David and I are sitting on the lower spreaders of Exit Only, and we are
taking care of business. Although we survived the trip up the Red Sea
during the previous two months, we took quite a beating in the Gulf of Suez.
We didn't know how much of a beating it was until we hauled out in Turkey
and checked the rigging. What we found was scary.
A stainless steel strap toggle holding the headstay in place had apparently
broken during the Red Sea transit. We were extremely fortunate that we
didn't loose our mast as we slogged up the Red Sea. A Turkish
craftsman fashioned a new strap toggle out of stainless steel, and we
installed it to prevent the mast from going over the side at sea. We
truly snatched victory from the jaws of disaster.
After discovering the failure in the headstay strap toggle, we decided to
climb the mast and inspect all of the rigging. The inspection found
broken strands of wire in an eight millimeter diamond shroud.
Rigging problems seemed to be coming down like rain, but at least we weren't
off shore when it happened. I
wasn't too upset, because it's always better to deal with rigging problems
while I'm in safe harbor than when I'm in forty knots of wind offshore
and could easily lose the mast.
Losing a mast is expensive. Without insurance, such a
disaster could cost upwards of twenty thousand dollars if you do all the
work yourself. If you hired it done with labor rates at seventy-five
dollars an hour, your cruising kitty would instantly implode.
If I lose my mast, I lose the ten thousand dollar deductible on my yacht
insurance. That's a huge chunk of cash to lay out for a problem that's
probably preventable. Before I sail offshore, I always climb to the
top of the mast and check every piece of rigging to make sure there's no
problem. It's a hassle to put on a climbing harness and do a tap dance
up the mast, but it's not nearly as unpleasant as dealing with a dismasting
at sea. In my time aloft I've identified broken strands of stainless
steel wire on at least ten occasions, and the few minutes spent climbing the
mast have paid off in a big way.
Sailboats are always talking to you. Sometimes they whisper, and other
times they shout. When you go aloft and find a tiny fractured strand
of rigging wire, your yachts is whispering a warning. "Fix me while
it's cheap and easy." If you wait until your yacht shouts at you, it's
going to be screaming things you don't want to hear. You'll be hearing
words like, "You really messed up this time. Why didn't you check my
rigging before you sailed offshore. Now my mast is in water and it's
going to cost you a ton of money. How could something like this happen
when you call yourself a mariner?"
We have sailed over thirty-three thousand miles around the world, and during
our voyage we replaced damaged rigging in Bora Bora, Fiji, New Zealand,
Australia, Turkey, and Gibraltar. In each instance, we discovered a
problem and dealt with it before it became an emergency. That's the
way mariners get their yacht around the world. Eternal vigilance is
our best friend and beats good luck seven days of the week.
There's an old saying, "The harder I work, the luckier I get." I would
recommend that every mariner carve those words into their main bulkhead, get
them tattooed on their forearm, and have their wife repeat them at least
seven times a day. If you want to sail around the world, you must work
hard to push the odds in your favor. Good luck isn't going to keep
your mast upright where it belongs. You're the only one who can make
You earn the right to sail on the ocean of your dreams by taking good care
of your yacht. When you take care of it, it takes care of you.