Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Shucky darn... Mast-fall-down-go-BOOM!

Personally, I blame it on the fact that I mentioned I was sailing to (as opposed to towards) Antigua. But at least we did not leave on a Friday...

The sail towards Antigua (now he gets it right) was pretty nice and about an hour or so before dawn on Sunday, the wind was freshening and we were cruising along at a little over seven knots with one reef in and just maybe the chance of rain in the near future... Not so bad!

Sheila had gone down to grab her foulies and I was having a finest-kind moment watching the log kiss the 7.3 mark and then things got exciting real quick! The breeze freshened just a bit more and there was a definite "PING". Before I could say WTF, the mast was over the side and the finest-kind moment had most definitely left the scene as FUBAR dropped by.

Down below, Sheila hardly heard anything and told me after that it sounded like the cats were playing on deck... though in a somewhat robust and insane fashion.

It only took a couple of minutes to sort out that the port shroud chainplate tang was the source of the "PING" and about three seconds looking at the mast in the water to realize that we were not going to be sailing anywhere anytime soonish.

The bad news was that the mast was now near vertical (masthead down) with the mast base just above deck level and, as it was filling with water, that level was going down fast. Oh yeah, where it gets fun is that it was on the bad side and now that we were were beam on to the seas which were about eight feet the mast was now a very large and heavy club banging on the starboard side of the boat. Of course, as the bright wags will say it can always be worse and as the mast filled the club of mast could very easily start punching holes in our starboard side and bottom... and so it does go.

Considering the sea-state and all, the decision to sever our links with mast and rig was a pretty easy (if expensive) one. So out came the hack saw and vice grips and the work of pulling pins and cutting shrouds where the pins could not be pulled. Kind of a bummer job if anyone's asking.

A little while later we were sitting in the cockpit watching the sunrise and having a cup of coffee trying to put all the events straight in our heads as it had all seemed to happen at the speed of light. The tang that went "ping" always bothered me because of the geometry was such that while easy to inspect one side the other side was both difficult to see and inclined to trap moisture and salt which is why despite many inspections some serious crevice corrosion had taken hold. Hindsight is always 20/20, of course.

So as we were no longer a sailboat and we had to motor, we motored to the closest place with decent pricing on rigging stuff and part of the US of A as we were sure we'd need some stuff from stateside either a mast or materials to build a mast. So, St Croix  won hands down.

The motor to St Croix was uneventful, if a bit slow, but we made port with battery power to spare thanks in no small part to our Electric Yacht drive and Honda generator as they ran for twelve hours without a rest in really big sloppy seas and just seriously all around kicked some serious butt!

I always try and look on the bright side of things and I have always wondered how a CAL 34 would work out with an alternative rig and so it is the new project being added to The List. And, while I will go in to more detail in the not too far distant future, I'll just leave you with three words...

Evolved lug schooner ...

More soon come!