So many emotions are involved in the moments before departure. We are leaving “Europe,” for all intents and purposes, after many years being abroad. And this will be our first ocean crossing in nearly six years, and our first with children aboard. Big seas, bad weather, broken things, the black of night. Who knows what awaits? But we ARE well prepared. And we’ve been through the drill before, and so our anxiety is tempered by an even sense that we’ve covered all the bases.
With the boat rolling so much, and the wind not really strong, it was difficult to keep the sails filled. Sometimes, riding down into the trough of one wave, or coming up on the crest of another, the apparent wind would change enough such that it would catch the back side of the main sail or jib, and cause one or both to luff. And sometimes, if the turbulence was enough, the wind would snap the sail back hard, and then snap it back forward again, as it moved around the boat.
We were trying to find the right balance, and determine what sail plan was the most efficient in the big and confused seas, with a moderate wind right behind us. We had sheeted the main out such that it lay against the shrouds, and sometimes, when it got back-winded, the upper stay would come back into place at an angle, and get caught behind the upper shroud, as shown here:
This needed to be addressed to make sure that the sail did not tear. When this has happened in the past, I have purposefully moved the boat a little further down wind, to get the wind on the back of the sail again, so that it can luff the sail back into place. But THIS time, when I did that, the wind caught the back of the sail hard, even though it was only blowing 15 knots, and even though the apparent wind was much less than that with the boat moving at about 6.5 knots downwind.
There was a loud report as the wind snapped the back of the sail. The next steps unfolded without me being able to do a thing. The whole event lasted only a second, and it wasn’t until after it had passed that I had any clue as to just what HAD happened.
The preventer, a thick line that had been triple-looped, had parted. When it did, the boom swung forcefully around to the other side of the boat. On the way across, it tore the two retaining straps that hold the bimini into place, and that came tumbling down at the same time. The boom came to rest on the other side of the boat with a crash. I stared upwards, probably open-mouthed, seeing the sails, sky, and sun, where a moment earlier I was sheltered under the protective canopy of the bimini.
Sima came up from below. We caught our collective breaths, and began to assess the situation. Thankfully, the only damage was a torn zipper on one of the shade cloths, and two broken bimini straps. We took in the jib (it is already furled in the picture above), fashioned a new preventer, as well as added a second one. We then repaired the shade cloths and bimini straps. We were whole again in a couple of hours. But the accident made us gun-shy about putting up much canvas again. We took down the main, and sailed with jib only for the next four days