Why Knot Dis-Masting

Friday - August 13, 2010Views: 6147
Yep! That is what I said! We lost our mast about 40 miles off Marco Island at 2 AM on July 21, 2010.

We were on our way to the Dry Tortugas with our grandsons, Christian 13, Rylan 10 & Preston 7. It was the first time the boys had been sailing offshore.

Everything was going well, the winds had picked up to about 10-15 knots and the waves were about 3 ft with a 4-5 ft every once in a while. Not bad sailing except, the wind was directly on the nose. So we decided to motor sail. The boys were asleep in the cockpit because it was too hot below. Bill was talking about going below for a few hours of sleep. But for some reason, I wasn't comfortable with him going to sleep just yet. We were talking, Bill was sitting at the helm and I was on the starboard side with the boys. Suddenly Bill got the oddest look on his face. About the same time I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and saw the Tri-colors in the water about 3 feet off the cockpit on the starboard side. There was no ping, bang, pop, nothing. We had the motor running, so hearing anything would have been difficult. When I saw the Tri-Colors in the water, all I could do was ask Bill what was I suppose to do. His response - get my harness. The mast was lying in the water beside the cockpit. Bill tried several times to bring the mainsail back on board, but it was full of water. He tried to tie it up so it wouldn't make a hole in the hull as it was bouncing up and down in the water. But the best he could do was tie the boom on the starboard Bimini & Dodger to stabilize it until daylight.

Of course, since we didn’t know where the lines were we couldn’t use the engine. So for the next few hours, while Bill tried to get some sleep, I sat at the helm and kept the boat hove-to.

When daylight broke, we were able to see exactly what had happened. It appeared that 2 of the shrouds had broken on the port side. The upper shroud was still attached and appeared to be the only thing holding the mast to the port side. The jib and staysail furlers were still attached to the boat, but both sails were hanging in the water still attached to the mast. Sometime during the night the mast had broken loose from the Bimini frame and sunk. It was now pointing downward in the water. Bill decided the safest thing to do was cut everything loose. It really wasn’t something he wanted to do, our sails were only a couple of years old. So for the next few hours Bill worked at cutting the cotter pins holding the remaining shrouds, jib & staysail furlers from the boat.

After everything was cut away there was really only one thing to do … get back to land safely. Thankfully, none of the boys were frightened from the events of the night before. Out of all of the sadness there was something kinda funny, our youngest grandson, Preston, was very upset because we weren’t going to the Tortugas! Thankfully, we didn't scare the boys to bad and they all still wanted to continue our trip to the Dry Tortugas.

We finally made it safely back to our marina. Needless, to say we were the talk of the marina for the next few weeks.

At the marina we were able to take a closer look & see exactly what had happened. From the look of things, 2 chain plates on the port side broke, the forward and aft. It appears that the chain plates broke below the caprail.

Below, are some photos I took after we arrived back at the marina.

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