I keep an old Solingen knife my dad used in Antarctic whaling in the late '40s on my belt, along with a Maglight, and if I am wearing foulies, I carry a cheap, serrated WasteMarine rigging knife looped through the D-ring and hung on a fabric tape from my PFD. It cost $9 at the boat show, and I bought ten. I consider them "single use/expendable/don't care if it goes for a swim". When I go offshore, I will likely get a Gerber or a Spyderco rigger's knife, but for Lake Ontario, this suffices.
I also have a hand axe and a modified bread knife by the companionway. A buddy has a Crocodile Dundee-sized dive knife sheathed under a step, but that's less "rigging knife" than "intruder welcome".
I've used my rigging knife exactly once, when my old light No. 1 snagged its leech line on a spreader when I turned around Toronto Island coming back from Oshawa and the wind jumped from 12 to 25 knots...too much for that old sail. My then-seven-months pregnant wife went as head to wind as she could with the full main up while I doused it with extreme prejudice and lashed the remains to the deck. I well remember getting welts from the flailing sheets and finding a bit of sail stuck in the spreader tip when I hauled the mast later that year.
And that's why I tape off my spreader tips now. Most of my BFS stories are from the first three years of sailing. Things have calmed down considerably as I've ascended the learning curve.
I've been trying my best to refrain from posting here as this just seems like a slightly less testosterone laden premise for a thread like your FC posting(s). Against my better judgment I am posting now.
I don't have anything better for you than Farmboy or GeorgeB in terms of bad or devastating consequences but I can speak to the issue of hubris which will follow my small treatise on BFS (namely spinnakers).
Farmboy got a nasty cut on his leg and GeorgeB describes loosing a pretty amazing boat while using the spinnaker that double wrapped the fore stay. Spinnakers are fun as they give you a lot more power (speed) then usual but require constant trimming; more trimming than a sail plan of just main and genoa which are much more flexible in terms of point of sail options (you can't head up wind with a spinnaker up - down wind is your friend in this situation).
You need to get a spinnaker sail from any boat in the same mast height range as your boat and a pole and some extra lines and try it. There are some extra lines you should rig on your spinnaker sheet and guy lines called 'twings' which are basically blocks that allow you to pull in the long sheet and guy which run to the stern blocks on your boat (you have those don't you?). I believe you already have the topping lift for the pole (which pulls up) and can easily rig up the line that pulls the pole down. I know you are gonna love it! It's got SnapPappy written all over it (BFS and FC all in one).
To get back to hubris, which is derived from the Greek (meaning: overwhelming pride, self-confidence, superciliousness, or arrogance, often resulting in fatal retribution), I helped a buddy of mine move his newly acquired MacGregor 26S from Babylon, NY up to Yonkers, NY (about 85 km with most of the trip in the Atlantic and the rest up the Hudson River).
Our planned day of departure was foggy so we spent the night at a friends house with a canal on the Great South Bay with the boat in the water by the back yard. Our host was a local and knew Fire Island Inlet and advised my friend to follow the buoys out into the ocean, that it sometimes got a bit rough on the ocean by the inlet in an ebbing tide and strong winds in the opposite direction. Tide is something we have pretty regularly here unlike in the Gulf o' Mexico which is more effected by predominant winds etc. My friend also has a masters license and works for the Military Sea Lift Command (MSC) so I had a lot of confidence in my captain.
I looked in the tide & pilot book to see when the slack tide would be happening at the inlet but as it worked out we ended up getting to the inlet a couple of hours late so the tide was ebbing out of the Great South Bay into the ocean by then. We had light winds (5 kts or less) but were still registering 8 kts over ground on my GPS as we headed past the CG station. I noticed a little bay to our west where there were a hundred or so motor boats anchored and then I looked to the south where the outgoing tide was kicking up the 4 ft. ocean swell into 10'+ breaking waves which was the way we had to go. We had only an 8 HP engine pushing us as we got into the mini race caused by the outgoing current and it complained each time the boat got to the top of the wave and began going down the other side. My friend had brought his teenage son along so I was somewhat relieved that he actually intended on living through this. My friend had me increase the throttle on the outboard as he was using it to steer us and did not want to turn away from the waves which were big enough to roll us if we got broadside to. Once outside the region of dangerous waves we ended up motoring most of the 50 km to NYC and were treated to a flying air show of the Blue Devils off of Jones Beach.
