Welcome to the Maunie of Ardwall blog

This is the blog of Maunie of Ardwall. After a six-year adventure sailing from Dartmouth to Australia, we are now back in Britain.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Day 12 - and you should have seen the one that got away!

Very proud fisherman!
Our position as at 20.00 GMT, Wednesday 22nd May:
06 degrees 28 minutes south, 118 degrees 19 minutes west
Distance run in last 24 hours: 142nm
We'd come to the conclusion that the fish weren't in a biting mood yesterday evening so Dianne had opened a tin of mackerel to add to the risotto when the reel suddenly gave a very load shriek and the line starting rushing out. It took quite some time and effort to land this lovely fish, much bigger and very much livelier than the last, so it was gutted and divided into two for supper tonight and tomorrow.
On the sailing front, last night and this morning weren't great as the wind dropped away and backed to the ENE so we found ourselves rolling badly and heading further south than we'd like, making much less distance than we've grown used to. However we've just dropped the white sails and hoisted the Parasailor and we're making much better progress whilst, most importantly, we're not rolling any more. Stormvogel have just done the same about 2 miles to the south of us.
This morning's radio net was all very dramatic and it highlighted the safety value of these daily sessions. An American boat called Leeward, about 300 miles ahead of us, reported serious rigging failure during the night and when they explained the problem, it quickly became clear that they had been very lucky not to lose their mast.
A quick explanation of the terms for non-sailors before we relay the story: The mast is held in place by a series of stainless steel wires (each one made up of 19 strands of wire, tightly wound); these are flexible so only work in tension so they pull down on the mast and work against equal ones on the opposite side of the boat to keep the pole in place. Furthermore they have to balance the varying loads placed on the mast by the sails and by the effect of the boat crashing into the waves. Just one wire failing suddenly can see the whole rig come down; Leeward had 4 fail simultaneously.
At the front and back of the mast are the forestay and backstay whilst at the sides there are the shrouds; on a sailing dinghy there will be just one shroud each side whilst, Maunie has no fewer than 5. The cap shrouds come from the very top of the mast, and are pushed out by horizontal struts called spreaders to help stop the mast bending, whilst the inner shrouds start about three quarters of the way up. Further down are the lowers, which also brace the mast forward and aft from just below its middle to stop it 'panting' as the boat goes through waves and it was these that failed on Leeward.
Actually what failed was not the shrouds themselves but a single bolt going through the mast to hold four metal tangs to which the shrouds are attached. This is a pretty poor bit of design since the single component failure resulted in all four shrouds falling to the deck; on Maunie each shroud has its own, independent attachment mechanism. Anyway, luckily for the crew of Leeward, the failure (probably caused by metal fatigue) of the bolt occurred when the wind and waves had calmed down so the rig was relatively unstressed so the cap and inner shrouds, plus forestay and backstay, kept the mast up. They now have to find a way to re-fit the lowers as they are still 1000 miles from land and have to sail. Hopefully we'll get good news on the radio tonight and the episode highlighted the importance of the regular rig checks that we carry out

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