepper. At first we thought it was Holly the Sailing Chair, but it wasn't moving right - Holly's tacks are snappy - this one, every time the boat tacked, the sail luffed for a loooong long few moments before it began to move again.

As we got closer, we realized it was a Klepper, being sailed by someone we didn't recognize. John & Mary & I were out in front, said hello & paddled on. A minute later, John H. suddenly looked back & quietly said, "That guy just capsized". Turned out he'd heard Phil yell "Capsize!" - my ears weren't quite as sharp.

The guy was already in good hands - he'd capsized right next to Commodore John & Commodore Emeritus Phil, and a couple of the paddlers in the group decided to keep going to the nearby club dock. John, Prof. M, me, and one of our newer paddlers went back to see what was going on & found the situation I described - a large sailing kayak, with full sailing rig including leeboards, turtled, mast tip in the mud, and half-sunk with no flotation. "Cleopatra's Needle" Deeeee-LUXE!

Phil, Commodore John, John H, Prof M & I all went to work while the less experienced paddler observed (and was eventually impressed into service as the photographer while the tow was underway, - he & John H took all of these with John's camera - thanks M & John for taking these, and thanks, John, for letting me play with them!).

There's a pretty standard method for dealing with a sea kayak that's ended up in a partially-sunken Cleopatra's Needle position (so called because usually where there's no flotation, one end or the other will usually trap a little air & be sticking up in the air, while the other fills up & sinks down below the surface). You get hold of whatever decklines you can get to. You sloooowly begin to move your way along that deckline hand-over-hand, moving from the floating end of the boat, where you got the line, back toward the center of the boat & the cockpit. Sloooowly because a flotationless kayak full of water weighs - well, not literally a ton, but a good portion of a ton (more on that in a second). As you slowly walk your hands towards the center, the boat will slowly be resuming a more proper horizontal relationship with the surface. You get to the cockpit, get a good grip on the side of the coaming (cockpit rim), you roll the boat on it's side and then you slooooowly begin to curl the boat up out of the water. As the boat rises, the water pours out; you flip it rightside up when you can't raise it any higher, et voila, there you are with a floating kayak. This is a maneuver that can be done by a single person.

Didn't work so well in this case!

The Klepper was first of all very BIG. Here it is on the dock, with a person to give some scale.
The payload weight (the amount the boat, when properly assembled, can carry) of a Klepper Aerius II is 772 pounds. In gallons, the payload is given as 159. A gallon of seawater weighs approximately (VERY approximately!) eight and a half pounds. So I think we can safely say that this boat, full of salt water, weighs at least 1,351 lbs. Complicating the standard Cleo's-needle rescue even further are the leeboards, which are that assemblage sitting behind the person's legs. The plank joining the two larger, parallel, sort of teardrop-shaped boards is mounted across the cockpit & fastened with wing nuts; the leeboards extend into the water on either side of the boat & serve the same purpose as a centerboard or a keel.

They, and the mast, also make it completely impossible to get your own boat alongside & parallel to the sunken Klepper, in the position you need to get to to do the slow, water-draining curl.

'Nuff exposition. Here's the situation we found when we got back to the capsize scene. Leeboards sticking up at the back - owner in water near those.

He was fine, if a bit embarrassed. First things first - Commodore John took him over to the docks at the club adjacent to Sebago. One of our members (Tom of the Penguin Drive silliness day) is also a member there & fortunately was there, so that was no problem.

Phil decided to just follow them, towing the Klepper over to where Tom & the owner were now watching. He hooked onto the D-ring at the bow, started paddling, and the clip and the towline instantly parted ways. Wow.

Clearly the poor beast wasn't towable quite that way.

We all started moving around it, trying to figure out how we could get it at least partially righted & drained.

Here, Prof. M & Phil have actually succeeded in righting it. Prof. M. (yellow boat) is actually stabilizing Phil by leaning on his back deck - when one paddler is braced by another like that, it's an incredibly stable setup & the braced paddler can put all their effort into the whatever it is they need to do. Unfortunately, although they did get the boat rightside-up, the aft end of the coaming was a foot below the surface, so we couldn't do something like them steady while the rest of us grab our bilge pumps & get to work. That's where the sponsons would make all the difference - those would float the boat high enough that once you righted in, the boat would be stable, the coaming clear of the surface & you could start bailing. Leave those air tubes along the gunwales deflated, and it complicates things tremendously (I bet this guy never, ever makes that mistake again).

Here, I've moved in & am trying to figure out if I can get enough of a grip on the leeboard to at least drain a little of the water. It works a little tiny bit. Just enough to get the mast up to where Phil & Prof. M can reach it. As they pull the mast up towards the surface, a little more water drains. Aha! I continue to steady the boat by hauling on the leeboard while the other 2 wrestle the mast until it's lying securely across Phil's deck. John H moves in as this is going on & clips in to the d-ring. As Phil & Prof. M. get past the point where my steadying is useful, I clip in too, we check to see if Phil's set, he is,

And off we went!

It was something trying to get the whole assemblage moving. First few yards we were barely making headway, but we gradually picked up steam & started closing the distance to the dock.

And hey, look, we made it!

Closer view of the arrangement that finally let us clip in -

Once we were back at the dock, it was a lot easier to see how & where things were attached. We derigged with the boat still swamped & in the water; once the mast, sails & leeboards were out of the way, we were able to drain most of the water. There was still quite a bit in the boat, but a couple of the guys carefully wrestled the boat up onto the dock with no mishaps. All was indeed well that ended well, we handed the boat back over to it's owner to complete the dissassembly. And boy did the post-sail beer & cheese that the commodore had brought & the rest of us supplemented (somebody had crackers, somebody had sausage, there was wine, and I ran & raided my garden for cucumbers & tomatoes) taste extra extra good!

Unusual end to a Sebago paddle!

Cross-posted at the Sebago Canoe Club blog.

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