It’s Always a ‘Little’ Something

In keeping with the “little thing” theme of yesterday’s post, we had a “little thing” fail last night aboard Pandora.

In this case, it was the fitting that holds the luff tack cringle of the mainsail to the goose neck on the bow end of the boom.   This fitting was a loop with a pin that went through the bottom front “corner” of the mainsail luff.  In spite of the fact that this fitting was, and I say “was” deliberately, designed to take the load of the luff for the entire mainsail, it broke off.  The boom outhaul, with as much as 2,000 lbs of pressure on it as well as the head of the sail both pull against this fitting with great tension.  It’s a very critical fitting.

About 00:00 hours (midnight), Jim came down below to wake me as the fitting had failed.

Fortunately, it was very light wind and we were motoring, more or less, directly into the wind.   When this fitting failed, the bottom of the sail became slack and suddenly much of the tension of the rest of the mainsail was focused on the first sail slide about 4′ up the luff of the sail. This slide and that part of the sail are not designed to take any major loads so had we been sailing in a strong breeze, I expect that the sail would have ripped its’ entire length beginning at that point.

Fortunately, due to Jim’s attention and quick action, a major failure was averted.    With nearly 1,000 miles to go until we reach Antigua, losing the main would have ruined our day and many more after, that’s for sure.

While we expect to reach an area where we can sail in a few days, for now we are motoring and that would have put us at risk of running out of fuel before reaching Antigua without a working mainsail to move us along.

So, what was the solution?  Fortunately, I keep a good supply of Dyneema line for just this sort of problem and was able to put together a bridle to hold the tack of the sail to the boom and mast.  This line is super strong.   I doubled each piece with several wraps through the mainsail cringle, just in case the line chafes.  However, Dyneema is really tough stuff and quite chafe resistant, so I doubt that we will have any major chafe issues.

I guess it took about an hour for me and Jim, with Chris at the wheel, just in case, to get everything tied securely into place.  Thanks to Jim for his quick action as it likely saved the main.

So, today we are motorsailing ESE, close hauled, with the expectation that the wind will shift north of east at some point in the next day or so.  While it is expected to remain light, around 10-12kts, we may be able to sail with the big Code O headsail once the wind shifts north, as its’ forecast to do.  Eventually, perhaps late Tuesday or Wednesday we should find the easterly trade winds and then be able to sail the rest of the way to Antigua.

I still expect t to arrive in Antigua around the 12th, perhaps one of the first boats in the fleet to do so.   With Brenda flying in on the 15th, that will give me time to see Jim and Chris off and get Pandora into cruising mode.  Of course, that also will involve getting that broken tack fitting repaired.   More to come on that, with photos, when I get to Antigua.

Fortunately, so far, this has been the only, potentially major, failure.   In the “minor failure” category, my masthead tricolor running light stopped working so now I only have the deck level running lights which I usually reserve for when I am running under power.   No biggie but I’ll want to get that fixed as well.  It’s probably corrosion in the fixture at the top of the mast as it’s an LED bulb and those rarely fail.

In the “I don’t want to run out of fuel” department, I made a decision to continue on my middle fuel tank until it ran dry and the engine stopped to confirm exactly how much usable fuel it contained.   Well, this morning, after 61 hours of running time, the engine abruptly died.  At an assumed average consumption of about .65/hr fuel burn at low RPM, this suggests that I actually have 40 usable gallons in what is reported to be a 50 gallon tank.  That’s few gallons less than I had expected and it will be interesting to see how much fuel that tank takes when I fill up in Antigua.  Based on that I will be better able to estimate my maximum run time going forward.  That will be good to know when I am calculating fuel consumption for especially long periods of motoring, like on this trip.

So, here we are, motoring along in very light winds with the hope that the wind will fill in a bit and back more to the NE so we can sail sooner rather than later.

I guess that’s all for now and in the meantime, let’s hope that nothing else “little” comes up and if it does, I sure hope that it, like last nights’ breakage indeed stays a “little something”.

Oh yeah, I sautéed the last of the Mahi Mahi for dinner last evening along with some yellow squash.  Both were great and flavored with Old Bay seasoning, the fish got rave reviews from Pandora’s entire crew.

Perhaps it’s time to fish again.  Hmm…

5 responses to “It’s Always a ‘Little’ Something

  1. I find that those Chinese LEDs on the masthead frequently fail. It might not be corrosion as I 1st assumed.

  2. George Hallenbeck

    Look for pictures of the cringle repair
    after your journey. First time I’ve heard of
    a failure like that.

  3. I also want to see pictures of the cringle/tack before and after, tbat is, the damage and the temporary repair.

    And on the fuel tanks, I hope you don’t suck some sludge or other fuel gunk into the engine by trying to use it all. I always thought we were supposed to avoid using whatever is in the bottom of the tank? We fill up around the 1/2 way mark, or never lower than 1/4. But then again, our gauges are not necessarily accurate either.

    Glad to see that your trip is going well.
    Best wishes,

  4. Bob, on our Sou’wester 42 we also have a 50 gallon fuel tank. When the engine stopped off of Watch Hill (coming down from Maine) the Tank Tender was showing 5 gallons of fuel remaining. When I topped off the fuel in Stonington (our destination), I believe that it took 50 gallons, suggesting that the tank actually holds 55 gallons, but that the last 5 gallons are not available. So you are correct, when you top off the fuel in Antigua for the middle tank, you will know much mor accurately what will be available in the tank. Safe travels.

  5. Glad to hear that you were able to avoid a big problem. I’ve made a note to bring some spare Dyneema with us when we head out in the fall!

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