Wanderer Dinghy – buoyancy and ballast

Overall I’m very happy with the stability of Custard – my Wanderer dinghy. I’ve never had any concern about capsize. The junk rig helps with this – it is very easy and fast to reef as the gusts are coming in. It is also easy to put up full sail again when the gusts have gone through so there is no temptation to avoid reefing.

However. there are times when capsizing would be a really bad thing to do. For example, when older people are in the boat who would be impacted by immersion in cold water and would find getting back on board very hard.

There is a version of the Wanderer equipped with a steel centreboard. This apparently makes the dinghy very hard to capsize. However, it also increases the weight of the dinghy by about 38kg making the boat much harder to pull up a slipway and move around on land. Online opinion seems to be that while this works, one might as well get a Wayfarer and sail it heavily reefed.

The Wanderer does have floorboards, and it occurred to me that there is enough space under the floorboards for about 40l of water; i.e. about 40kg of water ballast. This could be pumped out before trying to get the boat up the slipway, or just when the wind was light.

Alternatively, I have a pile of old bricks at the bottom of the garden. Each brick weighs about 3.2kg so I’d only need 12 bricks to get to 38kg. Again, the bricks would be easy enough to put in and take out as necessary.

I sanity checked the question on the DCA forum and people seemed very supportive of the idea, so when I get time I’ll have a go and see what happens.

I’m also planning on getting some buoyancy bags for under the side-decks. The existing buoyancy is under the side seats. This works ok at keeping the boat afloat and limiting the amount of water sloshing around, but doesn’t help stop the boat capsize once water is coming over the side. If the top of the sides was buoyant this would help the ballast pull the boat upright.

I’m still working on getting Custard waterproof so this isn’t going to happen soon – I’ve got to get the front rubbing strip back on and sealed up first. Owl – my other boat – needs a new dagger board so that also needs doing. The current board is about 40 years old and plywood so I suspect it will snap off, particularly if I needed to use it to recover from a capsize.

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