What happens if a sailboat overturns?

Tips for drying out

Sailing 8 min reading time

Actually, drying out in the mudflats is very easy

Actually, falling dry in the mudflats is very easy - at least if you have a boat that won't tip over.

By Holger Peterson, published on 03.03.2017

You drive onto a beach and wait for the water to fall. Then you stand around until it comes back. But the equation can sometimes have more unknowns than expected: tidal range, wind direction, current strength, anchorage. These factors are changeable and not everyone is comfortable with. There are great fears about the «first time in the mudflats»: What will the weather be like when the waves come back? Can a skewed boat be damaged by a broken keel or rudder? And if my boat tips over: will it drown in the tide? In his book “How we sail in the north”, Holger Peterson shows how to relax and dry out.

First of all: a stable hull can handle all of that. Even if the boat is on the edge of sand, why should the keel tilting force be greater at the root than when we are sailing at 30 degrees? On the contrary, the leverage of changing forces of the waves is greater when sailing. When falling dry, high leverage can only occur due to two factors: If keels get wedged between rocks or high waves keep the boat on the bottom before falling dry. That will seldom happen because you don't usually anchor on the Legerwall. And yet the boat has to withstand hard blows when the wind has turned and it blows waves as it floats up.

Anyone who has a fully welded metal hull, the rudder even a skeg with a third bearing, has fewer reasons to worry. The situation is different with GRP hulls with pinned keels and free-standing spade rudders. The load from waves, which repeatedly compress the keel into the hull when it touches down, must not become too great.

The right place

The right place to dry out is firm, level and free of silt so that the anchor holds well. It can be seen from the picture of the beach and the river. Where the water creates turbulence, the current is stronger. Then the boat is put down in an area where the current follows the fairway. If you align your torso parallel to the current, you are on the safe side of standing straight. Shortly before touchdown, the boat hook is used to plumb on each side of the hull.

But now it is possible that a cross-flow channel crosses Prickenweg. You can tell from the wave pattern. These cross-flow channels can fill or empty half a wadden area - the flow is then evenly strong until it finally dries out, which can lead to the keel being flushed in. If there is also wind against the current, the place can be restless while floating. Therefore: Look for an even wave pattern. It can often be found 50 meters further.

The fine sediments can be found where two tidal currents cancel each other. They flow through the balys around the islands or sandbanks and meet in the middle. This is usually the shallow area of ​​a prick path, the so-called "wadden high", the further away you are, the more solid the sandy bottom will be, because the areas of the wadden highs are not suitable for drying out: The ground is muddy - the anchor will not find a hold. If you are still inexperienced, it is better to ask local sailors beforehand. The high mudflat fairways are also indicated by two pricks until two pricks standing together indicate the end of the flattest passage - this is also a useful orientation. It goes without saying that we do not deliberately fall dry in a wrecked fairway.

Note the time and wind direction

Wangerooge, June 5, 2015. The flood is around 2:40 pm. We come out of the jade and head for the Blaue Balje south of Minsener Oog at 3:30 p.m. as the level drops. At 4 p.m. we cross the wadden high and still have 50 centimeters below the 130 centimeter deep keel keel. The Telegraphenbalje, the second wadden high, separates us from the port of Wangerooge. In the third hour after high tide, the water falls by around 70 centimeters an hour. We could try to slide over just like that, but if you get stuck, you can no longer choose a place to sit dry. So we decide on the firm sandy bottom at the former Wangerooge Ost pier. Two and a half hours after high tide is the ideal time to fall dry, because then you will swim up again two and a half hours before high tide to pass the next high tidal flats.

Between the last red bucket and the three-pronged pike, I could now put our boat bluntly on the shallow beach. If I put the keels in the direction of the current, they won't wash in either. It's a perfect place. At the beginning of the third hour after the flood, the water fell by around 80 centimeters. Even if the wind turns to the east and the next flood is 50 centimeters less, we will still be able to evaporate before the flood.

The boat is in the tidal current, but it doesn't run as strongly far from the Balje. After 40 minutes the boat begins to touch down gently. I plumb the water depth with the boat hook. It is 1.30 meters on both sides. When we finish eating, there is only 20 centimeters of water around the keels.

Tail up: wash in the keel

The upright position makes life on board easier. However, there are several reasons why some torso inclination can be beneficial. You can influence this and flush the keels specifically in the bow area.

