Archive for 'Safety'

The Dismasting of the Pride of Baltimore II

Posted by John Callender on November 8th, 2005 at 9:04 pm

Pride of Baltimore II before

The Pride of Baltimore II, a reproduction of an 1812-era tall ship, was dismasted on September 5 while competing in a race from England to Spain. The Captain’s log on the ship’s official site describes the event this way:

While sailing in a localized squall, the bowsprit cracked and broke at about half its length. Since there are wire rope stays from the bowsprit that secure the foremast, after five minutes in the rough seas the foremast cracked off three feet above the deck The wire rope stays that secure the foremast are also fixed to the mainmast, so it too broke off under the strain of the sea swells about 25 feet above the deck.

Thankfully, no one was injured in the dismasting. Writing on the web site she shares with photographer T.C. “Bhodi” Sheridan, Erin Doak gave the following description of what happened: Tragedy on the Pride.

On Monday at 3:45 pm, the second of two similiar squalls hit Pride II. The first had heavy rains and wind up to 45 knots that made the boat heel till the water was up to the tops of the bulwarks. We quickly struck the jib topsail, but before the sail was completely down, the squall was over. In mild conditions, we reset the sail and continued on. 10 minutes later, the second squall hit and the boat heeled again. I was standing on the starboard side of the quarter deck when I heard a loud crunch of wood and saw the bowsprit, jibboom, and all its sails go tearing off to port. I have never seen the crew rush onto deck so quickly and we all looked to the captain for orders. He called for the striking of the main and we rushed to comply, but it had just barely hit the deck before we heard the noise that sailors never wish to hear, the slow, loud crunching of a wooden mast. Looking forward and up, the foremast twisted to port and fell. Bhodi and I, along with most of the crew were still on the starboard side, and we pushed back against the rail and aft, watching as it fell along the port side of the ship. It collided with the main and the mast broke 30 feet off the deck, and came down with a crash little more than 6 feet from us.

Pride of Baltimore II after

There are lots of great photos on Bhodi and Erin’s Our Pride Adventures weblog, and information about the ongoing repairs to the ship, which is currently docked in Saint Nazaire, France.

Anyone who’s been dismasted remembers the experience vividly. I was aboard my father’s Columbia 52 Victoria when we were dismasted during the 1978 Santa Barbara Island Race. We were approaching the island on the evening of April 1, beating into a 25-knot wind just after dark, when a fitting at the base of the starboard shrouds failed. I was below at the chart table when it happened, and what I heard was not a slow crunch, but a tremendous bang, as Victoria’s aluminum mast snapped about nine feet off the deck. The bang was accompanied by a lurch that threw me onto the cabin sole, and I jumped up and ran up the companionway steps just in time to see the mast and sails settling into the water on the boat’s port side.

There’s a real sense of shock to losing a mast; a sudden, abrupt transition to a new reality. I’ve often thought that a sailor’s education is largely a matter of learning to cope with forces beyond human control, and a dismasting represents an extreme example of that. It’s the sort of lesson that no one would choose to experience willingly, but that certainly sticks with you afterward.

Dismasting-aftermath photo by T.C. “Bhodi” Sheridan, courtesy of

CNN: Seabourn Cruise Lines’ ‘Spirit’ Outruns Pirates off Somalia

Posted by John Callender on November 6th, 2005 at 8:46 am

Not really relevant to Southern California, or sailing, but this story caught my eye. From CNN: Cruise liner outruns armed pirate boats.

(CNN) — A luxury cruise line will re-evaluate whether to offer future cruises off the coast of Somalia after pirates attempted to attack one of its ships early Saturday.

The pirates were in two small boats and were carrying machine guns and a rocket-propelled grenade when they attempted the attack on Seabourn Cruise Lines’ “Spirit” about 5:35 a.m. local time Saturday, Deborah Natansohn, president of the cruise line, told CNNRadio.

The ship was carrying 150 passengers and a crew of about 160…

The cruise ship eventually outran the pirates’ boats, Natansohn said. One person suffered minor injuries, she said without elaborating.

Piracy, obviously, is one of those subjects that’s interesting, and even romantic and adventurous, when it’s comfortably far away (in either time or distance). As silly entertainment (as in the Disney movie Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, or the upcoming sequel, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), I can enjoy piracy just fine. And I’m okay with Disney sponsoring the Pirates of the Caribbean entry in the Volvo Ocean Race.

But as this story underscores, real piracy still exists, and isn’t fun and games. From the “Pirate” article at Wikipedia:

Piracy in recent times has increased in areas such as South and Southeast Asia (the South China Sea), parts of South America, and the south of the Red Sea, with pirates now favouring small boats and taking advantage of the small crew numbers on modern cargo vessels.

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