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Here’s a (not so) brief write up detailing our experience chartering from a large well-known company out of Kos in the Aegean. For the last few years we have been chartering three sailboats with two other families in various parts of the Mediterranean. This year we decided to sail in the Aegean, because of the fairly strong winds in that part of the Mediterranean and the many islands to explore.

The check-in process at Kos Marina was quite efficient – we were chartering a Bavaria 42 from 2005, a little older than we’re used to, but the interior of the boat was in good condition, the boat was clean, and the systems seemed to work quite well. Our plan was to sail to Kalymnos the first day, a distance of about 20 miles, against the prevailing wind.

About three hours out of Kos Marina, we are sailing on a close haul, about 40 degrees off the wind, in 22 knots of wind. The genoa is reefed quite heavily, the main sail just a bit (the advantage of in-mast furling). We are going very comfortably at about 6.5 knots. All of us are in the cockpit; because of the wind and wave (I’d guess about four feet or so) conditions, I’d told out kids, twelve-year old twins, to not go forward.
All of a sudden – a loud bang – I look up, the sails are billowing and the entire rig is coming down. The boom crashes into the cockpit destroying the bimini and dodger, the mast goes overboard, the sails are in shreds. Everything happens really fast.

My first reaction is to make sure everyone is fine and that everybody is wearing life jackets. Then I check the mast – it’s more or less parallel to the boat. I use one of the sheets to secure the foot of the mast; and pull in the backstay as much as I can. I start the engine, but don’t engage the prop to avoid fouling it.

At that point I call up the base in Kos Marina to let them know that we were dismasted requesting help. I give them our GPS coordinates. They tell us they will come out to take us off the boat and that they should be there in about an hour or so. An hour goes by – we’re drifting steerlessly in the channel between Kos and Pserimos – but noone shows up. We call again and they assure us that they will be there in about a half hour. An hour passes, nobody shows up. Meanwhile the wind is pushing us toward the Kos shore and we drop anchor to avoid running aground. After a half hour or so, we see another sailboat at the other side of the channel. We call the marina again and find out that they are looking for us in a Bavaria 54 at the other side of the channel – so much for GPS coordinates. After about two and a half, three hours the rescue boat finally reaches us. We manage to tie the boats together, exploding a fender in the process. Personnel of the charter company come aboard and secure the mast. We transfer to the other boat. Finally both boats motor back to base.

We reach Kos Marina after dark. The marina people are very nice and tell us to stay overnight on the Bavaria 54 – we’ll figure things out the next day. The next day, the boat is taken to a yard and the mast is taken off. It is clear that the head stay parted right at the swage near the masthead. We talk to the base manager, but he just tells us to sit tight. We spend one more night on the Bavaria 54. Finally two days after the unfortunate event, we hear back from the charter company: the base manager has filed a report stating that we made a mistake that overloaded the head stay. The whole event is our fault and the company will not provide another boat. Fortunately we paid for extra insurance and we're not charged anything. A day after the event, the other two families returned to Kos Marina, so we embark on one of the boats and set off again. The remainder of the charter is uneventful and a lot of fun with winds in the high twenties, at one point hitting 38 knots.

Needless to say, the attitude of the charter company was very disappointing to us – I am not sure what we would/could have done differently and it is surprising to me that it is possible to dismast a sound Bavaria 42 in 22 knots of wind, sailing close-hauled (an accidental jibe is a different story). The maximum wind speed we clocked was about 22 knots, although one of our companion boats got 26 knots at some point. I took some pictures (below) of the head stay and it seems to me that the cable failed by fatigue, although it is difficult to know for sure without better micrographs. I have posted one of the pictures of the fracture site – it is clear to me that some of the strands in the cable failed in a ductile fashion because of overload, while others show a brittle fracture surface, possibly due to fatigue. Moreover several strands show clear signs of corrosion.

Head stay:


Failure site:


Floating without a mast:


Is this really our fault or is this a case of poor maintenance? If the latter, how do you prevent this from happening again? Is there anything I could have done differently? What lessons to learn? When I launched my own boat at the beginning of the season, I inspected the rigging very carefully and found several cracks in the swages – I immediately had all of the standing rigging replaced as I didn’t want to lose my mast. Little did I know it was going to happen anyway, on a different boat.

Sorry for the longish write-up - I'm just trying to paint as accurate a picture as possible. The goal is not to malign the charter company, but to learn from the mishap. We'll never see our money again, but we're chalking one up for experience - and most important of all, nobody got hurt.
 

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Come to think of it, I can't think of a situation that it would be your fault for dismasting unless you had a knockdown. For the rig to ever come down while just sailing along, even in 50 knots is a maintenance issue, not your issue.
 

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Unless there was a hydrolic backstay that was cranked on way past safety limits I can't think of anything you could have done that would have resulted in this.

My first thought is... Remember that wire rigging is supposed to be replaced every 10 years... This is why.


I can't tell from the pictures, but it looks like there may be some corrosion on the wire fibers (dull areas) indicative of crevice corrosion, leading to a weakening of the whole segment.
 

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Some questions:
Any more pictures - the other part of the headstay?

