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Putting the Genie back in the bottle.
It was a brisk day back in early February, '08, as we sailed along south past the western coast of the
Arraya peninsula in Venezuelan waters. We had just spent 6 wonderful weeks out cruising the islands of
Blanquilla, Tortuga and Margarita, and were headed into the Golfo de Carriaco for another couple of
weeks when the unthinkable happened:
A big gust of wind funneled offshore and BAM, our port upperstay chainplate parted, causing the mast to
break in half below the spreaders, just above the lower shrouds. Talk about heart-stopping, however,
cooler heads prevailed and we hopped to it; heading upwind, gathering inboard and securing the
mainsail, headsail and their associated standing and running rigging, cranking the engine, and stabilizing
the upper portion of the mast for travel to the nearest safe harbor, about 10 miles southwest into the
protected bay at Mochima Nat'l Park, on the Venezuelan mainland.
The next few days were spent removing the valuables from the upper portion of the mast, such as the radar
reflector, the radome unit, the masthead light fixture, the windex and even the spreaders themselves. All the
upper-mast standing rigging was taken down and coiled. The headsail and staysail were stowed away along
with the roller furler drum and the furler extrusions. The internal halyards and external sail track (we use a
Battslide system) and the various electrical cables were holding the upper mast in place. We pulled all cabling
down inside the mast, let the halyards loose and cut the mast track in order the release the upper portion of the
mast so we could ship it onto the deck for our travel back to the marina on the mainland.
The mast steps proved to be a tremendous boon during the triage process. When the rig went down, the
mainsail ended up positioned below & over the break, so Ed had to climb up and take the pins out of the track
cars in order to get the upper portion down and stowed in the MackPack. Of course, before any of that activity
took place, we secured the lower portion of the mast by using various sheets and snatch blocks.
Side view of mast
View from the bow
Mainsail splitting the difference
Portion of mast that was removed prior to splicing
Spacer sleeve for the lower half, (1/2 the size of
the actual mast sleeve) - needed to match up with
the upper half since it had an internal factory
sleeve at the spreader mounts.
Since our insurance claim was denied, (see insurance rant), and the prospect of sourcing a new mast
here in Venezuela was deemed problematic at best, we decided to splice the existing mast back
together. In considering this plan we had to determine how much of the mast would be lost ( 2 3/4"),
whether we could find suitable material for the sleeves, and how we would join the halves together.
Thanks to Brian Toss's website and the internet we were able to determine the proper way to proceed
with the splice. A portion of an appropriately-sized aluminum mast was found in a scrap pile, (thank
you Lord), our good friends Marlene and Benno on 'Diesel Duck' loaned us their heavy-duty rivet gun
and away we went.
First the broken ends of the mast needed to be cut away so we would have a good, flush fit. Next the
sleeves needed to be cut to size, using a mathematical formula to determine how many inches overlap
on either side of the splice was needed in order to be secure. In the meantime we had all new
chainplates made which Ed installed.
Both sleeves in place, epoxied and riveted in upper
half, ready to insert into lower half which was
pre-drilled for riveting. Note new location for
lower tang throughbolt above the splice.
No project should proceed without proper
West's GFlex Epoxy was applied to the sleeve
before insertion into the mast. This will fill in
any voids, and stabilize the joint to prevent it
from "working" while under a load.
With temp's in the mid-90's and 100% humidity,
these stalwarts really helped out, both with the
physical efforts and moral support. Couldn't have
done it without them! Just another great thing
about the cruising community. Thanks to
'Zepherus', 'True Companions', 'Duchess' and
'Rainbow Rider' for their help with this project!
The Captain wields the "Mighty" rivet gun. No way
a regular one would have handled the stainless
steel rivets! Thanks Benno.
After shipping the mast onboard, and situating it
across the boom gallows, resting on the arch and
the bow pulpit, we awaited the travelift crane at
TMO Marina. It would lift the mast up for insertion
back through the deck and onto the keel. We had
all the standing rigging ready to be attached and
lashed to the mast. With the guys on deck to
guide the mast, Ed went below to manage the
lower half as it traversed through the salon and
onto the keel socket. This sounds harder than it
really was...although much sleep was lost during
the planning stages.
After the installation, we had to reconnect the
radar cable, install the new masthead light, windex
and VHF antenna, and then it was out for a sail to
check things out. Here we are anchored out at