Last Sail -- 2008

Since I finished building so late in the Fall, there wasn’t much sailing time left up here in Northern New England. Launch Day was first. Then there was a great afternoon spent on the same lake, putting the boat through it’s paces. I spent five hours sailing upwind, downwind, in light puffs and steady 10 knot breezes.

My last chance to sail was Saturday, October 18. A little cool, but as you can see from the photos, a beautiful day.

I launched on the Moore Reservoir, which is a dammed section of the Connecticut River on the Vermont/New Hampshire border. It’s the largest piece of undeveloped shoreline in the area.

Winds were brisk, probably 10 knots, gusting to 15 or more. The sail and boat were doing great when -- about 2-1/2 miles from the launch (about 10 minutes after taking the picture at right ----around the wooded point on the right side of the picture below) -- CRACK!! -- I hear a load noise of wood breaking. I expect the boat to sink out from under me, but I can find no damage at all. Nothing. No evidence of what made such a loud noise.

I sail back to the ramp, and when I’m about 20 yards or so away -- CRACK!! -- This time it is easy to see what is making the sound. The mast breaks in half about two or three feet above the deck. An 18-inch splinter of wood goes flying by my head and the mast comes crashing back, landing next to me on the port side.

I quickly gather what’s hanging in the water, grab a paddle and limp the remaining distance into shore.

The mast is made up of three pieces, and obviously the piece that was facing forward cracked first. With only 2/3 of the mast width for support, it was only a matter of time before the rest of the wood snapped.

The break did not happen at a scarf, and there is no obvious knot or other weak spot that would explain the breaking. I wish I had the 18-inch piece that went flying into the water, but I wasn’t about to go wading into 50-degree F water to get it.

The photo shows the break site. The only thing that looks at all suspicious is in the close-up photo. The fact that it broke so cleanly along a diagonal line is puzzling. Also, you can see a dark line right in the center of the cleanly broken piece. I wonder if that is some kind of sap pocket or other weakness that could account for the failure.

Oh well, back to the workshop in the Spring. Out of the entire process, building the mast was by far my least favorite job. The only bright spot is that now I have an excuse to go out and buy a power planer!