Almost lost my mast.... operator error.
Thu, 13 May 1999 12:14:46 EDT

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West Wight Potter Website at URL
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Left Coast Larry wrote

> If a reefer-fuller fails you could end up with the mast in the cockpit (not
> likely, but with those hidden parts it could happen).

The usual reason for a mast coming down is that $0.30 part at the bottom of
the headstay -- the retaining ring on the cotter pin works loose. Just
yesterday I got an email from a very seasoned HMS18 skipper (25 years sailing
the same boat!) who lost his mast in a gale many years ago in exactly than
way -- but I'll let him tell the story himself sometime (soon, I hope).

My rigger has told me a zillion times that the 95% of rig failures on
cruisers are caused by a lost retaining ring or or cotter pin. So TAPE THEM
ALL DOWN with rigging tape, friends, so a loose line can't whip them out or
rough seas jiggle them out. That includes quick-pins on your forestay -- it
only takes 30 seconds when rigging.

There also is a very real danger of loosing a headstay with the CDI if you
don't inspect the turnbuckle regularly. You MUST have two cotter pins in the
turnbuckle (taped with rigging tape as well) or else the turnbuckle can
lengthen itself to point of separation. And you should have the headstay the
proper length so that it's got at least 1/2 it's remaining adjustment in the
turnbuckle body under normal circumstances.

I almost lost my mast two months ago, when I threw Redwing's rigging back
together in a hurry after working on her and didn't install the cotter pins
in the headstay turnbuckle properly (or maybe I didn't install them at all).
Something didn't look quite right when we raised the headstay, but I wasn't
sure what. It was a very windy day (25-35 knots), we were just going out to
see the tall ships for an hour, we had landlubbers on board, and so I
chickened out on raising any sail since we hadn't had a shake down cruise
yet. We just used the iron sail.

Thank providence I'm a natual born chicken....When we unrigged at the
parking lot, I noticed the CDI extrusion seemed about 4" shorter compared to
the headstay than normal. When I pushed up the furling drum to take a look
at the turnbuckle, I was horrified to see that there were only about 2 turns
of the threads still engaged inside the turnbuckle body. The cotter pins that
I thought I had installed in the turnbuckle were nowhere to be seen.

The mast could have come down at any moment, especially if I had rotated the
unit to furl/unfurl the jib. Again, thank God I chickened out that rough day
and decided to just use the motor. The stick could have come down on
someone's head and killed them.

Judy B.