Ship’s Log: Richardson’s Bay

November 2, 2010

We ran into Carl early on Sunday morning and confirmed that they would be heading off on their great adventure later that day. We were planning to go sailing too, and agreed to see them off. I had seen Chris and Lisa working on their Ranger 26 earlier in the morning, and we decided to invite them to come along.

The day started wonderfully. There was just a puff of air but the sky was blue, the clouds were high and the conversation was easy and light. Around the end of the Berkeley Pier both boats decided to motor until the wind returned. We got just past Treasure Island when we decided we had enough to sail on. By Alcatraz we had about 20º of heel and Convivia was lively and quick.

Boats racing in the Great Pumpkin Race were passing us all around, but we weren’t in any hurry. We tacked across the Bay and dropped sail around the Sausalito waterfront. When the sails were finally down and flaked we looked around to find that Bamboleiro was already circling the anchorage. They invited us to raft up to them and we headed slowly over while they dropped anchor.

We made what seemed like a pretty sweet approach, rafted up and got situated. I went below to make some drinks while the crew of both boats chatted happily on the decks. The kids were happily jumping back and forth between the boats and we were all really glad to have such a nice day to send our friends off on.

Finally we were all at rest, toasts were made, smiles abounded, and I think we were all feeling just about perfect. Then the fishing boat came. We don’t know which one, and we only saw its wake when it was too late to react. I called to the kids to hold on and the first set hit our bows. Convivia pitched and rolled slowly through it while Bamboleiro pitched and rolled slightly faster. Bamboleiro’s rig ducked behind ours and when the next set hit the rigs of the two boats collided… repeatedly. We couldn’t do anything but watch as spreaders and shrouds joined and parted with great guitar chord twangs. Our hearts fell into our stomachs when we saw Bamboleiro’s spreader fall and the rig go slack.

We quickly assessed the damage. Both boats suffered. Convivia had torn through the leading edge of the spreader, closest to the mast. Weld and aluminum were pulled away. Bamboleiro had torn the band that held its shrouds to the spreader,  and the spreader—which is hinged—had fallen out of the way. We quickly decided that the safest course of action was to part ways. Everyone on Convivia was quiet as we left. I was heartbroken. Not only were our boats both damaged, but our send-off had gone from a wild success to a miserable failure in moments.

Later, when the kids were asleep, I looked at the pictures. So many smiling faces, such a beautiful day. But what caught my attention was the fact that the rigs of the two boats were separated by at least 4′. We had properly spring lined and lashed the vessels and had followed every recommendation that I had read about rafting sailboats. I had hoped that at least the bittersweet experience would have taught me a valuable lesson. In retrospect I think perhaps it just taught me to be very reluctant when it comes to rafting.

Carl and Cristina got Bamboleiro put back together the next day, though I can’t imagine their disappointment over repairing a boat that they have spent 3 years building, on the very eve of their scheduled departure. We had a rigger out today to survey the damage and make a recommendation. I’m still waiting to hear, but the preliminary guess was 2 weeks before the new spreader is installed.

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