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Old 23-01-2020, 11:39   #1
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Unhappy Lost the Rig

My description and takeaways for a nasty event. I will humbly accept feedback. This event took place in October, 2019.

It was the first day of a 12 week beer can – lake sailing - race season; racing every other Saturday. Typically, we manage to get in three races each race day. During the last leg of the second race on the older 30 footer, the two of us were pressing hard at 5+ knots beating windward in a 13 knot breeze with gusts to about 18 knots. The sea state was very comfortable with a steady wave cycle of about 12 or 15 inches but very tolerable. Water temperature was approximately 65 degrees. Things were looking nice for our finish. The boat wasn’t overpowered at all on port tack with about 470 sq ft of sail area between the main and the genoa. We were moving pretty respectfully with the boat nicely heeled at about 5 to 8 degrees. We had put several boats in the 12 boat PHRF fleet behind us.

That’s when we heard a loud BANG! Then, in fast succession (almost simultaneously) another load BANG! Less than two seconds later the entire 38 ft tall rig went over the port side. The boat lurched to port and then settled flat with wire, rope, and sail cloth everywhere. A quick check proved neither of the two of us were injured. The rig was folded in half just above the spreaders, totally destroyed and hanging under the boat still attached by the roller furler, back stay, three shrouds to port and one shroud to starboard. Additionally, the sheets for the genoa, and main sail were all under a lot of tension, Our 10 sq ft rudder was now nearly 480 sq ft but there was no control and the fresh breeze was pushing us into a channel between an island and a point of land separated by a shallow bottom about 200 meters wide.

First things first. Neither of us had any injuries. Second, the boat was at the mercy of mother nature; we had no steerage except for the breeze against the freeboard and the chop on the water. We needed to get control of the boat as much as possible to prevent going into the channel. (Avoid making things worse). We dropped anchor in about 54 feet of water with two hundred feet of rode to stop our movement into more shallow water in the channel.

Once stabilized, we discussed our next course of action. First, use the VHF radio and call for help. Our club discusses use of channel 72 for race committee and competitors for communications during each race. The race committee dispatched a 16 ft skiff to provide aid.

The rig was a mess but it was secure where it was. It could be helpful to release some of the stays and shrouds to let the rig go behind the boat or to fall to the bottom of the lake for later recovery. At the least, release of the furler at the deck would help. The rigging was still under a lot of tension and now was not at all laying at the convenient angles for removal you typically see in the boat yard. An attempt was made to stabilize the furler and then remove the pin securing it to the deck – something requiring basic tools or maybe a wire or bolt cutter. I carry bolt cutters on both of my boats for this very problem should it ever occur. I assumed others carried tools for the unthinkable also. I had a Leatherman and a folding rigging knife on my hip but it wasn’t enough. I needed at least another pair of pliers or screwdriver to remove the cotter pin from the clevis. That should be a simple enough matter to address. A request to my partner for a plier or screwdriver was met with a response that the toolbox was removed from the boat. There were no other tools.

We knew starting the engine was not possible due to potential fowling of the prop from the birds nest of wire and line beneath the boat. The race committee skiff arrived but did not have any tools aboard and did not have anything for towing other than dock lines aboard.

In relatively short order it became obvious our options were limited. I requested a tow by radio from the race committee skiff to a beach near our berth where the boat was maneuvered parallel to the beach. The boat had a 5 ft draft but the rig was suspended at least 15 feet below. So, the boat was pulled onto the beach until the rig was aground. An anchor was dispatched from the bow and from the stern, both to be secured around separate trees to hold us in position allowing us to address the rigging mess below.

The rig was prepared for removal by securing a fender via a 20 ft dock line to each visible end of the rig to mark the ends when the rig sank to the lake bottom. Dock lines were used to have line long and strong enough to lift the rig. A request ashore was answered with the delivery of two sets of bolt cutters to cut loose the quarter inch diameter stainless shrouds. Additional pliers were also obtained but unable to complete pin removal at all remaining clevis attachments. One bolt cutter was three foot long that was dull and wouldn’t cut the wire. The other pair was 15 inches long but was able to cut by taking multiple ‘bites’.

