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Check the Little Things Before Setting Sail

Here is an old proverb that seems so appropriate to sailing:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost
For want of a shoe the horse was lost
For want of a horse the rider was lost
For want of a rider the battle was lost
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail

Steve Colgate Under SailSo when you get aboard a sailboat in preparation of sailing and/or racing, a check of the details can be more important than you might think. Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend some time aboard the new Leopard 46 catamaran sailing yacht, recently added to our fleet for Catamaran Live Aboard Cruising courses. I was there to greet the first Offshore Sailing School Live Aboard course students on this impressive yacht. Prior to this, its only time underway was from Ft. Lauderdale where we took delivery, to our base at the Pink Shell Resort and Spa at Fort Myers Beach, Florida.

I noticed that a short (about 3”) length of 1/8th inch bungee cord was riveted to the triple cam cleat unit near the gooseneck on the boom to keep the two reef lines and the outhaul from slipping when the cams are engaged. The bungee cord holds the levers up when the cams are not in use. The cord was frayed at one end where it went over the edge of the unit.

catamaran on the waterI envisioned a scenario where the crew might have to call for the mainsail to be raised in a hurry, but the bungee cord had broken and the cam grabbed the reefing line and the leech of the sail was trapped in a lowered condition. There are so many cases of a little problem like this escalating into a major disaster.

Suppose the boat is too close to a lee shore. The engine is started and put in gear to avoid that lee shore, but nobody checks the lines and, as so often happens, one is overboard and fouls the prop. The engine stalls. The main cannot be raised to help you get out away from the shore, the wind keeps pushing you closer . . . and the inevitable happens. You go aground, hopefully without any damage to your yacht.

Check the little things. They can be as important as that horseshoe nail.

Steve Colgate
Chairman, Offshore Sailing School

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