-From words attributed to J.B. Connolly by Gordon Bok,
who put them to music as LIZA JANE
If ants were called elephants,
and elephants ants,
I could SQUAAAAASH
-- Danny Kaye
In a previous post (this one), I recounted the tale of our first dismasting which I attributed to a willawaw (micro-burst of wind), under-sized mast and low quality wood (widely spaced annular rings). We've now doubled our 'experience' in this regard, but with none of the excuses.
We'd been visiting my Brother's family in Northern Lynn canal, and it was time to head south. It had been blowing SE6 (of course) for weeks. We can claw against that, but it's slow, uncomfortable going. [Here's a great graphical chart of the Beaufort Scale for wind strength.]
But that day, it was forecast to drop to SE4, and we make pretty good time in that.
So we set out with the tide, about an hour before dawn, pulling our two anchors and beating out in flukey, gusty wind. We could tell by white-capped waves that the forecast was understated... here, at least, it was back up to SE6.
We were doing well, however, and hoped that, once we cleared the Chilkat Peninsula it'd drop down (S winds get squeezed, N of that point). If not, there are anchorages in the Chilkat Islands off its tip.
By first light, we'd cleared our little bay, and were tacking across the tip of the minor peninsula that forms it.
A bit of a gust, and, without much ado, our foremast and sail calmly take a jump to the right and overboard!
Quick assessment: Canted into the wind on the port tack, held up by our mizzen. The blunt end of the peninsula is a lee shore. Ranges show we're don't have a chance to clear back into the Bay.
We back rudder and mizzen, attempting to 'tack', but no go... too much drag to bring the bow across the wind. Anchoring may be possible, but it's deep, here, and by the time it shoals up, it will be our last option.
Okay. If Mohammed won't go to the mountain...
We're free-standing junk rig, which means the sails can be run forward of the beam. And a barge looks pretty much the same, one end and the other.
So we declare a proa-like reversal - the bow is now aft and the stern forward (ants are now elaphants).
We fix a dock line to the end of the mizzen boom, and lead it aft. Sheet in, reverse steering from the bow on s'brd tack, slightly broad of a beam reach. Check ranges? Clearing!
Once clear of land, we anchor altong shore on the Lynn Canal side and haul the sails and mast aboard. This was challenging, as they'd spent a while, tossed and tangled in the waves. But we managed.
Next trick-in-a-row was to get ourselves into a lee. The next reasonable choice was Portage Bay (Haines), about eight miles north. Without the drag of the mast and sail, we were able to steer the (true) bow off, so we squared away and ran off under the mizzen alone - more or less like normal folks.
NOTE: Sailing off with an after sail gives about 90deg of solid freedom, from broad reach to broad reach. Some hulls can come up even higher, even to a beam reach... but this can depend on wind and sea state.
By afternoon we'd arrived, anchored, shortened the mast and rerigged. Beer-thirty at the most excellent Haines Brewing Company!
What did we learn, this time?
The autopsy showed that onset rot had made deep intrusions into one side, along big stretches of its length. Oddly, none of this showed (usually the edges of longitudinal stress cracks start first), nor sounded (when thumped like a watermelon).
The areas with rot were still pretty solid, just robbed of strength. Maybe that's why I couldn't hear it? Or maybe I need to better train my ear!
We had felled this tree for Andy Stoner's MARY ELIZABETH a mere eight years earlier (already??). It never got installed, but sat on the dock, waiting. When the Harbor folk wanted it out of there, Andy offered it to us and we jumped at the chance. But top down, fresh water had taken its toll.
LESSON: Make sure that lumber has been well-treated... take its full history into consideration.
Another point is that Anke and I have used a rule-of-thumb for when to reef, being when the leeboard guard goes awash (about 15deg). We're reassessing this, however, especially in gusty weather. And especially given the... ah... funky nature of our trip.
A big virtue of the box barge is its extremely high form stability. It resists heeling in direct proportion to heeling moment. But all that force has to go somewhere. It is distributed around the boat and rig. In a free standing rig, a good dollop accumulates just above the mast partners (in our case, the tabernacle hinges). This is just where both breaks have occurred.
LESSON: Reef a little earlier, Simpletons! The whole point of junk rig is to make that easy!
We found a beautiful, new mast, and she's withstood her sea-trials in blustery autumnal gales. We've rescheduled the mizzen for early replacement, and are considering up-grading to foremast size. That would allow exchanging, should it ever become necessary (knock on sound wood!). And we're thinking about running backstays for tough going. Can't hurt.
So we sail on, a little delayed but wiser.
PS. Anke thinks the Ants/Elephants allusion is typically opaque and unnecessary. I love it as an early prod toward thinking out of the box... reframe the problem and squash it (not that I want to squash any elephants!).