With the rig cut away and laying on the bottom of the lake, the bow and stern anchors secured at the trees were released and the hull was towed to its slip. The rig was pulled onto the beach using the winch on the boat owner’s Jeep.

Event analysis and inspection revealed rigging failure due to corrosion at the top of the swage fitting on both lower starboard shrouds. First failure of the starboard aft lower shroud, then the starboard forward lower shroud, both in the same manner and at the same location. The root cause is failure to inspect and address corrosion issues in the rigging. Contributing cause included a new sailor with little rigging knowledge and experience, and an experienced guest that did not inspect the rig when coming aboard.

We have located another mast and are in the process of re-building the rig as the cold weather permits. We expect to be able to sail her again in about 4 to 6 months.

While the Captain or Skipper is ultimately responsible for his vessel, in the case of inexperienced sailors, experienced guest crew members should take precautions and coach appropriately to ensure the vessel safety.

WHAT WE DID RIGHT:
• Check for injuries FIRST.
• Call for help
• Stabilize the boat (get control to prevent matters from getting worse)
• Remain calm and thoughtfully prioritize problems and adapt appropriately.

WHAT WE DID WRONG:
• Have a tool kit on board.
• Include bolt cutters in the tool kit.
• Assumed the rig was good to go
• Rigging needs to be inspected at regular intervals. Cursory inspection every time the vessel is boarded, more detailed inspection at regular intervals
• While the Captain or Skipper is ultimately responsible for the vessel, inexperienced sailors need appropriate coaching to ensure vessel safety

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Old 23-01-2020, 12:04   #2
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Re: Lost the Rig

MccNeo,
Nice write-up of the incident, cautionary tales are appreciated.
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Old 23-01-2020, 12:10   #3
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Re: Lost the Rig

Wondering the age, if known, of the standing rigging? When was the standing rigging last given a close examination?
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Old 23-01-2020, 12:27   #4
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Re: Lost the Rig

I believe it had been years since the rig was inspected. I believe the standing rigging to be possibly more than two decades old.

The owner (my buddy on the boat that day) seems to think the boat had multiple owners on the fresh water lake but also believes it was a blue water vessel harbored in New York City for a period of time. The owner had owned the boat for about a year and was a novice sailor - sailing for maybe 18 months.

Surprisingly, he is persevering in his sailing quest. We raced my C&C 30 two weeks after the event and for the rest of the fall race series. We are rebuilding his rig with a salvaged mast we obtained in December. Obviously all new standing rigging.
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Old 23-01-2020, 12:29   #5
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Re: Lost the Rig

Sorry you had a bad day, but it sounds like you did pretty well under the circumstances, and as you say, no one was hurt. Thank you for the post.

Always have a plan B. It's not just for the big stuff like losing your rig. It's having your race spoiled because with no tools, a very small failure can leave you out of the race. A tool box in your circumstance has one handle. Maybe you should bring your own.

Pliers in multitools have minimal strength for things like cotter keys, because you are using most of your stength holding them closed. Even the smallest ViseGrip, the 4WR,
is a better bet.

Personal Kit (to work, in suit, 38 years): Victorinox Tinker, 4WR Vicegrip, Syderco Delica.

Personal Kit, field: Tinker, 7" VG with jar-opener jaws, 4" blade Cutco knife or Syderco Enduro.

Dress the screw drivers on the Victorinox with a sander. They come rather rounded.
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Old 23-01-2020, 12:39   #6
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Re: Lost the Rig

Quote:
Originally Posted by tkeithlu View Post
Sorry you had a bad day, but it sounds like you did pretty well under the circumstances, and as you say, no one was hurt. Thank you for the post.

Always have a plan B. It's not just for the big stuff like losing your rig. It's having your race spoiled because with no tools, a very small failure can leave you out of the race. A tool box in your circumstance has one handle. Maybe you should bring your own.

Pliers in multitools have minimal strength for things like cotter keys, because you are using most of your stength holding them closed. Even the smallest ViseGrip, the 4WR,
is a better bet.

Personal Kit (to work, in suit, 38 years): Victorinox Tinker, 4WR Vicegrip, Syderco Delica.

