Thursday, May 04, 2006

Take dis mast and ... Timberrr!!!

Carol Anne was initiated today into the Society of the Shattered Spar. While she and Zorro and Dino were out on Zorro's Etchells, "Constellation", and having a great sail, the wind built up quickly, perhaps gusting to 45 mph, and broke Constellation's mast.

Everyone is fine and Carol Anne was actually pretty excited to be able to help handle the incident; it was probably good also that they weren't single-handing when things got a little rough. The airport only registered around 24.2 mph steady and 33.4 for gusts around that time, but it Zorro felt like they'd been punched with around 45 mph when the spar decided to take a tumble.

So much for starting out on a quiet weekend at the lake, and I'm guessing they'll be switching to Carol Anne's boat tomorrow! (The top of her mast is a little more bendy, and her tensions are a little looser and the mast generally is better at helping de-power the boat in a blow, so "Black Magic" can probably cope pretty well with these conditions.)

More details now available: They left the marina early in the afternoon with winds already pretty strong.After sailign around a bit, they explored the north part of the lake to check out a course set-up for the upcoming Anniversary Cup distance race. With the chute up, they were really flying along. Then, beating back uphill, Dino, in front, got to absorb most of the waves and spray.

They then went way south, past Rattlesnake Island, before deciding to turn around and head back for the marina. This time, conditions were so strong that they didn't even think of putting up spinnaker, but were doing everything possible to depower. They were really flying along, planing over the waves.

At that time, Zorro decided to depower by putting on more backstay. Carol Anne heard an explosion and saw something moving fast out of the corner of her eye as the rig started to tumble down. She jumped down from her high side position on the rail into the uphill side of the cockpit as the mast crashed down; it had failed both at the spreaders and near the deck.

Luckily, someone had been keeping an eye out on them - they had been the only boat out on the lake - and Chris, a park ranger, showed up with a state parks power boat. After they got the debris of the wrecked spar and rigging tidied away, they were able to accept a tow.

Zorro's estimate of 40 knot winds was supported by local observations, including lots of spray blowing off the waves and thick, heavy clouds of sand blowing off Lion's Beach (the blowing sand usually becomes quite noticeable at 30 mph and above). Fortunately, insurance will likely pay to bulk of the cost for a replacement mast, compass, and mainsail, and no one was hurt. In fact, Carol Anne was thrilled and excited by the whole experience, including a great afternoon of sailing (until they couldn't sail any more) and thought this was a great experience. The boat was under good control at all times, even when the gunwales were dipping into the water at times, and Carol Anne is trying to remember all of what she saw about controlling and depowering in these condtions - though, unfortunately, Zorro didn't have any time to explain all the adjustments he was making when things were happening so fast.

The plan now is for Zorro and Dino to return on Saturday to put another boat back in the water (USA 438) and haul Constellation out. Zorro and Carol Anne were already been talking to Zorro's San Diego buddy, Vinny, about building a new mast; perhaps in a few weeks Carol Anne will be part of a road trip to retrieve the new mast along with an Etchells that's now in San Diego.


At 11:04 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Adrift At Sea said...

Carol Anne has had a very exciting season so far... I hope that it gets a bit less exciting soon...

At 12:51 PM, May 05, 2006, Blogger Carol Anne said...

You've heard the saying, "Oh, no, not another learning experience!"

Pretty soon, I figure I'll have to run out of learning experiences!


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