I’m likely to regret saying this but….in all my years of sailing I’ve never been on a boat that lost its mast. No doubt there were plenty of occasions when I thought for sure the rig was about to come down, but usually this was due to human error and pushing the boat too hard. The fact is, masts just don’t fall down. Something needs to break or become loaded well beyond its intended purpose.
Far be it for me to attempt to outline all the reasons why masts come down. I’ve seen plenty of examples of possible causes and resulting carnage, but I’m more of a bystander than an expert in these matters. That said, I am fascinated by the forensic process of what caused a mast to fail. At one end of the spectrum there’s the proverbial “smoking gun”, something like a corroded or cracked fitting, and at the other end there’s the leftover mish-mash of bits and pieces, often incomplete as some of the critical parts are now on the sea floor and unavailable for inspection.
What I can say with absolute certainty is if you don’t know the condition of your rigging, including how old it is and how its been “used,” there’s a degree of risk you are taking in the mast coming down… And each and every time you go sailing, without knowing the condition of your rigging, the odds of your mast falling down increases.
Ohhh…and then there’s the wind on San Francisco Bay. It’s been said that if you can sail on the Bay, you can sail anywhere. It’s true; we all know the conditions can be punishing. Keep in mind that the gear on your boat gets equally punished and as a result should be inspected at least annually. Particularly if you spend time “in the slot” conditions.
Certainly, if you are buying a second-hand sailboat, make sure the mast and rigging gets inspected. Not all marine surveyors will go up the mast. If they don’t, talk to the boatyard about someone taking a look aloft. At KKMI we can perform these inspections quite efficiently.
So, with this friendly advice, I wish you a terrific 4th of July. One with a bang! As long as it’s not your mast 😉
See you on the waterfront!
Some of the carnage currently taking residence in the Kyard…
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