Personal Kit, field: Tinker, 7" VG with jar-opener jaws, 4" blade Cutco knife or Syderco Enduro.

Dress the screw drivers on the Victorinox with a sander. They come rather rounded.
You make excellent points about the tooling. I keep a nearly complete toolkit on both of my boats and don't leave the dock without them. They may be extra weight but I have had several unexpected circumstances where I needed them. I also keep a smattering of extra shackles, blocks, pins, bolts, and line aboard.

One of the biggest things I learned was not to assume anything when boarding another skippers vessel.
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Old 23-01-2020, 13:33   #7
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Re: Lost the Rig

Hi, MccNeo,

Super write up. Thank you for sharing.

When we were dismasted, at sea, we didn't have to anchor, it was far too deep. In our case, what failed was almost assuredly a split pin. [!!!! like the infamous horshoe nail.]

With single lowers, we heard a double bang also, and the mast sails and everything fell over the port side, squashing the lifelines as it went. It broke about 7" above the deck, it had been keel stepped. so, we had a big hole into the boat, as well. In our case, it was adequately supported by the lines involved, and we worked it down to the point where only the staysail sheet was supporting the lot, and Jim cut it. We put a tight fitting bucket over the hole, and motored the ~65 mi. into port.

We had been hove to at the time, and suspect that the staysail sheet had plucked out the cotter pin when we hove to, to wait for the weather to ameliorate before heading into port (because we had been trashed in a couple of knock downs earlier in the trip, rendering the windvane useless -broke off the rudder and damaging the dodger- we had decided to go into Brisbane, but were part way to New Caledonia at the time the decision was made.)

Like your event, no one was injured, Jim was on watch, I was falling asleep. We hurtled on deck, to find the huge mess, it was dark as the inside of a cow, but there in the light from the flashlight was the errant clevis pin, rolling between the chainplate and the toe rail.

After the rig was gone, we waited 15 min., coming to grips with our situation, then did a careful check round the boat in case we might have missed an errant line. Then started the engine, and set course for Brisbane. After the sun came up, Jim rigged an emergency antenna, so that he could ask the guys from the ham net to inform Customs we were coming back into Oz, and requesting permission to go straight into a marina. That all worked fine, and the Customs guys came to us the next day after the evening we got in.

Anyhow, although you guys did different from us, I'd like to congratulate you both for working out a way to remove your rig from the lake. I'm guessing it may have taken you more than 2 fenders to float the whole rig.

*****

Fwiw, it is not unreasonable to ask a stranger when they last inspected their rig, especially if before a race, but I'll bet most of us would not think of it. I think you've come to a good way forward, for both yourself and the fellow you were crewing with.

Ann
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Old 23-01-2020, 13:42   #8
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Re: Lost the Rig - After Action Notes

AFTER ACTION NOTES

• The owner had liability insurance only because he could not locate a hull number the insurance company wanted for additional coverage. The owner spoke with me the day of the event requesting assistance to find the hull number. Thus, none of the repair / recovery costs are addressed by the insurance.

• Fortunately, no sail damage and no hull damage was experienced during the event.

RECOVERY OPTIONS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:
1. SALVAGE
Call a salvage company to scrap the boat. We determined the cost for a 30 ft fiberglass boat would be between $5,000 and $7,000. The contractor would be obligated to meet all legal obligations for environmental disposal requirements.
2. PART OUT/DISPOSE
Part out the boat, salvage raw materials for recycling, cut up and landfill the hull. Estimated return for parting out and material recycling was considerable. Resale the 4200 lb lead keel alone was estimated to return $1650. Other sailboat hardware in usable condition (engine, winches, blocks, etc.) would certainly fetch several thousand dollars. This option would eventually lead to purchase of another boat. However, compliance with legal requirements for disposal of oils, diesel fuel, etc. could be difficult to complete. All materials disposed will incur some cost. In this case, it is assumed with proper equipment and a location already available to us that the owner, his son, and myself could provide the labor to dismantle the vessel.
3. REBUILD
Finding a replacement mast is not a simple thing for a boat that is four decades old. The extrusions used in that era are not what is produced today. In many cases, manufacturers have been bought out, absorbed, or gone out of business. New spars would be cost prohibitive. Identified potential used / salvaged replacements ranged in cost from $1200 to $3800 plus the cost of commercial transportation which could add $1000 to $3000 more. Rigging materials are estimated to be about $1500. So, the rebuild looked like a loss of around $6,000 give or take.

