Thursday October 4th, 2012
Postion: 43*11.2 N 126*12.1 W
I am sad to report that at 2045 last night we were dismasted. Miraculously all aboard are alive, well, and relatively unscathed.
Shortly after sundown we notice an opening in a seem going up the length of the foremast. We call “all hands” to douse the fore course. We are sailing along with just the foresl’e, broad reaching in 20kts of breeze and 6-8ft swell. Not 5 minutes later, with the fore boom prevented over, we suffer a partial crash jibe which spits the foremast open. It totally delaminates. We fire up the engine and once again call “all hands” to drop the foresl’e. We wrestle the sail down, but not in time to save the mast, the hoops of the sail and gaff saddle are the only thing holding the mast together. As soon as we have tension off the sail, like a slow motion lightning strike. “CRrrrrrrACK” the 100ft foremast comes crashing down. Everyone runs for cover. We barely have to time to realize what has happened and mutter “Holy Shit” when again with that ear-peircing, gut wrenching CRACK! The main-mast followed suit, simply not able to hold itself up with the weight of the foremast pulling it down. And just like that, the Schooner W N Ragland was dismasted.
Not a moment was lost, nor a beat un kept, as the entire crew rallied in to action. We took a head and injury count. All accounted for. One bloody lip. Amazing! Flash lights, headlamps, knives, bolt cutters, wrenches, plyers, wire cutters, hack saws and anything else that seemed useful was pulled up on deck as the crew worked tirelessly to cut the rig free. Every single last shroud, stay, halyard, sheet, brace, and sail had to be cut. Everyone worked in unison. It took us two horrifying hours. I simply can’t describe the horror of seeing the jagged, splintered stalk of the foremast thrusting out of the water with every passing swell or the sound of the mainmast crashing again the hull each time the boat rolled.
When the task was done, not a trace of the masts to be found upon scanning the surrounding waters, and all lines on deck coiled and tidy so as to not wash over board and foul the propellor, our only mode of transport left to get us safely home, we put the engine in gear and began motoring south.
In silence, we convened. Some went straight to the liquor cabinet, others went straight to bed, 3 unfortunate few stayed up to take watch for the next four hours. Most importantly, we were all still there. And no one was hurt.
So we’ve plenty of diesel and a reliable Caterpillar engine. We’ll motor the rest of the way to San Francisco.
It is a true tragedy we have had to endure, but as Emyl so aptly put it… “some books need only begin with a tragedy.”
Ed. note: you may recall that a just about two years ago, Schooner Zodiac was demasted as well. While I’m sure that both crews are/were very conscientious, it is obvious to this writer that the CG will be setting new standards for the inspection of these fine old vessels.