Thursday, 15 April 2010


...and it all started so well...

Spent my first night on "Papillon" on Saturday evening - wished I hadn't as it was absolutely freezing!!

Got up first thing Sunday morning and for the first time this year raised the mainsail - everything going to plan, and as you can see from the following - after a couple of large loops at the top of the harbour (the wind was too strong at the time) once the wind had calmed, and in brilliant sunshine, I headed down to the bottom of the harbour on port tack (wind north easterly)... brilliant sail...

I got all the way to the new Eastoke buoy and about 50 yards short of it, just as I was turning to come back, the starboard side stays parted and the mast went over the side.................................

To say I was shocked, gutted, and slightly distressed is an understatement...

When the mast went over she took the VHF aerial with her - so I had no means of contacting the coastguard or RNLI other than my mobile phone (which would have worked OK as I was close enough to shore) - first lesson - have an alternative means of using a radio - either a separate emergency aerial, or a hand held

Undeterred I stirred myself into action - I wasn't going to die - boat was fine, I was well clear of the beach/obstacles, and I had an engine...

The mast was hanging over the side of the boat upside down - still partially connected with the remaining stays and various sheets.. I managed to get the boom off the mast with the mainsail and stowed that out of the way.

While I was doing this and wondering what to do next a couple of boats went past and offered assistance - I agreed to one of them calling up the harbour master to let him know what was going on...

Before I know it a large (bloody huge) inflatable turned up from "Hayling Rescue" the local volunteer rescue group... between the two of us we freed up the mainmast, and when another inflatable turn up I started to get the engine going, and it wouldn't start.... bugger.....

They took me in tow and moved me into the harbour - the other rescue boat then joined me with my mast...

By this time I had got the engine going - second lesson - hard not to, but don't panic - I'd not opened the fuel tap so no wonder it wouldn't start, the moment I did it started first time!

I took my mast on board, strapped her down, thanked the resuce guys from the bottom of my heart , opened the throttle and went for home...

I got there with about 20 minutes to spare - tidied up as much as I could, secured the mast to the top of the boat, and went home for a much needed beer, shower, and sit in a dark space (in no particular order!)

Oh, and then I went to Tesco's for the weekly shop.....!

Not a good day.... the rigging didn’t snap – it looked to like the bottle screws had worked loose (I'd been on the same tack all the way down the harbour, and they were on the leeward "loose" side).. either way both of them went at the same time..

My roller furling is bent at 90’ – I strongly suspect that will have to be replaced…

The rescue guys who helped me out had to cut the fore-stay to recover the mast so I’ll need a new fore-stay..

When she went sideways she ripped the mast foot out of the bottom of the mast – deck plate seemed to be OK – no idea if the mast foot is repairable – hoping they can take a couple of inches off the bottom and re-insert, or just re-insert, the foot and re-rivet…

Touch wood everything else (sails, other stays, boom) seemed to be OK…

I've now made arrangements for Papillon to come back out of the water (tomorrow in fact), I've submitted an insurance claim - I now need to get some pictures of the problems, and some quotes to get her fixed.


  1. Heartbreaking story - but impressed you kept your wits about you when the mast came down. I always keep a pair of extra antenna on board and a written set of emergency procedures in a laminated card. I had a similar experience with an engine and the fuel line after getting rammed and holed during a race in the Chesapeake. Sometimes the human mind cries out for a familiar list as it gets restarted after a big scare.

    I truly hope the damage is only superficial but it's almost always worth the cost to get a boar survey done by the insurance adjuster

    Good luck

  2. We can all be thankful that this didn't happen at a worse time or in a worse situation.

    Keep in mind the fact that nobody died and everything else becomes fodder for later stories.

    Glad that you're safe.

    -- Jeff

  3. Sounds traumatic and expensive. Good luck with getting is all fixed.

  4. Cheers guys - Jeff, you're absolutely right - I woke up in a cold sweat the next day as one of the little'uns had been planning to come with me.. like you say - all grist for the novel should I ever get round to writing one!

  5. Blinking shame but as the other comments suggest, at least nobody got hurt. I shall be buying an emergency antenna this weekend and looking out for handheld VHF for the grab bag.
    Does anyone have suggestions for some kind of quick clamp to attach an antenna to a stancion or pushpit rail, I guess antennas need some kind of earth?
    I keep bolt croppers just inside the companion way just in case I need to cut anything away in a hurry.
    Hope the repairs go well. If you need any help getting her out, give us a shout.

  6. My mast fell into the water 2 years ago, not as exciting, I was berthed! The bottom of the mast was damaged, a small piece had broken off. However, Spencer Rigging trimmed the bottom of the mast, banged in some rivets and declared that so long as I didn't try to cross the Channel then I would be OK. Forget how much it cost but do remember not being unhappy with the price.

    Arran (Fantasie19 "Pamela")

  7. makes my repairing a crack in the fibreglass hull of our jolly little 14ft riverboat/rowing boat very trivial!Hope Papillon is 'under sail' again soon.

  8. hmmmmmm not quite like Pirates of the Carribean or Trafalgar, at least yah didnt get boarded by pirates or sunk - could be a message from God - if wes meant to be in the ocean he would have given us gills and flippers - LOL
    Seriously though glad it happened close to shore so you got drilled on 'emergency' procedures - and got home safe.