Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How we lost Madita's mast in 2011

2011 was our first year sailing.
This start was rather successful: After the first teething problems, like unattended cereal bowls on the salon table with a heeling of 20° or the sudden and unexpected appearance of pontoons while entering the mooring box, we had a lot of fun. We traveled a lot; every weekend and all vacation days.
During the summer holidays we made a trip around Funen with Ballen/Samsø being our most north point.
We felt just fine. In September we had two last weeks vacation for the season. As ending point of this trip it was planed to stop in Neustadt/Holstein-Germany, where a space in the winter depot was already booked. We started at the Schlei/Germany, traveled via Bagenkop/Langeland, Naskov/Lolland, Langø/Lolland, Fejø, Femø, Stubbeköbing/Falster, Nystedt/Lolland until Kühlungsborn/Germany. So far we enjoyed the journey, traveling in off-season, finding very quiet places.
In Kühlungsborn we arrived in the evenings. As expected this was not our favorite place, with all the tourists crowding the seafront. But it was a good place to stay over nights and take off early in the morning. No sooner said than done we slept early. For the next few days the forecast reported strong winds and we wanted to reach the Bay of Lübeck before they start.
We headed westward with wind of 4 Beaufort from southwest and with the Genua in the second reff. The waves were 1-1.5 meters high. It was quite a pitching and a lot of water washed over deck. Therefore the children stayed downstairs.
3 NM away from Kühlungsborn we heard a very loud bang. We looked at each other, but since no obvious source of the noise could be seen, we shrugged and went on.
Suddenly a bluster came from above. I looked up and could do nothing but yelling "Wolfgang the mast, the mast!" The mast was broken right in the middle at the height of the spreaders and everything, the whole rigging came down. The fore sail was hanging completely in the water with the broken Furlex system still attached to it.
A split second after I looked up, Wolfgang pushed me fiercely to the side; the very next moment the boom hit the cockpit where my head had been...
I told the children to absolutely stay downstairs, lay down and not move until we call them. They followed my command with no further question.
Wolfgang started the motor in idle running and we brought every loose line and the sail back on deck. While I felt panic slightly coming up, he seemed to be absolutely calm and considerate.
With nothing hanging in the water anymore, we made it without any outside help back to the nearest harbor: Kühlungsborn. Shortly before reaching the harbor entrance a small voice ask from down stairs "May we get up now?" The children kept so quiet all the time, that I completely forget to permit them to move again.....
We had to stay in Kühlungsborn for the next five days, since the forecast was right and the wind rose a lot and we did not dare to cross the Baltic Sea with what was left of our mast on deck.
For a short moment we thought of, me bringing the children home, but that was unanimously declined. These days in Kühlungsborn, all four of us were in lethargy.  The days went by uneventful, waiting for the whether to clear up. The only gay moment was when we celebrated Friedrich's 5th birthday. We gave him a red remote controlled Ferrari and there were quite a lot elderly men enviously looking at him letting it run through the harbor. 
Finally the wind lowered. In the meanwhile Wolfgang organized the help of the harbor maintenance crew the bring the rest of the mast down and store it on deck.
Looking crushed, we made our trip to Neustadt/Holstein, where the sail maker already expected us. Before a new mast and rigging could be order, the insurance's expert had to survey everything. His diagnosis was material fatigue and even before taking Madita out of water for the winter, she received a new mast and rigging.
It took us a while to feel confident with the new rigging and we for sure sail even more defensive. But on the other hand we learned a lot out of this. It was our first real emergency situation and we were luckily able to handle it.
And most important: Thank God, no one was hurt!
At the end of September we winterized Madita, but the first weekend of October with the national holiday in Germany brought the summer back. We spontaneously decided to take the chance being without mast and visit Lübeck/Germany where we would have to pass some really low bridges. About this jolly weekend I will tell you some other time....

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