Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lessons Learned

Jay mentioned in an earlier blog his challenges learning to do maintenance on a boat. Well in 2008, our first year with the boat, we had several challenges and learned several lessons.

I have already described the starter problems and alternator belt problems in earlier posts. We also had to contend with a cracked sheave which resulted in the main halyard jamming. We had to send Mel Campbell, a local experienced sailor, up the mast to diagnose the problem, and then up again to replace the cracked halyard with a new one. Lesson Learned - check all sheaves, attachments, lines, rigging, etc. very carefully before hoisting the mast. It is much more difficult to fix the problem when it is 38 feet in the air.

Another day we were out for a day sail with family. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had sailed to Boughton Island, anchored, went swimming and lazed in the sun. On the way back, we decided to sail off the anchorage. We unfurled the genoa and sailed away. About fifteen minutes later, I heard a thunk as something hit the top of the deck and the foresail started collapsing. The jib halyard had snapped. We recovered the jib, hoisted the main and continued under sail. Later we noticed the jib halyard had frayed and had just finally snapped. Lesson Learned - check all lines regularly for signs of wear.

Near the beginning of the year we were out for a day sail with a friend when we ran out of diesel. It takes about 45 minutes to motor up the Montague River to Cardigan Bay. We were returning under motor when the engine sputtered and died. Although we had extra fuel aboard, the engine would not restart as their was now air in the lines. We anchored in the channel in the river trying to get it restarted. Unable to after 20 minutes or so, Jay decided we were a sailboat after all, and should just sail back to the marina. Luckily, the wind was coming from the right direction and we were able to broad reach and run back to the marina. It was a great test of our skills to dock under sail alone in the strong current in the Montague River. Lesson Learned - Check fuel levels before setting out. We have also since learned how to bleed the fuel lines properly!

We also nearly lost our mast that first year. We were out on an Intermediate training weekend with Waveskills in about 20 knots of wind under foresail alone, practicing some manoeuvres. I was on the helm. All of a sudden there was a popping sound and the foresail started flapping crazily in the wind. My eyes had trouble comprehending what I was seeing. On Obsession, there is no separate forestay. The roller gear acts as the forestay. The top of the furling gear had let go and the only thing holding the mast upright was the jib halyard and jib. As I bent down to put the gear shift in neutral so we could start the engine, I felt the backstay slacken and sag against my back. Everyone on board immediately moved to take every halyard possible to any secure point on the bow to help stabilize the mast. Jay and I were thankful to have Ellen MacPhail, Waveskills owner and very accomplished instructor and sailor, aboard to help us. We recovered the jib and made it back to the marina. After sending Mel up the mast once again, we identified the culprit as a small set screw that had backed out and under pressure, the two pieces had come unscrewed. We fashioned a new set screw, and a few days later, had the furling gear reassembled and were back in business. Lesson Learned - if you are not careful, the failure of a 10 cent screw, could mean a several thousand dollar repair bill. Check all rigging and gear regularly.

Oh, and one other lesson. Keep the phone number handy for Mel - he is always ready to climb a mast.

No comments:

Post a Comment