Flopper Stopper in a Flap!

Flopper Stopper in a Flap!

Flopper Stopper: the essential cruising peacemaker

If you’d like to listen to this story, click here.

Right, all you blokes pay attention; Sheilas turn the page (well if you could just wait a little while) this is for the emasculated males.

The scene is set in early morning, on anchor, an open road, the Pacific Ocean. Here we sit outside Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador, the day we supposedly finish a 2,800 nautical mile voyage. This odyssey entailed crossing the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) with all its associated calms, squalls, lightning and running before hurricane warnings. After four weeks, the nerves are shattered.

Our hearts slowly sink as the sing-song Spanish lilt carried along the waves to our VHF has informed us that we have just missed the Pilot for entrance to safe harbour; by thirty short minutes. This necessitates anchoring twenty-three hours for the next high tide; daylight and Pilot to be synchronised. Okay then, the ‘beepin’ journey is not quite over, yet!

Three dimensional acrobatics have been our life since La Paz, Mexico, some four weeks ago. Even then we had wind-over-tide rolls on anchor. The Corumel winds were firing up with the onset of summer and the commencement of Hurricane Danger Time! On anchor at Isle de Cocos we morphed into an immense lurching pendulum, followed by head butting winds for fourteen days consecutively. Life, recently, has been a tad arduous.

But the real problem, the actual crux of the flap I’m in; the reason I call on my brothers to hear my tale is this: Last night the wife and I had a barney. Of course, I was in the right like all good males invariably are. How-some-ever, Jackie was convinced I was a raving lunatic in need of sleep and external restraints; preferably off the boat and furthermore at a considerable distance from her very fair self. Imagine my shock, my horror, to find that my dearest thinks my keen judgement and decision making skills were shot.

“Just get out of the cockpit, you half-witted dolt, get some sleep and get off my watch,” yelled Jackie.

“Right, all the best, good luck to you then,” I retorted, brilliantly.

The details matter nought, right guys? It won’t matter what you do, say or venture, you are ‘persona non gratis’. You are the enigma, the ghost who walks, the bloke scratching his head, asking himself “what?”

Cruising Helmsman article on flopper stoppers
Cruising Helmsman article on flopper stoppers

The only thing to do, of course, is ‘Retire to the Shed.’ Make something, fix something, lube, file or adjust. Then maybe, just maybe, the result will be something ‘The Wife’ thinks favourably toward. Actually by this stage ‘what the wife thinks’ is in the too hard basket. Something understandable like a nuclear reactor or a way of stopping a twenty tonne boat from rolling in a four foot swell, now that’s something a bloke’s got a chance at.

In our dash to convert “Pyewacket” to our way of life, we had overlooked the essential cruising peacemaker: the FLOPPER STOPPER. For the sake of our sanity and comfort we needed one right now.

There are several versions of the Flopper Stopper, some commercially available, the rest are made up designs (see Jackie’s previous article in ch). The Aussie and the Kiwi cruisers usually making their own; (ingenuity or testament to our Scottish heritage with our reluctance to buy anything we think we can make ourselves?)

Whatever the version, the requirement is identical; to break the rhythmic pendulum like swing of the vessels mass about its geometric centre. Bashing up against a wharf can do it, although that is a trifle harsh. A stern anchor can induce pitching and reduce rolling, however you may want to have a quick departure, especially on an open roadstead. The best method, of course, is to have the boat propped in a twenty acre paddock.

Flopper stopper
Flopper stopper

A successful ‘Flopper Stopper’ principally has to do two things. (1) Sink easily. (2) Resist an upward force. One simple method is to have a weighted horizontal door. The ‘door’ opens on the way down (sinks) and ‘closes’ on the up lift from the halyards, a bit like a one way valve. I have plans, in my head, for a stainless steel flopper. Sort of like a flat door in a four-sided door jamb, the whole thing being held by a halyard at each corner. That was not going to happen off  the coast of Ecuador today.

What could be achieved, in a flap, is this: A plywood door with halyard on each corner, the ‘hinge’ side being weighted down with heavy lead sinkers. The ‘opening’ side having just enough lead to overcome the buoyancy of the ‘door’; the ‘hinges’ being the flexibility of the rope halyards.

The spinnaker pole set up with fore and aft guys and topping lift keeps the whole thing in position. The longer the pole the greater the turning moment (torque). This torque is what your creation is exerting when it is ‘Stopping the Flopping’.

Flopper stopper in a flap
Flopper stopper in a flap

Good Luck with it gentlemen, maybe one of us can find the perfect solution to our woes.  At least whilst in ‘the shed’ you can make a better flopper stopper!


The fair, feminine details

Noel had ‘thought’ of several ‘things’ he ‘had’ to do during his rest time (off-watch), despite my reminders that fatigue is a serious safety issue and having a good rest is just as important as precise navigation.

I was tired, but Noel had stirred himself into exhaustion. Regardless of  a long watch, hand steering within a night so dark I could feel the blackness, fishing vessels without navigation lights and a bearing straight for huge, solid rock – I felt I had to take command and order Noel to get some rest before switching the con. This is an unusual occurrence onboard “Pyewacket II” but then blokes are a very unusual breed.

The Flopper Stopper helped lengthen both our shortened fuses. Enabling us to rest sufficiently before crossing the bar the following day.

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