The owner has chosen the rebuild option. We have a project this year and expect to sail the boat again around July 2020.
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Old 23-01-2020, 14:08   #9
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Re: Lost the Rig

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
Hi, MccNeo,
Fwiw, it is not unreasonable to ask a stranger when they last inspected their rig, especially if before a race, but I'll bet most of us would not think of it.

Ann
Thanks for your reply with your story. I for one found it very interesting. I agree about asking about inspections. Or maybe at least a quick look myself.

The event we experienced is certainly not nearly as harrowing as the one you describe. I cannot imagine being dismasted at sea, in the dark, with other failures as well.

Fair weather sailing doesn't provide the experienced sailor with whet they need. It takes challenges like these to season us with the ability to adapt and have the confidence and bravery to persevere in adverse conditions that seem to accompany our chosen interest.

How do we know how to respond to a catastrophic event? We cannot prepare for every circumstance. But, I have pondered a top five bucket list of sailing catastrophes and how I might respond, but never to the degree needed when the adrenalin is pumping.

I read a lot of forums and sailing articles. Most do not discuss adverse circumstances. Those that do seldom provide enough technical detail to gain knowledge to prepare those of us not yet challenged similarly.

I added an AFTER ACTION NOTES post with additional background for the event I was in.
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Old 23-01-2020, 14:48   #10
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Re: Lost the Rig

The closeups of the shroud ends don't really look too corroded... more like fatigue failure to my unprofessional eye, but I'd not bet the farm on that.

It would be of interest to see pix of the unbroken shrouds from the other side of the rig, and to pry at them in the area just below the end of the swage to see if there are broken strands there.

All in all, I think you handled the situation well, using what facilities were available... and you were lucky that you had them! As Ann describes above, when we lost our rig (clevis pin coming out of windward lower whilst hove to ) we were 75 miles off shore and in abyssal depths, and so lost everything: mast, boom, three sails, five winches, spinnaker pole, radar and lights. But we were able to remove the pins rather than cutting the wires, mostly due to having the main and staysail sheets to support the weight of the rig which took most of the load off the wires. There was a bit of difficulty with the furler pin, but eventually we managed to drive it out. Being a long term cruising boat, we had t he luxury of a complete tool set.

But just to keep this honest, I have to admit to a really stupid mistake in our process! When removing the pins to free the rig, I had the choice of the pin at t he top or the bottom of the rigging screws... and without really thinking about it at all, did the ones at the bottom... and thus loosing the rigging screws to NEptune and adding nearly a thousand bucks to the replacement costs (uninsured).

Again, congratulations on your efforts at recovery, and good luck with the reconstruction.

Jim
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Old 23-01-2020, 16:34   #11
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Re: Lost the Rig

Reads like you handled the event just fine. However...obviously there was some overdue rig maintenance.
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Old 23-01-2020, 18:27   #12
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Re: Lost the Rig

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Reads like you handled the event just fine. However...obviously there was some overdue rig maintenance.
You are absolutely right. Rig maintenance was overdue.

I cannot criticize the new sailor / owner / partner on the boat that day. He was to new to have the knowledge.

I shared the story for primarily for two reasons:

1. Emphasize the need to inspect and maintain standing rigging. It is too often ignored.

2. Urge those of us with experience need to share with less experienced sailors both good practices and essential practices necessary to be safe and ready. Good practices should include carrying an appropriate set of tools readily available. Essentials should include conducting routine inspections on what equipment, what to look for, issues to be wary of if an event happens.

