Small boats capsize. Sooner or later you will too!
Usually a small boat capsize is not a big deal and if you've been sailing small boats very long you have probably experienced a capsize or two. You should know (and practice) how to swim around to the centerboard and lever the boat back upright BUT Albert Einstein may have said it best...
“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”
Conditions may be much more than you bargained for, your favorite hat may be floating away. Whatever the case if you don't get to the centerboard quickly enough it is quite likely your boat can go "turtle" meaning the mast drops below the waters surface and the boat completely inverts usually making recovery much more difficult in the best case and impossible in the worst. Our boats are perfectly suited to sailing in the shallow and often mucky waters of the Outer Banks but sticking the tops of the masts of any boat in the mud often means a tow is required to get un-stuck if the boat turtles especially when the wind is up. Below, a Core Sound 17 during capsize camp 2019 with mast stuck in the mud required a tow forward to get un-stuck.
Some small boats have enough volume in the mast itself to prevent turtling or at least delay it but few masts are perfectly sealed and water starts to get in making the mast heavy. If the mast fills with water if can be impossible to right a small boat by leveraging the centerboard. What if the centerboard is up? Then what do you do? If you're reading this thinking..."I have no idea". Then we highly recommend you practice a capsize in your small boat at the next available opportunity close to shore in calm water and get some experience before you are caught off guard!
Enter the mast head float! A mast head float is the simplest and best way to make a small boat un-turtle-able and most importantly, make you more self sufficient on the water. With a mast head float, you have plenty of time to right the boat without worrying about turtling. Below, the crew holds onto the mizzen mast and the heavier skipper prepares to right the boat. The crew is scooped aboard automatically and can then assist their partner and keep the boat under control. Check out the video here.
When designing a mast head float we apply the same design principles we always do. It must be simple, reliable and light weight. But that isn't quite enough, we also do not want to sacrifice performance. Our design is simple to assemble, very light weight and always points into the wind with a aerodynamic shape to minimize drag as much as possible. It is quickly removed from the top of the mast with a cotter pin.
We were partly inspired by Russel Brown's rebuilt mast float for his G32 catamaran which he sailed in the Race to Alaska. The G32 of course was designed by Jan and Meade Gougeon who have always been a strong advocate of self sufficient sailboat designs that could be recovered from a capsize in any conditions. You can see pictures of that float here. While his float is immaculately built, it requires molds to construct. We wanted a simple to build version suitable for small boats.
We have two sizes available. A 20lb buoyancy float and a 30lb buoyancy float. The 20lb version is suitable for the Core Sound 15 or 17. The 30lb float is suitable for the Core Sound 20. Check out how we make our float kits in this video.
Our glassed and painted 20lb float weighs just over 1lb with a couple ounces of balance weight in the nose.
Pictured above, Graham's 20lb float for Carlita.
Note: All mast head floats are now installed using the new "Side mount Brackets" (click here for pictures). The brackets are included in the float kit. They are 3d printed from strong ABS plastic. The mast and float can be removed using the included button pins in the kit. If you need a different mounting solution just contact us and we'd be glad to help.
Jump in the latest mast head float discussion in this thread.
Check out our Capsize Camp where we gather and practice capsize recovery together.