Lesson Learned: Mast caught in tree limbs - SailNet Community

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Old 09-07-2011
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Lesson Learned: Mast caught in tree limbs

I had just spent 1.5 hours rigging the 15 Ft. Sloop at a new docking location at the lake. Being fully aware of the mast which extends approximately 28 Ft high, physically walked the route to the dock to identify all high altitude hazards and how to avoid them. I began the process of backing the trailer n boat very slowly (1.5 mph) toward the dock. As I approached an oak tree and its potential branches, I stopped the truck, got out and looked closely. then proceeded to get the mast caught up in the branches. I was 3 minutes into moving the boat toward the dock. The resolution to the problem consumed another 2 hours. At this point, I resumed my approach to the dock along a different route. Even though I walked the new route, and observed the height hazards, the mast was once again caught in the branches of yet another oak tree. The solution consumed another 1.5 hours.

At the end of the day, I never did any sailing. However, I did learn a very important lesson....

1.) It seems the human eye cannot accurately assess the altitude hazards when you are standing in a position of "observation from a small distance" away from the potential hazard.

2.) Accurate altitude assessment, and its potential hazard to the mast can only be done by standing directly under the target, and look directly up at it; then look directly down and around where you are standing to evaluate the route to the dock at this point.

3.) When launching at a new docking location, extreme caution, analysis, and evaluation in all aspects (dock, ramp, left, right or center of ramp, ...) of launching needs to be performed; not under estimated.

4.) I typically sail solo, however, even with a "spotter", I would absolutely insist that the spotter stand directly under each hazard, and not off at a distance telling me all is well... The price paid to get a mast out of the altitude hazard, is overwhelming... It's sorta like removing a large fish hook tied to your boat and altitude hazard.
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Old 09-07-2011
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I'll hazard a guess that your "spotter" should not be under the potential obstructions but rather much farther away from them so they can accurately judge the distance of mast height clearance.
Once I broke a mast on a 14' trailer sailor with a much smaller mast then 28' I have by pulling it under a power line. Fortunately the mast broke before the power line did.
You can't judge the distance while underneath an obstacle but you can from much farther away.
Go slow and live and learn.
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Old 09-07-2011
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Yes, I completely agree with you, and this is a very important point for both of us. A spotter can only judge the mast height as it comes into potential contact with a hazard, while the spotter is standing at a distance.

With this in mind, I only plan a route to the dock that should achieve "clear sky" from the point of the mast to the clouds. Which is to say that I want to be clearly left, or, right of any altitude hazard (example: tree limb). As it turns out, the only way to accurately achieve this is to be viewing the potential threat from directly below the hazard. To this end, I will be setting marker cones along the route to guarantee that I am left or right of the hazard.

Your feedback is very enlightening. In the event that I cannot find a path that will have "clear sky" above the mast, a careful observation must be made from a distance.

At this point, I will employ both tactics in planning a route to the dock. Thanks much for the improved understanding.

And, yes, absolutely.... approach the dock slow, slow, slow... altitude hazards and contact with them can be minimized, but also, with such a tall mast, you don't want to have to "slam" on the breaks and see what happens next...

Thanks much...
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Old 09-07-2011
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One other thing to do is watch others and ask questions. This may not always be possible, but when possible it is the cheapest education you can get.
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Old 09-07-2011
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Don't forget that the boat you are parked next to after raising the mast may have a bowsprit.
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Old 09-07-2011
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why not just finish raising the mast after your on the dock? The mast must be rather light since it's a 15ft boat. no?
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Old 09-07-2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deniseO30 View Post
why not just finish raising the mast after your on the dock? The mast must be rather light since it's a 15ft boat. no?
That would work if the boat could be floated to another side of the dock (opposite the ramp side) and tied off to promptly remove the vehicle and then raise the mast.

I've seen some angry people at boat ramps and it's one reason why I preferred to keep my trailer sailboat in a slip rather than deal with that.
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Old 11-13-2011
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This happened to me years ago when I had a 16' sailboat on a lake. Only I hit the tree while in the water! I had cleared all the low limbs away from our dock (I thought), but as I approached the face of it, much to my surprise,,,, I plowed right through some more. I was lucky that they were dead and came falling down. I was unlucky that they were dead and came falling down! It's a very strange feeling!

By the way, don't let people push you or intimidate you at the ramp. Stay cool and let them have their anger. You and your boat could suffer for it otherwise.
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