Lat: 12 42.495′ S
Lon: 62 31.360′ E

About 6:30 am yesterday, I was resting sleepily on the settee between 15-minute checks when I heard the sound of metal breaking under load. It sounded like it had come from the mast, so I hurried outside and looked over the mast and rig, but didn’t see anything. The sound was unmistakable, though, and I kept looking for the source every 15 minutes when I went out to check. About 8:30, I happened to glance at the port chainplate and saw it: the port (windward) cap shroud toggle had broken on one side and was opening up. The other side of the toggle had held, but couldn’t do so for long. We have a three-point rig, which means that the mast is held upright by three 1/2″ stainless steel wires stretching from the masthead to the deck. The forestay runs from the masthead to the foredeck, and one cap shroud runs from the masthead to the aft starboard side of the boat, while another cap shroud runs to the aft port side. Being only a 3-point rig, if any of them fails the mast will come down, and there was only a small bit of stainless left holding our port cap shroud up.

DSC_0658 Hardware holding the port cap shroud to the boat (photo taken the day before the failure)

DSC_0680The broken toggle

I woke Lauren up, and we furled the jib to reduce the strain on the rig, started the engine, and then ran the main halyard and topping lift to the aft port portion of the boat and winched them tight to help take the load off the damaged shroud. Much to my chagrin, I don’t have any spare cap shroud fittings, so I began looking through spares and parts to see what could be used to effect an emergency repair. To make a long story short, everything I could think of seemed to be one piece short, and it took until sunset to come up with something that seems to be holding for now. We first removed the broken piece while the rig was being held by the halyard and topping lift and then used shackles, line and a winch to tighten it back up a bit. There were several failed attempts at a repair, and each time I had to disconnect the shroud and leave it tied by a line, not taking any load. When the boat was rolled by a wave, the loose shroud would swing and jerk against the line, and the mast would shudder and dance ominously. The last attempt involved cutting off the broken toggle piece and lashing the threaded stud to a new toggle of sorts made from two old forestay tangs and a couple of clevis pins. The lashing was done with 5mm Sta-set using leather from an old laptop bag for chafe protection. This setup let us tension the shroud enough that things “feel” normal, although the halyard and topping lift are still holding a good part of the load.

DSC_0686 Wrestling the loose cap shroud into a temporary lashing while the mast is held by the main halyard and topping lift

DSC_0698 The makeshift lashing

I’m writing this portion of the blog at about 4am, and hourly checks on the lashing haven’t shown any signs of chafe or wear yet. Unfortunately, we’re 770 miles from the cape, a bit less than that to Antisiranana (Diego Suarez), 150 more to Nosy Be, and 250 more to Mayotte. Mayotte is French and we could reliably have a new part sent there. The nearer locations are in Madagascar, and are not known for reliable delivery of packages. Our cruising guide, which was written about 15 years ago, recommends not having parts sent to Madagascar. We may have enough fuel to motor to Antisiranana, but to get to Nosy Be or Mayotte, we’d have to drift or sail as well.

I haven’t gotten up the nerve to sail yet on our jury-rigged rig, but we may have to at some point. It would be nice. It would also be nice to go up the stick to attach a strong new line in a location that won’t chafe, but so far the consensus is that it’s not worth the risk.

Needless to say, it was really nice to hear another voice on the SSB tonight when we tuned in. Bob and I talked things over a bit. I’m always thinking about what can go wrong, so it was nice to hear some confidence from him that the halyards could hold things. Today I’ll try to talk to the rigger that helped us re-rig the boat in Ft. Pierce and get some more advice. Lauren and I have already started talking over daily adjustments to prevent chafe, etc. and will be trying to make the makeshift rig as reliable as possible. It’s also nice that our last weather report showed lighter winds for the next week or so. Just yesterday we were enjoying watching the big seas, but now every wave that jostles the boat makes me wish for calm seas and 10 knots of wind instead of the 20+ we often have.

We definitely have our hands full, but we’re doing well, have the communication we need, have managed to keep the stick up for now, and are developing a plan.