'Til the butter melts

Pursuing the cruising dream in 32' of sailing ketch

Roll, roll, roll your boat…


We love our boat. She’s strong, capable, amazingly roomy for her 32 feet, well built and well equipped. Sionna is the perfect boat for us. But she does have one vice.

She likes to roll.
Any time the wake of a boat or a sea comes along at anything close to broadside to our old fat boat, she sets up a motion that’s like riding a round-barreled pony who’s determined to roll in the grass. Baaack and forth, Baaack and forth…. Every boat around us is gently riding to the swell, and Sionna is tossing dishes across the cabin while Nicki and I hold on for dear life. And sleeping? I don’t think so.

Hence my latest project – creating a “flopper stopper” – a device to catch hold of the water next to the hull and use its weight to reduce and dampen the roll.

The idea isn’t new, and it isn’t original. I’ve read several articles over the years about various designs, and a couple of fellow cruisers have shared ideas as well. The one I made is based pretty closely on a recent article in “Good Old Boat” magazine, so here’s a shoutout to a truly excellent publication!  

Materials are all found items: An old milk crate Nicki’s had since childhood is the base, the fabric is an old sail from the boat we didn’t restore (thank you Renaissance!) the weight was in Sionna’s bilge when we got her, and the line and clips were repurposed from various corners of the boat.

Once deployed, the flopper-stopper is below the waters surface, but it acts like a weighted bucket with a one-way valve in the bottom. Water can come up into the bottom easily, but is slowed significantly in escaping, using the weight of the water to slow the roll of the boat side-to-side.

The horizontal pole just holds the unit at a distance from the hull, creating leverage, and the two lower lines keep the whole works out perpendicular to the hull. The support is a halyard from the top of the mast.

Does it work? Certainly it helps, but there hasn’t been a huge amount of wake or swell this afternoon to test it. Mostly we seem to be riding up and down on the swells, with only a little roll thrown in.

 Cautious optimism reigns until proven unfounded!

Author: s/v sionna

Living the dream in 32'. We left Maine on August 18th, 2016, and have gradually worked our way south until we felt warm enough. After spending the summer in Maine, working to replenish the cruising kitty, and rehabilitating an old house. we’re headed back on the boat, bringing Sionna back home to northern waters. Follow our blog here!

8 thoughts on “Roll, roll, roll your boat…

  1. Like the birds fishing boats deploy! Sometimes called “sissy-sticks”, but you guys didn’t need to know that, did you? Anyway, that’s usually the guys that don’t have them talking…

    Quasi’s are working on scheduling recording dates, Keith, so you’ll have to cut your lifetime’s dream a little short…


  2. The boat is relatively flat bottomed with the ballast carried pretty high, which makes for a very quick and snappy roll compared to other designs. Years ago in the Bahamas I was on another boat with a similar tendency. I had a slip at a marina where the swell would come in broadside to me. Completely untenable. Impossible to sleep. I ended up taking the mainsail halyard and cleating on to the opposite side of the dock where I then winched her down to about a 7 degree heel. No more banging around. Slept well, people wondered what the hell I was doing.

    I don’t have centerboards on my boat, but it seems just having both boards down would provide resistance to rolling. I assume you tried that? That said, I also own a catalina 22 with a swing keel and that will bang around at night and keep me up if I leave it down so it always remains up at anchor.


  3. Nicely done! Hope when you really put it to the test, it works a treat.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dropping both of Sionna’s boards does slow the roll….if you don’t mind the knocking…..
    I’d have sent you off with the 2 roll-stoppers I made out of sheetrock buckets (Capt. Dan Pease’s design)
    had I thought about it. (Boathook and whisker-pole held them off, and that’s why there was an extra halyard on the mizzen mast….) They worked mightily, even in ROCK-port and ROCK-land harbors.

    I had a Block Island Cow-horn-type, years back, that rolled worse than Sionna. One frustrating night I swung the main-boom out, tied it forward with a preventer, hung the rowboat off the end of it and sunk the rowboat. She didn’t like it, but she didn’t roll.
    Charlie’ doing well in January Men, but he’s got some mighty big shoes to fill.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Very clever! Hope it works well once you get to put it to a real test.


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