The Wild Hair Dismasting


The great dismasting event went like this:

We had left the Marquesas and were motoring into the wind back to Key West. The seas were 2 - 4 feet, depending on where we were inside the reef. We, along with everyone else, has spend the previous day banging through waves leaving the Tortugas. In retrospect, I should have checked the rigging before we left the Marquesas, but who knew?

We had motored down and were passing Boca Grande Key, approximately two miles out. We were banging along, like the previous day, again into the wind. All of the sudden, there was a loud "BANG" and lines and stays were everywhere. I killed the engine and tried to take stock of what had happened and how for Kelly and I not to get dragged in the water.

The mast was leaning on the poptop, and swaying back and forth. I ran up to the foredeck while Kelly attempted to hold stays and shrouds, keeping the mast from going overboard. I told her, "Let it go if it goes overboard."

Bert Ward was the first to reach the boat. He jumped off his boat and swam to ours. Wade Clodfelter was close behind. Our halyard for the gennaker runs back to the cockpit. I told Kelly to uncleat it. I pulled the halyard line through and clipped the shackle around the halyard. I pulled the halyard, using the shackle as sort of a slip knot.

By this time, Bert was moving to the bow. He took the line and ran it around the bow cleat. Wade climbed up and we were able to raise the mast. Bert cleated it off. This solved the problem of the mast going over. I also used the jib halyard to tie off to the bow pulpit.

I tied the forestay off with a small line I had.

We slowly motored into the lee of Woman Key and tightned up all the jury rigged lines. Bert and Kathy followed us in. Thanks.

What happened? The turnbuckle had backed its way out. We do not have a turnbuckle (yet) that has the cotter pins. Our turnbuckle has a nut that snugs up to the barrel and keeps it in place. Right.

All that banging around caused it to back out. As I said, I should have checked it at the Marquesas. I can assure you that we will have a turnbuckle in place that has cotter pins. I will then replace the pins with rings.

Bert and Wade were heroes. That's the kind of people you meet in this sailing group. We cannot wait until next year.

Check those turnbuckles!!!