Some things aren't taught in sailing 101 even if a new sailor does take a class which some don't.
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Old 23-01-2020, 19:43   #13
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Re: Lost the Rig

Good job dropping the anchor right away. Not everyone thinks of that. Odd that it was at the swaging at the top since usually the the lower swaging suffers corrosion problems first. I didn't see that much corrosion on them either. A close inspection could have missed a problem there. I kinda suspect age and fatigue too. Good job on it all! Yes on the bolt cutters and a hack saw, I keep mine wrapped and oiled up. Haven't had to use them... YET!

edit, oops, I see, its the swaging on the pin in the turnbuckle. OK corrosion makes more sense there and one does look a bit swollen but I don't see cracks in the swage.
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Old 23-01-2020, 20:59   #14
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Re: Lost the Rig

Yes, Don, I didn't see cracks in the swages, either. And, now you mention it, that is interesting. Early on, with Jim's Yankee, I spotted a cracked swage. No pics, that was years ago, but ime, they look like a little thread across the metal, and if you have fine gauge finger nails the crack is large enough to feel if you try to snag it with the nail. There may also be rust present. In the case of MccNeo's friend's rigging, I don't know that an inspection would have caught the problem, absent a stranded wire showing. Lowers get a lot of strain. It is a point, for boat owners, to at least have their rig looked at before a season's racing. And if the boat has been raced for ten years, usually one would replace it before a season. It's lots cheaper and easier to replace the rig than to do the whole mast. Although, I'm certainly aware of places where old masts have gone to die.



Those strands of wire broke off very evenly, looked sawn, almost, except for the gaps and different length holes. Anyhow, Jim knows way more than me about behavior of metals, and I figured it for over cycling.

It is often insurance companies demands that make one replace rigging wire, so maybe one issue here is to discuss real life rigging aging, and people's experiences relative to highly stressed wires' failures.

We had a forestay fail not far below the Sta-Lok swage, and were told by our at-the-time rigger that with furlers on them, if you use the sail rolled up, it changes the point loading, and in his opinion, 4 yrs. was the longest you should trust 316 1 x 19 for, in that application. We've since moved to dyeform, or "compact strand" s/s wire, as it is less stretchy and is stronger for a given diameter.

Our up-the-mast inspections have at times found the following things that needed immediate attention: 1 cracked spreader base -- fix was welding; and 1 cracked T-Ball for the intermediate. The cracked T-Ball fitting happened under way, after a rig check, prior to leaving, not that long after arriving (Macquarie Hbr. via Eden to Sydney) within one month of the check. It was almost through. Jim showed a picture of it at the time. The crack was almost through, and probably started during the heavy beating up the west coast of Tassie. We were very happy to have spotted it before leaving on our next hop. Jim always does a rig inspection before we head off. This amounts to a number of trips aloft per year, as the boat is in constant use.

What we look for are cracks in anything, stranded wire, meat hooks, check all the toggles, pins and clevises and spreaders, base and tip; and also for bits of corrosion evidence, any anomaly, including sheave chafe on halyards, topping lifts, etc. Perhaps, riggers have their own checklists they would share....

Ann
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Old 23-01-2020, 22:39   #15
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Re: Lost the Rig

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Yes, Don, I didn't see cracks in the swages, either. And, now you mention it, that is interesting. Early on, with Jim's Yankee, I spotted a cracked swage. No pics, that was years ago, but ime, they look like a little thread across the metal, and if you have fine gauge finger nails the crack is large enough to feel if you try to snag it with the nail. There may also be rust present. In the case of MccNeo's friend's rigging, I don't know that an inspection would have caught the problem, absent a stranded wire showing. Lowers get a lot of strain. It is a point, for boat owners, to at least have their rig looked at before a season's racing. And if the boat has been raced for ten years, usually one would replace it before a season. It's lots cheaper and easier to replace the rig than to do the whole mast. Although, I'm certainly aware of places where old masts have gone to die.



Those strands of wire broke off very evenly, looked sawn, almost, except for the gaps and different length holes. Anyhow, Jim knows way more than me about behavior of metals, and I figured it for over cycling.


Ann
Yeah looks like perhaps a break due to becoming brittle, perhaps just from age. I think the general consensus is replace even good looking rigging after 10 years, which sure ain't very long, to me anyway! And don't let those kids keep yanking on them! Oh, well, that's my kids... And there is also not just rust forming but I have read ice formation in the strands can stress them out (in the colder climes.) This stress would be greatest right down close to the swage I'd guess since the wires cannot separate there. I don't have that problem around here.
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