Monday, November 29, 2010


My 30 foot Nonsuch has a free standing mast and therefore no rigging like the metal stays you would see on most sailboats. I was on a charter vacation in the BVI back in the 1980's  with a Captain who was a nautical engineer and had delivered a number of Nonsuch boats. I remember him saying that the Nonsuch had simplicity of design and he liked that no stays were used for rigging it. That kind of appealed to me too from a maintenance point of view. I think of that conversation differently now after I read about this tragic incident that also reminded me of a Captain Courageous moment except that Kiplings story was fiction and this was all too real:

"I grabbed on, we both pulled. We couldn't get him free of the wires in the rigging that were left from the mast and he was pinned by the wires. "I believe the mast either hit him or damaged him in some way [because] he was almost moaning and begging us to please help him." He said he and Ms Thorn "tried and tried" to free her father — the need became more urgent once they learnt Mr Thorn couldn't breathe properly. Capt White said Ms Thorn told him to get a knife from the kitchen to cut the safety line. Their hope was that her father could climb out of the ropes. "I thought about it for a while. I thought if I cut this line I am going to lose him, but his face was [underwater] and the sea was washing over him. I said 'I am going to cut him loose because he is suffering too much. I have to let him have his peace'. "I cut it and it was a terrible thing I had to do. [Ms Thorn] kept shouting 'Daddy, daddy don't leave me' — and it was too much you know."

While I am glad that the Nonsuch has no wire stays that could entangle a person in a rollover. But, this incident seems to make the case for using modern Dyneema synthetic lines on conventional stayed sailboat rigging as an added safety feature.

At least you might be able to cut it away easier in a similar situation and not have to cut the safety tether as occurred in the above incident.

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