Squire Headlong, in Thomas Love Peacock’s Headlong Hall, had a pleasure boat, “which he steered with amazing dexterity; but as he always indulged himself in the utmost possible latitude of sail, he was occasionally upset by a sudden gust, and was indebted to his skill in the art of swimming for the opportunity of tempering with a copious libation of wine the unnatural frigidity introduced into his stomach by the extraordinary intrusion of water, an element which he had religiously determined should never pass his lips..”
Nowadays there is a whole lot of capsizing going on in the Estuary, where the salt water calls all the louder for a copious libation after the event, but the dinghies mostly seem to bob up again like so many kellymen and the wetsuited, drysuited crews of today are wonderfully independent and seem to be as happy in the water as they are out of it.
All new boats liable to capsize are now declared capsizable and are lumbered with an alarming mark depicting a surreal boat lying diametrically upside down beneath the water, her keel pointing to heaven and her sail still fluttering beneath the wave. This labelling is there no doubt to comply with contemporary regulations and my Poppy came to me so blemished but I have presumed to unscrew the ugly brown plastic label that would also dictate how many people might sail in her, to wit: four, and how much baggage a lone sailor may take with him, viz. 300 kilograms, and square it away. As yet she has not capsized.
If she has not yet capsized it is because, unlike Squire Headlong, I seldom indulge myself in the utmost possible latitude of sail. Now and again, when running, the wind veers behind her and with the ensuing jibe the lug bangs like a cannon and the boat suffers an extraordinary intrusion of water over the rails but no worse than that.
If she were to capsize I have to admit I don’t know whether I could right her. In a sailing dinghy the leverage of the centreboard is all important to the capsize drill and my Poppy has no centreboard. Moreover the manuals assume two people will right a boat and the lone sailor would seem to be at a disadvantage. One day perhaps I shall need to find out if it is possible for one man to set a Scaffie right way up again once she has blown over, meanwhile I trust to reefing and solicitude and need no excuse for copious libations of wine.