Without flotation a 'Mill is a beast to sail away after a capsize. (a la Thistle, etc.) There are three approaches to the problem, Foam, Air Bags and Tanks.
  1. Foam is fairly cheap, easy to install; but looks terrible and is of marginal help. The problem is that you can not get the foam low enough in the boat to provide the necessary buoyancy. When righted, you will still have a boat full of water and perhaps the DB well will be a fountain, when you and the crew get back aboard.

  2. Air bags are better than foam, but still not as good as air tanks. But, for existing wood boats that are either overweight or the owner does not choose to build in floatation tanks, air bags are an option. Rob Ballinger offers his experience with air bags.

    I chose inflatable pillow bags for several reasons: 1) Weight - my hull weighs 240 pounds, so minimizing additional weight made sense. The bags weigh about one pound. 2) Quick and easy installation - just a couple of hours. 3) They are nice to lean against in light air.

    Disadvantages: Might include cost if you don't consider your time to build tanks. Mine cost about $160. In two years, I've had no leaks, but I do have to blow up the bags a little when the weather turns colder.

    I have two bags hidden under the thwarts and two under the center gunwales. Two SB-2320 (12" x 36") bags under the thwarts provide 300 pounds floatation. Two SB-2102 (10" x 46") bags under the center gunwales provide 224 pounds floatation. A total of 524 pounds floatation.

    You should also order three SBF-2 webbing kits (three straps each kit - each bag needs two straps) and one repair kit, just in case.

    You can order the bags from Jack Holt, Ltd., The Embankment, Putney London SW15 1LB, England, Attention: Mr. E.J. Mendham, General Manager. The total cost was $160, which included air parcel post and import duties. (In 1990 the exchange rate was 1 Pound = $1.60 and I paid by via Master Card). Delivery by air parcel post takes about three weeks.

  3. Air Tanks. The real solution is full length side tanks. They are more difficult to put in after the boat is built, but they will enable you to sail away quickly after a capsize. They will reduce frustration and provide the margin of safety needed in case you are caught in a sudden squall or capsize when the water temperature is cool. Part II of the How-To manual describes how to install them during construction. Jim Vensel's sketches, available from the Class Secretary, show how to do it after the fact. They are chore to fit, but they work. Not only do they provide buoyancy, but they seal the under deck area off, leaving less room for water. Order sketches

    Some people opt to put them only on one side to save work. If they dump it on the side without tanks, they flip it over, then right it again.

    The center tank provides the most lift, then the forward and finally the aft tank, in case you decide to install them in stages. But it really takes all three, before you will realize the full advantage.

    A ancillary advantage was realized by installing inspection ports with cat bags in the tank sides, providing water tight storage space for registration papers, lunch, tools, etc. The tank sides also provide a place to install hardware, just like the plastic boats.

Read Skip Kendricks, experience with air tanks.