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.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dis-masted - Afterward

There are three entries that proceed this post. Here are the links
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Losing the rig is undoubtedly unfortunate, but Anne and I whole heartedly agree that we were fortunate in the timing and location of the event.   We can think of many, many worse scenarios.  We are thankful for the support of our friends and fellow cruisers. 

Why did the dismasting occur?  
The system of windward lower stays suffered a mechanical failure.  Once the windward lowers were no longer in place the force exerted by the windward cap shroud on the spreader caused the mast to fold to leeward.  Fortunately for us the pressure on the sails carried the mast clear of the deck and hull before causing structural damage.  From our findings in the days after the incident we believe the mast struck the port side cowling then my paddleboard, lashed to the leeward lifeline, and then entered the water. We are not going to provide additional, detailed information until we correspond with the company that manufactured the part whose failure we believe caused the dis-masting. 

How do we know the windward lowers failed? 
We observed the mast fold to leeward in the area of the spreaders.  The system of failed windward (starboard) lowers were no longer attached to the mast when it entered the water. Thus, the starboard side lower stays, including a portion of the part we believe caused the failure, remained on deck once the rig was gone.

Lessons we are taking away from this experience…
1.  Include a stout set of cable cutters in your on board tools.   These enabled us to efficiently cut the downed rig away before it was able to compromise the integrity of our hull.  I was pleased to discover our cable cutters were able to sever dyneema dux when it is under load.
2.  Have an efficient system for rigging an alternate VHF antenna or a secondary VHF unit.  We were unable to reach anyone via our hand held VHF. Most sailing vessels have their primary VHF antenna mounted atop the mast.   In a dismasting this antenna will be lost.   The ability to rewire the VHF to a secondary antenna mounted on the stern of C’est la Vie allowed us to contact the USCG.
3. We believe C’est la Vie’s rigid bobstay saved the bowsprit.   With only a wire for a bobstay the loss the forestay would place all the weight of the anchors and other forces on 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.  With some extra care we were also able to use the anchors and windlass in the days following the incident.
4.  Never, never, never make light of a mast-less sailing vessel underway.  We were amazed at the callousness of the first motor vessel that asked us, “aren’t you missing something?”  We though the person must just be a bit socially awkward.  Later in the day a second passing motor vessel attempted to make another humorous comment about our lack of a mast. Hurt, we discussed together how motor vessel operators are simply clueless.  Despite damage to our lifelines, bent stanchions, and the stump of roller furling unit at our bow, on day two in the ICW we passed a southbound sailboat that shouted over, “did you forget something?”  WTF!  These comments were simply pouring salt into our wounds.

It took us two days of motoring northward along the ICW to reach Beaufort, NC.  During the trip we took some time to lick our wounds and discuss what to do next.

Anne relaxing with a cucumber "mask"
Our wonderful Beaufort friends welcomed us back and were generous in their assistance… finding us free dockage, providing place sleep on land, and plenty of good food and drink.

C'est la Vie docked in Taylors Creek
 We are uncertain of our long term plans or C’est la Vie’s future. We agreed to continue forward with our short term plans…
  1. Haul C’est la Vie in Beaufort, NC
  2. Crew aboard SV-Seraphim, a Pretorian 35,  in the upcoming Port Huron to Mackinac Island Race
  3. Deliver SV-Seraphim back to Cleveland, OH after the race
  4. Work in the Beaufort, NC area in the late summer.

prior to making any decisions about the next steps.  We hope through time we will gain perspective.  We also hope that time will present options or opportunities that are currently hidden from view by our proximity to the dis-masting.