…and how NOT to lose your mast twice… like I did.
Welcome to Sailing With Albie!
Today I want to share with you the first thing you need to know before going out on the water:
Four things to do before you buy your boat:
Now I want to start by letting you know that I’m not an expert in buying boats.
However, I’ve been sailing for twenty years and been in a mixture of 35 small craft advisories and gales and crazy things that the sea has put my way. So my advice is follows:
Have someone who knows what they’re doing check these four things:
- 1) the condition of the rigging.
- 2) Check the Keel bolts.
- 3 check your through hull fittings.
- 4) check the boat engine.
Lets examine Number One. The rigging.
Is it old and are there sharp broken strands? Is it looking rusted? Is the rigging too tight, just right or loose? These are things you’re going to need to know! I’ll give you an example why.
You see, if the rigging is too lose, it makes the mast weak and if you get sailing on choppy water, it makes the mast swing about too much and puts more wear on the rigging than it should. In worst case senerio you could lose the mast.
I also had my rigging literally snap on me because it was too tight. Its almost impossible to break the rigging with your bare hands so you know some incredible force must be on it to snap through all those metal strands!
I’ve also lost my mast because of old rigging that had broken strands. One year, my rigging broke near the top of the mast because of the strain of heavy gusts of winds that suddenly came up one evening. The rigging snapped like a gunshot and the mast fell in the water before I could even blink. That was a difficult time I can tell you! lol!
looking back, I could see where the strands were weak and old. I should have been paying more attention – but I simply didn’t know and learned the hard way.
I’ve also lost my mast to the cross trees being at the wrong angle. This was the worst and hardest lesson I learned as I lost the mast out in a gale at sea and had to be rescued!
Now you can get a pretty good idea if the cross trees are right. Its pretty common sense really. You can also tell if they look secure.
My cross trees came lose at sea and they slipped down at a bad angle. I had seen that happen before and that was really my warning signal. It was a bad idea to be out in bad weather like that with cross trees that could possibly slip.
Basically the strain of the mast at sea in big waves, put way to much pressure on the cross trees and the mast blew out again – like a gunshot! It shook me to the core!
I was out at sea that time and lost use of my sails. My outboard engine had been carried away recently by a large sea in a previous storm. So now I had no way of getting back. The funny thing is that I had thought my engine had been chained securely! Lol! It would have been a good idea to not just suppose that the chain running around it was holding it properly – but that I was sure!
But now I’m getting off the topic. Haha! This really is a different story!
Number Two is to check the Keel Bolts.
If you know what you’re doing, you can take a hammer and hit the bolts and can hear if they sound solid. If there is a different “hollow” sound then, its possible that this particular bolt has rusted through down below and is not holding the keel properly!
Number Three is to check the Through Hull Fittings.
This is where the toilet hose runs through and out the boat and where a hose runs water from the engine to outside the boat for cooling. I don’t know a lot about this. However, these hoses can be turned on or off with a valve. It is possible to have the valves open when they should be closed and vice versus. Also the valves can get sealed by old age and refuse to budge. So check this too.
Number Four is to check the reliability of the engine.
I’m not a mechanic and don’t have a lot of expertise in this area. But if the engine can run for half an hour without getting hot than that’s a good sign. Also for outboard engines, you should notice that a healthy stream of water is “peeing” out the back into the ocean. Having someone check the oil, the spark plugs, carburetor and putting new gasoline in the engine is a good idea. Of course many inboard engines run on diesel so ask an authority about this.
Hope this helps you find a good reliable boat!
PS: There are some other things I look for too, if your looking to go out further to sea.
Boats that are ‘Blue Water” rated are more safe in storms and in the open ocean. I’m not an expert here but things I look for are cockpits with lazarette’s that cannot leak water through to the cabin would be a good sign. Fast emptying cockpit drain holes would be another. And my final test would be how the boat performs in small craft advisory weather and storms. Of course this should be accompanied with experienced sailor/s, great care and proper security measures (Unlike some of my own crazy ventures). If you like this article. please subscribe to hear more hair raising stories!
Thanks for your comments!
Want more sea stories?