By the time we neared the Rockaways the wind picked up and we doused the engine and I saw some spurts of 7 kts in the McGregor. The tiller had a lot of weather helm and the boat is way under built compared to my own 1969 Tartan 27' but it is faster if lighter built.
Lesson: Do not think that just because you have gone through Hell Gate that the other coastal inlets on the east coast will be the same.
We spent the night near the Statue of Liberty in NY Harbor at a marina (LLM) and refilled the gas cans. Since my boat has an inboard engine and this boat was new to my friend we forgot to put 2 stroke oil in the tank.
We left the marina the next morning (without paying) and motored out into the Hudson until the motor died and put up both sails. We tacked upriver on an incoming tide all the way past Manhattan and up to Yonkers until the tidal river current started flowing the other way and the wind died beneath the cliffs of the Palisades of NJ. We still had not figured out the problem with the fuel or rather the missing oil from the fuel so we dragged the boat along a pier (JFK Memorial Park, for those of you who know it) to the launching ramp much to the surprise of the dumbfounded onlookers and a few fishermen who reluctantly reeled in their lines to let us pass.
The boat was delivered safe and sound but there were more lessons to be learned from all of this. I was exhausted and tired after our two day ordeal with nothing more than a 15 kt gust so by no means was this a BFS episode. It was just an exercise in learning more about what it takes to cope with the conditions, the boat and its crew and it's captain.
When my friend decided to pull his boat out for the season I was there with him and we were out in pretty strong winds for the MacGregor, even with it's smallish jib. By now we knew that the current in the river was a major factor to take into account but the northerly winds were funneled up by the Palisades. A few near knockdowns in gusts and that puny rigging got me a little scared but again my MSC friend held her steady as we sailed the boat right up onto her trailer. Soon after emptying the water ballast the fore stay parted as the rigging had not been sound and the action of the furler had unscrewed the stay. The mast came down with the boat on the trailer. Fortunately no one was hurt and only a few pieces of rigging will need to be replaced.
Lessons learned: not all skippers or boats are created equal. Pushing it to the limit is great in many ways but there is usually a price tag associated with such behavior. Someone who has a 1000 ton license does not necessarily understand a smaller boat.
I will sail with my friend again when the opportunity arises but I have to live with the little voices in my head that tell me that something is not inherently safe. I do not try to push my old 1969 era boat as hard as I could because I have a little voice in my head that tells me that the chain plates might pull up or the motor might fail. This may be the reason I have not had so many BFS this season except for a 400+ nm delivery of a 51' Benneteau from Tortola to the TCI last June.
SplatDaddy, over and out.
Sailing a Mac 26S (not much bigger than my V-21) for 85 miles of mostly ocean, is fairly impressive. Ah yes, the forestays on the older Macs. I dropped my V-21 mast due to a parted forestay once. A little glass work and it was fine. Ya oughta see one of the little Macs under spinnaker. Talk about a white knuckle ride when the breeze is up.
We're not discussing the motorsailor abortions from MacGregor here. The 26S was a proper little sailboat with decent performance, if lightly built.
Good story, Caleb. I suppose the moral is that a good skipper can sail a plank full of knotholes, but we aren't all good skippers .
More than once it has occurred to me that a well-designed boat has saved a middling crew more often than a great crew have saved themselves with a middling boat. And by "middling", I don't mean poorly designed so much as I mean a boat out in conditions or situations that exceed to a greater or lesser degree those for which it was designed. Even a Westsail 32, one of the more bulletproof sailboats arguably ever built, can be sunk in vicious enough conditions.
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Here's a BFS in progress. The dude's name is Ccam - and the story part is second-hand from Charlie. He headed out just a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully Ccam will check in here and supply more of the story. Fair winds and BFS, Ccam!
"There's a fellow Texan up here who's sailing out of the Strait and turning left for Mexico and eventually points further South. His previous experience was sailing a Hobie Cat on a lake. Since then he's sailed a couple of places around here. He's taking a couple of folks with experience and just "Doing it!" His name is Cam and even though he doesn't yet have a bunch of stories of sailing through the "stuff" he embodies the spirit you're looking for."