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Rated: 13+ · Non-fiction · Action/Adventure · #1852016
Shotgun blast! Shroud exploded! I watched as in slow motion mast, sails and rigging gone

    Signed on for a boat delivery. Corrected time winner of Transpac, " Robin's Nest"! ( Transpac is a famous sailboat race from the mainland to Hawaii )

    She is a Cal "40", sloop,four spreader mast, stripped for speed, racing vessel. You know what I mean?

    Some sailors are racers and some sailors are cruisers. I never cared that much about the difference between racers and cruisers until I started reading forums. One of the most recent questions was, " Why don't cruising sailors race?"

    I ( when asked ) have a quick answer to that in the form of two questions. Why is there any need to hire a new crew for boat delivery of racing boats after a race?  Why don't the sailors who raced it, return it to it's home port?

    A couple very common answers by racing sailors are: 

    1) "To return the boat to it's port of call isn't challenging, lt's boring not pushing the vessel just shy of it's breaking point!  It's  uphill and it takes to long? " I'm a knowledgeable racing sailor why should I have to go against the wind"?

    2) I race and then have places I need to be! Let the owner of the vessel pay to get grunts to get his boat back home! I got him 2nd place, didn't I?

    3) So what if we damaged the boat! " The owner is rich"! "Let him pay for it!" It really goes on and on.

    For the record:  I am a blue water sailor who can race but would rather let the boat go where the wind blows it!

    Here's a story not many racing sailors or blue water sailors have experienced and I sincerly hope, never do!

    Five days North of Hawaii delivering " Robin's Nest" to Coos Bay, Oregon after winning (corrected time) that year's Transpac, is when the kukai hit the fan!  Only two people aboard, Larry, the skipper and myself, first mate, knew what a passage could mean.  The Pacific Ocean is vast.  There are times when you are over 1,000 miles from land, other people and basically anything and everything you didn't bring with you. Sailing  can take anywhere from 21 to 35 days depending on Boat, weather and destination. Sailing from the mainland to Hawaii is nothing like sailing from Hawaii to the mainland. Thus in the jargon of sailors, one way is spoken of as, " downhill, and the other is, " uphill". Larry hired four crew with no experience.  He wanted it that way as his belief is that he would rather train a crew, that were thrilled to be accomplishing something they had fantasized about but dared not dream could actually come about. He explained to me that they were all to happy to follow his orders and because they had no knowledge of sailing had as yet formed no bad habits so he could teach them proper seamanship.  Sounded good at the time.

    Two were not being paid, the journey was payment for them.  The other two paid one third of the food costs and $ 600 apiece for this once in a lifetime opportunity.  I signed on for a flat $ 1200, food and a ticket back to Hawaii.

    The owner paid for everything. Larry was being paid $2500 with a $ !,000 bonus if he could get Robin's Nest back to Coos Bay in time for an event the owner had entered.  I found out later Larry had skimped on our provisions but had a false receipt to submit to the owner!, He  had charged the owner $ 800 apiece  for the four novice crew members, telling the owner they were experienced! He got $ 1500 for me. I am also a navigator.

    He now had his crew of six people willing to sail a minimum of 2,800 miles in the open Pacific Ocean. Larry was not only a liar and a thief but the meanest skipper I have ever sailed under!  To this day I believe that around day four he realized that his greed, his overinflated opinion of himself , his sailing skills, our lack of provisions to sustain us to the duration of our trip, the obvious lack of ability of his crew to do anything, combined with  the stress being placed on this racing Cal 40's hull as she slamed into and over 15' and 20' multidirectional swells!

      He and I were the only two aboard that could maintain a compass heading, change or shorten sails, prepare meals harnessed into the  galley, where, even though the stove was gimbuled and the pots and pans were held in place, they jumped right out of their holders crash landing on the main salon floor.

