On Facebook Group: wind shear, waves sink P-18. Owner gives first hand account

Started by tjspiel, Apr 27, 2023, 08:57 AM

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Thank you for posting this Facebook article. Wow what a story. Thank goodness there were rescue boats close. Where we sail, there is usually no one else out. We would be swimming to shore. Most people agree that Precisions are great boats, but relatively tender. When we bought our P18, we reviewed fifteen Trailer-Sailor articles from owners who added ballast, including Tom Scott. Tom Scott first tested his P18's righting ability and found it would barely right from a knockdown in still water. He added some permanent lead and some removable lead. The most convincing arguments for adding ballast were by Bob Mendes, a Dillon Lake, CO sailor. We added 100# of lead in our forward keel cavity. We're glad we did. However, I don't believe that 100# of extra lead would have prevented the Facebook knockdown or sinking. If anyone is interested in the fifteen TS ballast articles, I copied them into a Word document along with photos of our added lead. I can email that doc to you. I'm not yet skilled at using this new website so I will just list my email here. jcmanfredi@outlook.com. Thanks again for the Facebook posting.

Captain Kidd

I'm not a Precision owner but do sail an 18.5 Hunter. This story sure reminds us to be ever vigilant. Thanks for posting.

Brian N.

Right - there have been numerous discussions and many articles written about adding ballast (lead, water ballast, even concrete) and righting moment to small sailboats. One recently in SCA focused on moveable water ballast was very informative. From what I gather, even 100# of lead in the bilge is not nearly as effective as a crew member sitting on the windward rail, and static weight in the bilge cannot be adjusted. Start adding excessive amounts and the boat is sailing off her designed lines. In the end, small boats (and even larger ones) are vulnerable to knockdown. Sometimes quick action by skipper and crew can prevent this, other times the boat is just overwhelmed. Agreed, they were lucky other boats were nearby to aid rescue. How many of us are in shape to swim 1/2 mile (or more) to shore in poor conditions? On a personal note, during the summer I swim 1/2 mile nearly every day in a pool, and it's not easy. Now consider water temperature, conditions, and clothing.
Fair winds
Brian N.


QuotePosted by Brian N.  - Today at 10:40 AM
How many of us are in shape to swim 1/2 mile (or more) to shore in poor conditions? ......... Now consider water temperature, conditions, and clothing.

I couldn't do a survival swim anymore. Did one once, 3/4 mile when a sailboard blew away from me in high wind & chop. Not easy and I was wearing a full wetsuit. That was 30 years ago...

Always wear my PFD with a rescue knife, small air horn, aerial flare, & PLB. I appreciate the P-165's floatation which may keep the hull on the surface in a severe knockdown.

Just need to do whatever we can to minimize the risk.
Precision 165 "Simple Pleasure"
Sisu 22 "FogCutter"
Portage Pram "Tiny"

Brian N.

I do question the guy's decision to ditch his life vest! I'll say 90% of the time I wear mine, and always when actively sailing. Even strong swimmers can become exhausted, and in the conditions as he described it makes no sense. Again not minimizing his experience but some things don't add up correctly.
Fair winds
Brian N.


Learning lots of new things in this thread.  :o

What is "sailing by the lee?"

what are good reasons to avoid going DDW? I end up doing that all the time.

Quote from: tjspiel on Apr 28, 2023, 05:42 PMI sail on small lake 90% of the time and am never on a particular course or point of sail for very long. So I'd be undoing any preventer constantly.

That said I avoid sailing dead down wind (or by the lee) like the plague. I'm pretty comfortable with controlled jibes and not any less inclined to jibe vs tack in moderate wind. My other sailboat is an inflatable cat that tacks poorly.

But sailing downwind makes me stay pretty attentive since my Laser days. Those boats were fun but not at all stable going down wind.
Vessel: Precision 165 "Irresolute"
Home Waters: Coastal Washington


"Sailing By the Lee" - sailing downwind with the wind coming over the leeward side of the boat.

It's passed DDW. On cat rigged boats there can be some advantages of doing this but it's a racing thing, not a cruising thing. Obviously you need to be careful.

90% of the sailing I do is on inland lakes with features that make wind shifts a regular occurrence. So DDW one second might mean an unintentional jibe a second later.

