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sailtobike 10-06-2012 09:09 PM

Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
Hi All,

We had a great day sailing on the Chesapeake today. The winds were 20's gusting to 30's. We saw 9 knots on our boat speed downwind for the first time. Unfortunately, the good time was not to last. We had a uncontrolled gybe around Bloody Point and I saw stuff flying from the main sheet harken slide track traveler block. When I got the chance to look, it appeared to be tiny ball bearings.... not good. On our next gybe, the whole car came flying off the track. Fortunately we were still able sail into St Michaels with it hanging off the slide track cleat lines. We are safely anchored for the night, liseining to a nice blow outside.

Right now, I am not sure about sailing back home. The traveler block is still attached to the main sheet, but it is hanging in mid air on the cleat lines. I think we may be able to clamp it down to the track and manage to sail home to Baltimore. My question is has anyone had this experience? Do you have any suggestions on how to anchor down the block for a quick fix to get home?

Thanks to all!

PS if you are wondering how we are online- check out the Verizon MIFI, it is the best!

jsaronson 10-06-2012 09:48 PM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
I'd rig a bridle from the ends of the traveler that you can attach the mainsheet to. You can get replacement bearings when you get back. Good luck!

Stumble 10-06-2012 10:05 PM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
How old is the system?

One of the reasons I like Harken is they have incredible customer service. I would give them a call Monday and describe what happened, and ask for their advice about fixing it. I have had them send me replacement parts and whole new blocks because something failed.

CalebD 10-06-2012 10:16 PM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
I have sailed by Bloody Point and to St. Mikes before so I know the area. The Bay can get a bit boisterous in the stronger winds of fall so I can understand your concern.

If you can live without a traveler for the way back you could lash the block down in the middle of the track. You would have to compensate for not being able to use the traveler by dumping a little more wind.

If you are not comfortable with improvising, I thought that there was some kind of chandelry (boat store) in St. Michaels? You might get lucky and they have a traveler car that will work with your track. Harken is a pretty common brand for that type of hardware. Another sail boater might have a spare or backup they could lend you, if they felt so inclined.

Enjoy the cooling weather. I'd almost kill to be on a sailboat at St. Michaels right about now. Hope you get home safe.

Always have a backup plan.

MarkSF 10-07-2012 02:18 AM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
My Bristol hasn't had a traveller since it was built, 29 years ago. Surely you can manage without one for a day?

sailtobike 10-07-2012 10:07 AM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
Thanks for all the advice guys! Truth is I feel pretty stupid for the uncontrolled gybe that blew her out in the first place. I had just done a chicken gybe and thought I was pretty smart. But then, I sailed too close to dead down and snapped her over. The first 305 is very tender and the waves really don't allow any room for error as she dances up and down the troughs.

I am sure you are right that we can get Harken to replace the car this week and take care of the problem, although it worries me that it failed in the first place. We have been playing with it this morning and I have to say I am a little disappointed in the design. The only things holding this car on the track are the ballbearings and some small screwed on plastic endcaps. Geez. The track is also flat against the floor so you can't run a line around it to strap it down.

My husband has decided to screw the car back down to the track with the endcaps. I am not sure this will work for long.The winds have layed down to 5, so we will probably be ok. We are sailing downwind to get out of eastern bay, and then be up the whole way back. If it fails, I agree we could rig something to the headsail cleats in the cockpit or the wenchs on the deck ( the traveller on a First 305 is on a step in front of the companionway..not a great place). I am concerned about putting lateral loads on the headsail cleats. I think the wenchs could take the loads just fine.

Anyway, it has been a interesting experience and we will learn our back up plan for this failure underway! I will let you know how it plays out.

Busy morning here in St. Michaels, we are anchored by the Inn at Perry Cabin and the dinghy sailors are out practicing in front of the sailing museum. I remember those days!

Thanks again!

SchockT 10-07-2012 07:51 PM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
Harken traveler systems are some of the best in the business, and having all the load on the bearings is pretty standard. The bearings were likely worn and damaged already, and all it took was that final shock load to finish them off. While you COULD get a whole new car to fit your track, you may only need to get a new set of bearings, depending on the model you have.

hellosailor 10-07-2012 11:45 PM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
Bike, I would suspect that your gybe slammed the car into one end of the track, broke off the stoppers, and then the car flew off and shed all the bearings. Seen any buckshot around the cockpit drains? That's them.

In which case this should all be easily repairable. Harken MIGHT be closed for Columbus Day tomorrow, might not. Odds are you can order a box of bearings and some new stopper hardware (replace both ends while you're at it) and if you ask real nicely...Harken might even agree that stoppers shouldn't disintegrate that way and comp you on the new parts, or at least cut you some slack.

If you really need to sail in the meantime, go to a craft store, buy some hardwood beads, rig 'em up as parrel beads on a loop to replace the car and just sail a little slower till the new parts come in.

Probably take you all of an hour to reinstall your traveller car, unless you've got to chew out the parts that held in the stoppers, or a piece of deck tore out.

mikehoyt 10-10-2012 10:52 AM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
Has anyone ever seen this? YES! Last Saturday as a matter of fact we gybed and saw ball bearings draining out of traveller car and on next tack entire car a foot above the track. We grabbed some extra line and lashed the car on to the track centerline and then completed the race using just the mainsheet.

This was a Harken Small Boat Car. The car is metal and has two plastic endcaps to hold the bearings in place. One of these broke. I contacted our rigging shop "North Sails Atlantic / The Yacht Shop" and they have ordered these end caps before.

A note of caution. The new cars apparently do not fit on the old track. If purchasing a new car you may have to also replace the track and the track may not be cheap.

Have a friend with a J/29 who I ran into Sat evening and he said same thing happened with his boat - also in a race and they also lashed traveller car centerline and sailed the rest of the day.

sailtobike 10-10-2012 08:49 PM

Re: Blown main sheet traveler car- need advice ASAP
Wow, I can't believe someone else had the same main sheet traveler car failure as we did on Saturday. I wonder if Harken knows their main sheet traveler cars have trouble with the full force of a strong gybe.

We did manage to sail home with a temporary fix. We just screwed the car back to the track without the ball bearings using the broken endcap. We were on a reach the whole way, so it took the loads just fine. We emailed Harken when we got home and they told us to just order new endcaps and ball bearings. Seems like an easy fix, but I am concerned that it can happen again.

Thanks again for all the great suggesstions and shared experiences!

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