The decisive factor is how strong the current is from the moment it touches down, how long it lasts and at what angle the keels are turned off. To do this, you look for the flushing edge of a drainage channel in which the current runs particularly long and strongly. If you discover a “high edge” here and land your boat across the river, you can turn the bow a little with the current in the first few minutes by using the machine or by putting the oar. Then the stream will tear off at the front edges and wash away the keels. This can go so far until the bow touches down and the stern rises quite steeply.

Under such conditions, only mono keelers with mud flats need to be afraid of tipping over. Your supports are quickly overwhelmed. They buckle or sink in too far if the boat is too far down. Falling over can then only be prevented by an anchor placed across the halyard. However, and be warned against this, the statics of a rig are not designed for excessive tensile forces on the mast top. This security also has its limits. Then it is better to let the boat tip over slowly with the water running out.

Swing-keel or flat-bottomed skippers are hardly interested. They always fall upright and dry as long as there are no deep rinsing channels. Kimmers and multihulls are always a good choice when it comes to the «art of falling dry». There is one thing to keep in mind when you fall dry, regardless of the type of boat: You should always take the expected weather and light conditions into account when swimming up.

Calculate tidal and dry fall times precisely

The idea of ​​suddenly sitting aground in the middle of the sea seems a little scary to many. But there are a few simple rules about where and how best to dry up and how to calculate travel times. For beginners in the fascinating area of ​​the mudflats, let me say once again: after a few trips, you can skip the trip strategy in your head in a few seconds, because the height of the wadden highs is similar everywhere. If you know how to calculate the travel times, you can also estimate the dry fall times. You don't even need electricity lanterns for this, because just a look at the nautical chart is enough to know in which direction the electricity is set at what time. I assume you know how to anchor.

Avoid using heavy anchor weights if possible, because there is the best sandy bottom in the mudflats and the boat should drift slightly over the anchor and find its new position when the current capsizes. I also advise against using additional stern anchors. When using a stern anchor, you would be sitting on the only boat that does not change its position. Another tip for mono keelers: Watt supports are bulky and need guide lines. On the other hand, you have enough time to attach them after the first grounding. If the boat can be safely parked on the keel and rudder, you can experiment with it.

Checklist: The iron principles for Wadden Sea yachtsmen

• Wadden highs and mud flats should be approached when the water rises if possible. If you are stuck, you will be free again with the rising tide.
• The flood current can be used for a long time. You then «ride» the wave. Where you want to go, the higher water level only occurs later.
• The ebb current can only travel short distances. Where you want to go, the water fell earlier.
• Sea marshes should not be approached in onshore winds from wind force 5. Avoid wind against current! If there is strong wind from NW - NE, there is a risk to life from the ground lakes.
• Due to deep wave troughs in stronger winds, boats can touch down earlier. Always plan a reserve of 0.5 meters.
• No drying out at high water levels! If the wind turns east, you might not be able to get away for weeks. Otherwise, the following applies: Plumb in good time after the tide!
• No falling dry if a wind change is expected that puts you on the wall. Waves then keep the boat aground as it floats up.
• The right boat for the mudflats: A boat suitable for mudflats should not have a draft of more than 1.40 meters in order to sail over the mudflats during high tide, otherwise islands can only be approached from the open North Sea via sea spars.
• Prepare to dry out properly: The aim should be to dry out upright and straight. Leverage forces arise when keels become wedged between rocks or when high waves keep the boat on the bottom before it falls dry.
• The stress caused by waves, which repeatedly compress the keel into the hull when it touches down, must not become too great.
• The right place to dry out is firm, level and free of silt so that the anchor holds firmly. Beach and river pictures provide the trained eye with information on where a suitable place to dry out is.
• Pay attention to the time and wind direction, this also applies if you have already fallen dry. Always take into account the expected weather and light conditions when swimming up.
• Don't be afraid of tipping over: keel keelers and multihull boats are always a good choice when it comes to the «art of falling dry». Mono keelers are less suitable for the Watt. For the correct use of mud flats, skippers need experience and a good surface.
• Avoid using heavy anchor weights if possible; the boat should drift slightly over the anchor when the current capsizes and find its new position.
• Particularly important: Always plan a plan B and an escape route in the event that wind and weather make a new assessment of the situation necessary when floating up. Leave enough space so that the ship does not suddenly drift against the other anchor berths or boats that have fallen dry.

Holger PetersonAuthor

“Maritime story seeker and
Chronicler “: As a YACHT author, besides the avowed
Love of texts two other passions: sailing and
Taking photos.