And it tends to be somewhat unstable when it's windy.

This might be helpful:


"Off-wind capsizes occur because the boat is harder to balance against changes, especially when going dead downwind in a breeze. "

But I should qualify my statement. I don't avoid DDW when the winds are super light.

When I was a youngster sailing Lasers, capsizes were part of the experience and not a big deal. But a downwind capsize in a Laser was the only time a boat actually sailed away from me. I was sailing downwind and it started to "Death Roll" in Laser terms. With the sail off to starboard, it rolled to port violently, throwing me in the water.

It capsized to port in that the mast landed in the water but the clue of the sail was pointed straight to the sky and the boat was still headed down wind. So off it went, sail full while laying on its side, mast skipping through the water. Eventually the mast dragging caused it to turn enough that the the sail dropped so I could catch it. Was tired when I got there though. :)

Luckily it didn't sail very fast or very far like that but Lasers float pretty high and are pretty stable on their sides

Quantico Frank

That, to me, begs an interesting question. What does the boat do if a single-handed sailor falls overboard while underway? I guess it depends somewhat on the point of sail?
Precision 165 "Spirit" built 2011
Home port Quantico, VA, Potomac River


Quote from: Quantico Frank on May 01, 2023, 07:07 PMThat, to me, begs an interesting question. What does the boat do if a single-handed sailor falls overboard while underway? I guess it depends somewhat on the point of sail?

If there's an autopilot or tiller lock it may go until either someone catches it or it runs aground. That's why some folks tether themselves to the boat.

My boat on my lake? If the Bungee 2000 auto-tiller (as Brian titled his) holds up, the boat will go until it gets stuck in the mud or sand and I may have a bit of bike ride to retrieve it after I swim to shore.  Hopefully I'm not headed back to the buoy field when it happens or there could be some crunching fiberglass.


Video on this topic from our friendly member firefighterdave.

Precision 165 "Simple Pleasure"
Sisu 22 "FogCutter"
Portage Pram "Tiny"


Thanks for posting FB incident! It's easy to armchair quarterback things like this.

Sometimes freak things happen. I was windsurfing on Lake Erie a couple years ago 10-15kts beautiful conditions I was having so much fun I wasn't looking at the wall of black clouds quickly approaching from the west I headed for the closest shore and pulled my board up on the beach and 60-75Kt winds hit (it was a Great Lakes Derrico(sp?)) it was the most awesome weather event I have seen. It was over in 15 minutes.

I have owned 6 sailboats including a P18 and as large as a 23' Santana @1000# keel. All of these boats would have been toast!

Sailing (this season with my new to me Montgomery 17)on Erie I keep a close eye on the weather and probably would have had 15-20 minutes heads up monitoring NOAA I think about what Id do if I was out 5-10 miles offshore and another one hit. Drop sails, secure deck. Deploy properly sized sea-anchor (for your boat) secure all openings (companion way drop boards etc) Pray!!!

I installed 80# additional of ballast in the P18, triple reef main, I never sailed  it without the extra 80# lead (also sealed cockpit locker) It is a great preforming boat that demands good technique in high winds. I had it out in 28Kts and was in total control with attentive control and 3rd reef. She hove-too well also at those wind speeds. For a new sailor on inland lakes (not Great Lakes until they get some miles under there belts) the P18 is a fine boat.

To wrap this up! Preliminarily it looks like a freak event which might have had a different outcome if companion way was sealed shut. Don't know if cockpit locker was sealed or not but if not that didn't help situation! BIg cockpit drains when running in big water.


In all the discussion, no one has mentioned the role of local knowledge. On the Oregon coast, the locals all know that in the summer the afternoon north wind goes from dead calm to throwing pebbles in a matter of seconds. My introduction to the phenomenon was on the low side of a capsizing Day Sailer. Rounding up requires that the keel/CB is still in the water. Easing the main requires that the boom isn't already in the water. My Ds only came up because I managed to free the jib. It sounds like the lost P18 was run over by the same kind of truck. All of the possible remedies suggested here and on FB come down to maintaining a certain level of paranoia, particularly on unfamiliar waters or those where you know you can't see what's going to hit you.
Talbot Bielefeldt
Precision 21 "Starlight"
Fern Ridge Lake, Oregon