Every Time you go Sailing something is Likely to go Wrong

Every time you go sailing something is likely to go wrong, break, get jammed, cease working. It might even be a stubbed toe

Every time you go sailing something is likely to go wrong, break, get jammed, cease working (perhaps the chef if you’ve had an argument). It might even be a stubbed toe – Charlie’s had a few of those. 

Any long-time cruiser who says he’s never run aground is either lying or has never been anywhere. Anyone who has never accidentally jibed – same thing. Anyone who has never broken something on board by stupidity – same thing. 

Charlie, as a likely lad, remembers sailing into a small cove on Dominica’s western shore and dropping the hook.

After paying out the rode he noticed he was a bit close to a small fishing boat. He pulled up some of the line and checked again – still a bit too close. Another 15-ft came aboard. Minutes later all seemed fine when a gentle breeze tugged back on the rode. Red, the crew, decided to sleep on deck that night in the sail (hank on head sail). In the early hours some urgent knocks and a hollering down the hatch had Charlie on deck in a flash. The little 28-ft engineless boat had dragged out of the cove, missing rocky headlands on either side and was drifting offshore.

Charlie scanned the horizon. They were, perhaps a mile offshore. The boat was gently rocking in a slight breeze. After a sigh of relief and a good laugh the intrepid lads hauled up the hanging anchor and rigged the sails. Sometime later they enjoyed the sunrise over the mountains.

Cartoon showing the shackle coming loose from the anchor
Graphics by Anouk Sylvestre

Oxygen deprivation corrosion (technical term: ‘rot’) is a sinister and dangerous occurrence – it happens with stainless steel, of which there are many different qualities, and 316 is the best grade for marine use – and don’t forget, it’s called stain less not stain free.

If it’s old It can have deadly consequences if you’re unaware of it. Charlie once had a propeller shaft, (stainless of unknown quality) sheer clean in half, completely corroded as it went through the deadwood – and he was on a lee shore. In an instant he had a huge leak, no steering (the prop backed out and jammed the rudder) and no engine propulsion. Charlie, single-handing at the time, hove to and jumped into the water with a snorkel and mask and managed to force the prop shaft back into the boat and tied it off with a small line forward to a stanchion base. Rags managed to stem the ingress of water and a bilge pump kept up with the rest. The fun part was sailing through the gap in the reef before finally dropping the hook.   

Another mishap happened to Charlie that again taught him a valuable lesson.

It was in the Seychelles and he’d been spearing up some fish for dinner. The anchorage was not a good overnight spot so he moved to a more sheltered anchorage a short distance away. In the morning there was a knock on the side of the boat from a local diver, “Just wanted to let you know, your anchor is over there,”  he pointed a hundred yards off to the side, “but your anchor chain ends there,” a different location completely. Charlie felt weak at the knees, “well, shiver me timbers and all that,” he said nonsensically.  

It dawned on Charlie what must have happened. When he moved the previous evening, he left the anchor dangling slightly instead of hoisting it snug onto the roller. The swinging back and forth had somehow loosened the shackle pin and when he dropped it the anchor separated from the chain. All night long he was riding only on the chain.

It was just another lesson. Every shackle on the boat was checked and seized that day. Yo ho ho – some rum was drunk that night.  

Julian_Putley
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.