Musto Skiff

Mast Head Floats - A cheap aid to training? by Ian Ellis

I used a mast top float for the first six months of sailing a skiff. I moved into the skiff from an RS400 having trapezed about 6 times before buying the boat. I had visited menorca sailing before and seen the floats that they used and felt that this may be a good idea to save myself and the boat from too much damage.

I made myself a much smaller float than that used by the sailing schools. I used the smallest buoyancy bag I could find and made a webbing strap handle to attach it to the main halyard shackle. This was still a bit bigger than necessary but worked well.

The biggest draw back that the float seemed to offer was that of giving the local sailors something to point at between my capsizes. I would imagine that the float could cause some problems if used in windy weather but as a beginner this was not a problem as if the wind got up I would generally think better of worrying the rescue crews and either find a laser to sail or someone to crew for.

It seemed to me to offer numerous benefits to someone new to such a demanding class. Particularly someone who was also new to trapezing and I am sure it helped me master the boat quicker than would have been possible without one.

The main benefits I found were.

If you need a rest you can sit on the upturned boat without any worries of inverting etc and then when you are ready to start sailing again you can right the boat and sail away. You should not need to try to gain composure whilst trying to stay upright.

If you capsize there is no worries about the boat inverting which is especially good when the kite is still up as it allows you to pull it down from inside the hull before righting the boat.

Righting the boat is made easier as it will not invert.

You can also stand on the mast near the base and climb over the hull onto the centre board. This is much easier than hauling yourself onto the centreboard out of the water and avoids any danger of damaging the hull with your trapeeze harness.

All of this means that a capsize is less of a problem and less tireing which allows you to stay on the water longer and hence learn quicker.

The final advantage that I had was that where I sail is quite shallow and there was never a concern that I might brake the mast on the bottom.

There is also an obvious safety benefit in that if the boat will not invert then you cannot get trapped underneath it.

Happy sailing and I can guarantee that it is definitely worth sticking it out through the tough days as the grin factor once you have mastered the boat is huge.

Ed's note: It's not all positive with a mast head float ... if you get separated from the boat then the boat inverting will mean it doesn't blow/drift away from you as fast making it easier for you to swim back to the boat. As with all these things you need to assess the wind, water, rescue cover etc etc when going afloat. Safety first of course ...

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