Broken Shroud

Awoke this morning to the best wind we’ve had on this passage. So…why were we motoring? Perhaps it’s related to the downpour we’re in? I think it’s the first heavy rain we’ve seen since leaving the States. But no, the rain is just a passing squall. We’re motoring, I’m informed, because during the night we broke our starboard lower shroud (that helps to keep the mast from flexing in the middle). It parted just above the Norseman fitting that connects the wire cable to the turnbuckle (which tensions it), which attaches to the chain plate (that attaches to the hull). Without the mast supported half way up by this shroud, it’s unsafe to have the sails up.

This is scary stuff. We have no spare mast! And we’re 2,000 miles from anywhere. Going all the way under power, besides sounding like a miserable idea, is not possible — we only carry enough fuel to motor about 500 miles, and we’ve probably used a quarter of it already. So what to do? The remaining cable is in good shape, except for the last couple of inches. My first thought is we could bend it around a thimble and use cable clamps to secure the loop, and then lash it to a shackle attached to the chain plate. I find that we have no suitable cable clamps. (Note for future shopping list…)

Second option: we could rig a line in place of the wire cable. Where the cable attaches to a tang up the mast we could put a shackle on the tang, and attach the line there. But the line we have would stretch under load — probably enough that it wouldn’t support the mast adequately.

Third option: Bill thinks we could take the Norseman fitting apart, clean it up, cut off the last two inches of wire cable, reattach the Norseman fitting to the good wire, and still have enough thread on the turnbuckle to be able to connect it all back together. Tim is hesitant to trust the wire or the Norseman fitting, so we decide we could try this approach but also rig a line as a backup. Belt + suspenders.

We look through our reference books and find that Nigel Calder’s “Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual” (our bible for engine issues) describes how to properly connect Norseman fittings to wire cable. Since we’ve never done this before, this is very welcome information! Tim and I take turns going aloft to rig the suspenders line, but after reading Calder and replacing the Norseman fitting, we decide the belt alone is a satisfactory solution. Within a few hours we are sailing again.

In the meantime we have tried to send an email to Rally Control to alert them to our circumstance and to ask if a rigger can be found in the Marquesas to help us out. Our radio-based email system informs us that our service has been cut off because we have used too much connection time (presumably downloading multiple grib files). What timing! But we have a satellite tracker (that reports our position on the Cornell Sailing web site) that can also send short messages. So we get a message out, also explaining that we can’t use SailMail. Before the day is out we get a message from SailMail that we’ve been granted unlimited service until we reach the Marquesas. Is this the “Cornell influence” at work? However it came about, we are very grateful (and we’ll stop downloading as many grib files).

Naturally we inspect the rest of our shrouds, and find that the port side lower appears to have a strand or two broken. We decide not to wait for it to also fail. We’ll cut off the last inch or two, and reinstall the fitting just like we did on the other side. This process goes surprisingly smoothly, and is completed just as it is getting dark.

Our two “new” shrouds are now getting a test, as we sail through the night in what appears to be real trade winds at last.

5 thoughts on “Broken Shroud”

  1. Whoa scary stuff! I am just talking to Andrew and he suggested that anchor chain might also be another option, or a halyard – as these are less likely to stretch than other stuff.
    Glad you got it fixed and good luck with the rigger in the Marquesas

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  2. Jimmy Cornell had a broken halyard on Friday, March 20. He said he spent the morning wondering what was going to break because when things do break it invariably happens on a Friday. Hmmm. Something in the water/air with you guys?

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