You wrote
the base manager has filed a report stating that we made a mistake that overloaded the head stay. The whole event is our fault and the company will not provide another boat.
Did he say in which way you overloaded the stay?

Did you during your cruise have problems furling/unfurling the sail?

Did you use a winch to furl/unfurl?

When was the last rig check done on this boat?
 

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There are a few questions to be placed; 1- How old is the rig 2- What sort of quality and standards of the rig materials? How well it has been maintained and looked after? How many miles it has been averaging in a year? How sewer weather conditions this boat has been going trough? Was the rig properly adjusted and tuned? etc.
Having worked in charter operations for nine years and later owning and operating a boat maintenance company for eleven years, with out going into much technical details from my experience I can say to start with a Bavaria boat is a cheap boat due to very hard competition in boat production industry. Surely they are not using the top quality products on their production boats. I would not hesitate to say that a Bavaria boat should not last more than seven years with it's original rig, especially if it is under very busy charter operation. With reference to the Charter company's base managers report, accusing you that you have overloaded the back stay with having sailed in 22 knots of wind is sens-less. A rig of a boat should easily survive much heavier conditions than that.
 

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No way any rig should fail in 20 knots. I would think any modern rig would be built to withstand MUCH higher loads. Think about what you can see in a squall.

Charter boats see a lot more time on the water than our boats do, and as you said that area sees a lot of high winds. It sounds like the accumulated effect of a LOT of sailing hours.

On the other hand if the charter company blames you the insurance company picks up the repair tab.

It would be interesting to see what they told the insurer...
 

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No way a rig should fail in ANY wind speed. If you turtle the boat, sure, expect to be dismasted - maybe. Aside from slamming the mast into the water in a knockdown, or as the other poster mentioned, over tightening a hydraulic backstay, this is a maintenance issue.
 

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No way a rig should fail in ANY wind speed. If you turtle the boat, sure, expect to be dismasted - maybe. Aside from slamming the mast into the water in a knockdown, or as the other poster mentioned, over tightening a hydraulic backstay, this is a maintenance issue.
AFAIK this Bavaria does not have hydraulic backstay adjuster..
I a hydraulic backstay adjuster is installed it should no be possible to over tighten..
 

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aaaaaaaaaaah furlers and CHARTER companies is a great way to fatigue and diminish the lifespan of an otherwise solid rig

here is my take

the furler should of been toggled above and below, allowing for better movement of the stay and furler.

that wire does have rust stains as they probably trickled down from the SWAGED fitting up top...

most furlers these days recomend mechanical fitting and toggles both above and below.

however the individual wire strands look pretty good to my eye and decent...you have rust stains twirling around the stay but the individual wires look good.

not necessarily a wire issue. more than likely a twisting overloading and fatigue from maybe not enough movement on each axis.

do you remember how the furler was attached at the drum?was it toggled as well? was there movement on all axis?

was the furler used in 30 plus knots partially furled and cranked on in high winds before you got on? probably so...sounds like high winds thereare normal so it doesnt seem so far fetched to me to see this could happen...

especially if the charter company seems a little iffy.

how old was this forestay?

on a charter boat the forestays on furlers should be replaced every 5-7 (half normal lifespan) years not only because of the wear and tear they receive but most likely because they are abused by many sailors of different levels of experience.

at least thats what I would do if in charge of a charter fleet...

bottom line is boats are abused and respected less in general compared to privately owned...

all it takes is cranking on the furling winch in high winds with a lot of pressure to load the wires and unlay them a few times for the stay to loose a lot of strength.

peace
 
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Seems to me this is just a case of the yard manager trying to save there own job. I would protest to the parent company as this could cause your insurance to go up, or prevent other charter companies to not rent to you. Likely he was worried that he would loose his job over not maintaining the boat properly. Can you imagine if you did not have the extra insurance? They may have figured let your insurance pay for there lack of maintenance, as you are not likely to protest since you were covered.

You are very lucky that no one was hurt. Glad you were able to salvage your vacation. I hope they refunded you your money, and I would expect the next several charters to be free as well. (after complaining about them blaming it on you)
 

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yeah man...I would of fought the whole blame thing for sure...especially regarding your insurance

one thing is to understand what happened, another dealing with the whole blam thing...

its obvious the guy is covering himself and putting his priorities overr yours, its obvious to me you shouldnt ever charter from these guys again unless they have made well and offered something begging for your repeat business

someone else asked who is the charter company..please say so so others wont have the possibility of getting injured or in a similar situation.

companies should always try to bend over and please the customer...also be SAFE!
 

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...we hear back from the charter company: the base manager has filed a report stating that we made a mistake that overloaded the head stay. The whole event is our fault ...

If there IS any way that an operator can overload a headstay to failure on a single trip out, I want to know about it.

Anyone? Anyone? :confused:

It is interesting to me that it failed at the top swage. Isn't the bottom swage the more common site for failure owing to corrosion from increased salt exposure? Could repeated halyard wraps and winching have fatigued the stay over time? Is it possible to destroy a stay with a halyard wrap and winching??

It should also be noted that if the boat is a Bavaria 2005 than the rig IS less than 10 years old.

MedSailor
 
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