C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Dis-masted- Part 3

Dis-masted - Part 1
Dis-masted - Part 2

Years ago when installing a new AM/FM radio I wired a male/female coupling in the co-axial antenna wire.  Located in the electrical panel the joint could, in the event of a lost or damaged masthead antenna, allow us to connect the VHF to the AM/FM antenna without the need of additional tools or soldering. 

Unfortunately, I never installed a similar joint on the VHF antenna in the electrical panel.  The closest fitting on the VHF end was forward in the boat where the wire entered the mast compression post.  And so it was, I found myself removing floor boards and pulling wire while Anne piloted C’est la Vie towards the Cape Fear River.  Rerouting the VHF cable back to the electrical panel consumed vastly more time than the actual rewiring. 

Running the improvised VHF Antenna through the open electrical panel
Unfortunately, the hot engine and spinning belts prevented me from routing the wire in a manner that would allow the electrical panel to close.   Floor boards asunder and the electrical panel exposed, I connected the VHF to the AM/FM antenna.  We now had a VHF that would allow us to communicate with other vessels.

The USCG Charleston Sector replied immediately to my hail.  I stated that we were a dismasted 34 foot sailing vessel in the process of assessing damage.  Succinctly we progressed through her questions…  Location?  Injuries? Number of people aboard? PFDs for everyone?  Description of vessel?  Are you requesting assistance?

I looked around C’est la Vie.  The roller furling drum struck the bowsprit railings like metronome in time with the rolling seas.  Severed remnants of standing rigging littered the deck.  Piles of mingled running rigging sat idle in the cockpit.

Running rigging splayed about the cockpit after cutting away the rig
I scanned the horizon – only sea and sky for 360⁰.  I glanced back to Anne at the helm.  Before tears could again overtake me, I replied, “We do not require assistance at this time.” 

C’est la Vie’s engine, electrical, and steering systems were functioning properly.  Other than the single run cycle during the cut away process our bilge pumps remained silent.  C’est la Vie’s motion on the heaving seas was uncomfortable, but we steamed towards the Cape Fear River at over 5 knots.
Surprised that the Coast Guard did not request we check back in upon making landfall, we concluded our conversation with the radio operator taking my name and cell phone number. 

Still amped up from the surge of adrenalin, I asked Anne if I could take the helm to busy myself.  Anne then recorded the following log entry…

7/5/13 @ 14:53 – 29.1NM to Cape Fear River Inlet G”9” – ETE 5H52m – Course 53⁰ - Speed 5.4kts – “dismasted, motoring in, contacted Coast Guard.”

The trek into the Cape Fear River stretched into the night.  Emotions ebbed and flowed though each of us often surfacing in tears…  sadness at the damage to our home and our dream; thankfulness that we were uninjured, gratitude that C’est la Vie was still afloat and transporting back to shore, uncertainty of the future, and on and on emotions and questions.  We agreed to carry on with our plans for the next month and not make any hasty decisions.

As my mind mulled on our current state, I realized why the depth sounder was non-functional.  NMEA 2000 networks rely on data to complete a full circuit of the instruments and sensors.  If a wire or connection fails then the data “splatters” and the system fails.  The weather station at the mast head was gone.  The broken wire was causing our data to splatter.  Once we cleared Bald Head Island and the seas diminished, I crawled into the quarter berth and removed the wiring for the weather station from our NMEA backbone.  Success.  Other than the weather data our instruments were back online.

Another realization struck me as we began to mull over locations for anchoring.   Without a forestay to support the bowsprit the weight of the anchors and forces of raising / lowering the anchor were supported solely by three points of contact between the bowsprit and the hull. 

A summer 2011 picture of C'est la Vie's naked bowsprit.
We are thankful for C’est la Vie’s solid bobstay.  With only a wire for a bobstay the loss the forestay would place all the weight of the anchors and other forces on the two horizontal attachment points.  I have little doubt the bowsprit would have failed when I went forward to cut away the forestay or during our lumpy trip back to the mainland if it lacked the support of the solid bobstay.

Fatigued and concerned about the stress anchoring may place on our now stay-less bowsprit, we entered Deep Creek Marina long after closing hours.  We selected the first vacant slip and landed without incident at 23:07.  


Part 1
Part 2
Afterward & Lessons

No comments:

Post a Comment