    It was an extremely wet boat, all four crew were seasick and developing open sores and blisters from the chafing and constant salt water shower the bow was providing for all who were being forced to stand their two man watch in the cockpit.  That is 3 hours on and 6 off, theoretically. Larry insisted on this system even though only he and I could drive the boat!. It's funny in a way.  If it had been just he and I, we could have delivered the boat.  We would have been tired but I have made the crossing twice with two people.

    I don't know why he got so angry when I suggested we allow our crew time to gather their sea legs and let their seasickness  pass! ( note-I have only known one person that was, 19 days, 16 hours, San Diego to Maui, sick the entire time) "It is in our best interest" I told Larry.. "Have them stay below as they are worthless topside and unteachable in their condition." He wouldn't hear it!  He screamed out so loud I am sure they heard him in Dutch Harbor, "  They signed on as crew, not passengers and by God that is what they will be, I am not nor will I be their babysitter!  I am sick of the whining, the smell of vomit, fixing the head they can't figure out how to use properly! "   

    They were not just getting salt-water sores and unable to sustain any nourishment but believed they were being driven to hell by mad Captain Ahab himself and that their  very lives were in jeapordy.

      I didn't have it in me to tell them that we were still in the warm Hawaiian Trade Winds, blowing, as usual, from the North-East at 15 to 25 mph, Air temperature, 65 to 85 degrees. Water temperture luke-warm, Enjoy it while it lasts, people!  I am because this is the last you will see of this mild tropical weather package Hawaii is famous for!  From here on it gets nothing but colder!  As it turned out, I got to tell them anyway.

    After we did our about face, I was amazed at their transformation.  Downwind it was quiet, stable, warm, dry ( sores were receding rapidly), no harness in the galley or a lee board to keep you from being thrown from your berth! No more puking!  This is what they imagined sailing to be, not the other! 

    Larry  stayed below sulking or whatever.  We stayed topside and got to know more about each other.  We " talked story li dat!  That's how they learned how fortunate they were to be returning to Hawaii.  I held nothing back and they came to the realization that blue water sailing isn't for everyone.

    After comparing notes we realized that our skipper was much worse than Captain Ahab, Benedict Arnold (his reputation anyway), Captain Bligh, Blackbeard and others of questionable character because our skipper had no character.  He didn't stand for an idea, a belief that drove him, an ideology.  He was a liar and a thief, who I believe hack sawed through a few strands of the starboard, one inch stainless steel, shroud!  Him knowing it was only a matter of time before the stress being placed on the shroud  by our over-sized racing sails caused it to loose it's integrity! I can't prove it because had we not donated the evidence, our rigging and mainsail to Mother Ocean we, boat and crew would have followed our donation. I watched it slowly fade from my visabillity, to disappear into the depths of that very clear, turquoise, translucent tropical Ocean.

      I told the crew how I felt.  I suggested that our skipper had quite possibly saved our lives. Here it is, almost nine days and we are already being careful and creative with our food and water. I asked them if they thought we could have survived 23 to 28 days. They said we could catch fish!  I asked if any of them knew how to fish without pole, line and bait or lure?  That startled them.  I told them I could but it would be water, the lack of, that would do us in.!  Screw the Sahara or the Mohave!  Magellan said, " Water water everywhere but not a drop to drink!"  The Oceans of the World cover three-quarters of this planet!  That is an extremely large desert!

      We didn't say good-bye to our skipper.  He had no time for us. He was very busy explaining why we are back here and so soon? 

    We all drank beer and were the center of attention at the Ala Wai Yacht Club.  Everybody wanted to hear and be a part of the story. We didn't tell anyone the truth.  Even drunk, by unspoken common agreement, we told an adventure tale, a fabricated but jointly woven and articulated, fantasy fiction spun by all of us. I almost had a heart attack when reading the Honolulu Advertiser (local paper)  the next day.  Larry's rendition to the reporter of the events of the last nine days was so close to what we had fabricated, the lies confirmed each other and actually gave the tall tale we had all manufactured the appearance of truth! For a moment fiction was stranger than truth?

