What should have been sum­mer fun turns into a close call

SAIL - - Contents - By Jeff Ras­mussen

One fine morn­ing in July, we left our slip at Brew­ers Sakon­net Ma­rina in Portsmouth, Rhode Is­land, on RazzyTwo, our new Gemini Legacy 35 cata­ma­ran, on the first day of a week­long cruise of Long Is­land Sound. The wind was from the north­east at 12 to 22 knots, and we ex­pected a nice fast down­wind run to our first des­ti­na­tion, Block Is­land, 25 miles away. On board was my wife, Mary Jane, and our friends Jim and Lynda.

Soon after leav­ing the ma­rina we un­furled the jib, in­tend­ing to run un­der head­sail alone. Once the jib was out it be­gan flop­ping in the breeze, so I asked Jim to trim it in a lit­tle. He did, but it con­tin-ued to flop around. I went for­ward to see what the prob­lem was and was shocked to see that the forestay was not at­tached at the top of the mast—the only thing hold­ing the rig up was the jib hal­yard. I knew we had to get the sail down im­me­di­ately so it would not bring down the mast.

For­tu­nately, we were able to furl it back in, and we quickly turned back to­ward the ma­rina. As soon as we turned into the wind, though, the rig started to sway, with the mast­head mov­ing about 6ft back and forth. With the wind now on the port bow, the only thing keep­ing the rig from fall­ing back­ward onto us was the jib hal­yard, so I

par­tially sta­bi­lized the rig by mak­ing the main hal­yard fast to the port bow cleat. While it would have been bet­ter to at­tach the hal­yard to the mid­dle of the fore­deck, there was no at­tach­ment point there. I thought the port bow would work best as it was on the wind­ward side.

On this point of sail the hal­yard helped re­duce the mast sway, but did not stop it, so I took the top­ping lift and made it fast to the star­board stern cleat. We thought this would pro­vide the op­ti­mum bal­ance for the rig since there were no rea­son­able at­tach­ment points in the cen­ter of the boat at ei­ther the bow or stern.

As the radar re­flec­tor hurled it­self against the shrouds, Jim rec­om­mended that Mary Jane and Lynda move into the cabin near the base of the mast where we thought they would be safest, es­pe­cially if the rig came down.

The waves crashed hard on the port side mostly from for­ward of the beam, cre­at­ing a se­vere rock­ing mo­tion. I was now cer­tain the rig was about to come down, so I asked Mary Jane to call Brew­ers for help. In re­sponse, the yard work­ers cleared the slip next to the haul­ing pit and sent a work boat to help us out. When we turned down­wind to­ward Brew­ers, how­ever, the rig started rock­ing back and forth worse than ever, and the shrouds were now so loose, they were whip­ping around as well. To try and fix this lat­est prob­lem I took a spare line and tied the shrouds to­gether as tight as I could, hop­ing this might lessen the sway at the top of the rig. But it only helpd a lit­tle.

When we were about to make our turn into the ma­rina, I re­al­ized our day was about to get even worse be­cause in do­ing so we would have to go across the waves. Sure enough, the mo­tion of the boat cre­ated havoc up in the rig, and it started slam­ming from side to side so vi­o­lently I was cer­tain the mast was com­ing down any mo­ment. None­the­less, we be­gan to count down the yards to the break­wa­ter where we hoped it would be nearly calm—100 yards to go, 75, 50, and then fi­nally, with one last lurch, the mast froze like a dis­lo­cated fin­ger as we docked along­side the out­side slip.

We were re­lieved to see the yard work­ers all there to help, with Joe Palmieri, the

yard man­ager, giv­ing di­rec­tions. How­ever, this re­lief was short­lived when Joe yelled at us to, “Get off the boat now!” From where he was stand­ing he could see what we had not—the mast was al­most out of its step and per­ilously close to col­laps­ing. Luck­ily,with the help of the yard crew we were able to sta­bi­lize the rig by ad­just­ing the main hal­yard and top­ping lift to bet­ter cen­ter the base of the mast. They then dropped the forestay and jib unit be­fore tak­ing the boat into the pit where they re­moved the mast and rig­ging.

With the rig down ( and our heart rates fi­nally be­gin­ning to re­turn to nor­mal), Joe, an ex­pe­ri­enced rig­ger, was able to care­fully in­spect it, even­tu­ally dis­cov­er­ing that the forestay had failed at the eye fit­ting at the top of the ca­ble. It looked like it had been sheared off. The end of the ca­ble go­ing into the eye fit­ting was also splayed out and looked al­most shred­ded. Farther down, the mast base was fluted out from all the rock­ing back and forth. Joe told me the en­tire rig might need to be re­placed since the wires had been stretched and to­tally stressed. The alu­minum around the stretched- out mast base would now also be fa­tigued.

As for the cause of the forestay fail­ure, we even­tu­ally found that the jib hal­yard been wrongly in­stalled, with its lead al­most par­al­lel to the forestay. This, in turn, had re­sulted in the hal­yard wrap­ping around the stay each time the sail was furled. This re­peated wrap­ping had even­tu­ally un­wrapped the strands of the 1x19 wire forestay and grad­u­ally weak­ened it un­til it parted.

To pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing in the fu­ture, we were told that the an­gle be­tween the forestay and the hal­yard’s lead from the sheave to the top swivel should al­ways be at least 10 de­grees This can be achieved by in­stalling a re­strainer or guide be­low the sheave box. In the end, there was no need to re­place the en­tire rig. The stand­ing rig­ging has been re­placed (the forestay is now rod) and the mast has been short­ened by 5/8in. Equally im­por­tant, our nerves and blood pres­sure are back to nor­mal. We sail on! s

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