Posted on February 1, 2016
We weren’t actually planning on getting a new mast. We were happy with the old one. The standing rigging–the wires that hold the mast in the air–was of an indeterminate age and needed replacing, but the big, French hunk of aluminum towering 55 feet in the air looked fine to our eyes.
The marina where we stored our boat in Oconto has three webcams pointed at their docks–excellent for compulsive types such as myself. How’s the weather up at the boat? Have Pip and Paul left? When’s that Formosa going to move? When you’re 180 miles away from your future home, the checking-in is constant. So, when Michu went up to help John lower the mast and pull the boat out of the water in the fall of 2014, I spent some time in Big Brother mode.
In the early afternoon, Michu called. “Hi, honey! I see you guys got the mast down!” “Oh, it’s down, all right….” As the mast was being lowered, the hook securing the mast to the crane somehow parted, and the huge, heavy piece of aluminum crashed down.
Michu was on the bow when it happened. The boat was in the lifting well–a vile holding spot for boats waiting to be pulled from the water, where every piece of garbage and dead fish in a marina collects. Michu heard a low thump and turned to see the mast coming towards him. He was just getting ready to jump into the murky water between the boat and the pier, when–*clang!!*–the mast hit the top of the travel lift and stopped.
As far as potential disasters go, things could have been worse. No one was hurt–even the guy guiding the base of the mast escaped unscathed. We feel really good about the structural integrity of our deck–the only damage was some chipping of the gelcoat around the mast step. And having the mast fatally injured in the fall was better than having it out of commission in the spring–it would take months to replace, and it would have killed our whole summer of sailing. John had to call his insurance company for the first time ever to make a claim, and we walked away with a new mast, new standing rigging and a new furler. Overall, I guess it saved us money? But it was certainly terrifying in the moment, and a hassle to pick up the pieces.
So. Much. Measuring.
When the mast was shipped, each piece of wire was about two feet too long. Like the arch project, Michu had to commit to potentially wrecking expensive hardware as he tailored it to our specific boat; this time, mistakes might mean the mast coming down at an even less opportune moment. (Michu would like me to mention Pythagoras. So there you go. Keep up with the math, kids!)
One of the most painful things about the New Mast Incident was that we were actually all done with the mast. Michu has spent three days rewiring it, installing a fancy new high-powered VHF cable, and affixing a supernova-bright LED masthead light. It was one of the only things about the boat that was completely finito.
We ended up getting a new mast from US Spar, who seemed to know exactly what they were on about with our particular boat. We *might* have gotten a little carried away with all of our newfound “savings” on the standing rigging, and thrown in new running rigging and a solent stay (yet to be installed). The new mast is lighter, a little taller, and very pretty.
This year, when the boat got pulled out of the water, we left the mast up.