    Today, I'm not sure what really happened? I have the article around here somewhere.  Who cares?  I do know sometimes you have to go through hell to get to heaven.

                      Below is the story we told at the yacht club and what the Advertiser printed!  It is the truth.  We just left out the blood, guts, grime and gore stuff!


      I was at the helm in broad daylight when a sound, like a shotgun blast exploded! Larry was skipper and had been part of the racing crew that had won this particular Transpac race. He was hired, as was I, by the owner to return " Robin's Nest" to the mainland.

    The " shotgun blast " was so loud I, who was driving the boat, ( by tiller, can you believe that? ) watched, as in slow motion a four spreader main mast fell to port into the ocean in broad daylight! I yelled to my watch partner, " Duck!" ( we were running partner watches ) otherwise, he is dead. The boom crashed next to his head into the port side of the cockpit teak top rail.Our jetsam began pulling us under water due to the amount of rigging falling into her. It was like the biggest drogue or sea anchor ever!  The main mast's boom held in place over us by it's traveller, missed my partner by no more than two inches! The sound the boom made was boom!

    Larry and I, with a hack saw and bolt cutters, cut all the very expensive garbage away. When I say garbage I mean our boom, main sail, our jib and all our rigging! (managed to save the jib) Remember racers we are only six hundred miles away from the nearest 7-11!

    Now here is the question. What would you do? I know what we did. We sailed back to Oahu. ( wing and wing) How we did it is quite interesting! Hint. We sailed!      ( get it )  And we returned one day faster than it took us to get where we lost the main mast. I am looking forward to anyone's suggestions on how or what you might have tried to get your distressed vessel and crew to a safe anchorage? Shoot, it may have happened to you.  I do know of several sailors that have survived this experience.I can only wonder how many sailors throughout history did not?  I'm sure there is more than one way but it was to far to swim and our radio was down.  It was a close one!  Phew!  Marlin Spike

PS. Thank God we were able to save our jib and spinnacker pole!  Without bolt cutters and a hack saw it would have been almost impossible!

Don't peek If you are going to pretend it happened to you or it actually did! Please, share your solution with me.  I'd love to hear it. I'm dying to hear from people so I put a larger incentive out there.

Think about it.  If forty people review this I'm wiped out but what a way to go!  Heh!

    This is what Larry and I did. 

    Put two fenders into the main mast compression post which is made fast, usually to the keel. We had hack sawed our mast at deck level.  We used the fenders as spacers to make our spinacker pole, which is now our Main mast, taller!  We, then,  slid our spinnaker pole in after the fenders into what remained of the over sixty foot mast that Davey Jones was keeping for us. Our mast hieght was 15 ' off the deck.  We Jury rigged a working jib and our humongous salvaged 160 head sail to sail with the traditional 15 to 25 mph tradewinds downwind, wing and wing. returning " Robin's Nest",  to the Ala Wai Boat Harbor and Yacht Club where just 9 daze before, she had picked up the trophy for first place in that years Transpac! 

    It cost the owner $6,000 dollars to have his boat shipped back to Coos Bay via Matsun Shipping. This  was because I had connections and felt the owner deserved a break from his triple dipping delivery captain!.  How much did I make?  Nada  But two weeks later I sailed a 44' Swan to San Franciso and caught Frank Zappa with the Mothers of Invention, Carlos Santana and the Quicksilver Messenger Service when Dino was still around! Do you know the difference between a gutted, ultra-light Cal 40 and a Swan?  They are as different as what Christians think about God and Satin!  Diametric opposition!! 

    I will never forget the faces of the crew and Larry's expression looking at me from below and through the companionway when that sucking 64 ' mast, after the initial shock  of that un-natural explosion, fell like a giant redwood tree in slow motion!  When it hit the water it looked and sounded, even felt, like when a tree falls in the forest ! The memory is Priceless!!!  Ar-r-r-r B gar-r-r- Matey.


    May the wind always be at your back with a following sea,  Marlin Spike

© Copyright 2012 Marlin Spike (richardhead at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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