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post #393 of Old 03-05-2011
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Still ashamed (10 years later)

That's easy: I dis-masted a $42000 rig by not ensuring the crew knew how to use a navtec hydraulic system and by not double-checking the yard's initial mast stepping.
Backround: Wrapping up a 32 hour near coastal run RI - Northern MA.
After giving up the helm and heading to my pilot-berth, I soon heard slack-sail shortly after a what I knew to be the last tack of the trip. I said to myself, "I'll go up and straighten things out if we're not trimmed in a few minutes". 10 minutes later, it sounded worse. I headed to the cockpit and asked my buddy "what's up with main-trim"? Just as I said this, looking aloft, it all came down.... Like "TIMBER!"... came-down! The main-spar split at the first spreader, falling aft. It was inclement weather; midnight; 12 mi offshore; cold water; no moon; sleeting; 25kts. Since the masthead mount VHF antenna was now at a depth of about 10', I had to hope cell phone coverage existed. Luckily, it did. I didn't call a mayday, but advised USCG of our circumstance and position. They came out as a courtesy, all while we cut away what rod we could, rested the 60+ mast (with crumpled-mainsail) on the stern lifelines/stanchions, using it more or less as a massive rudder while under power. We used the sheets attached to the primaries to alter our mega-rudder's position. The rig was inhibiting the wheel/rudder, but luckily the prop wasn't fouled. We eventually made it to Port by about 5AM under the navigational guidance of USCG and a very kind Harbor Master. They never boarded or even laid us a line. They said "they never saw anybody so calm under such circumstances". I guess that's was some sort of thread I grasped in an attempt to preserve what was left of my ego. In actuality, my crew (also a good friend) and I were so pissed at each other, we wouldn't talk unless absolutely necessary.

It turns out, all this was made possible by the commissioning yard clevis-pinning, but not cotter/ring pinning and taping the fore-stay at the masthead. More to the point... I never checked the yard's work. I suffered the consequences. I never pursued damages against the yard as I felt a good captain would have done his due-diligence by going aloft, checking the rigging as a multi-day cruise was lined-up immediately after seasonal launch.

My major-malfunction(s) were impatience, poor communication and lack of preparation. I knew the crew-member's personality. I should have known he wasn't listening to a damn thing I was saying when explaining the use of the Navtec system.

Last edited by lstonevo; 03-12-2011 at 08:31 PM. Reason: improve readability
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