26 July 2003
Q: What's the
favorite kind of steak on
Heidi and I had just gotten
out to the boat on a hot Saturday afternoon, planning to eat lunch and, if
the wind cooperated, go for a sail. Shortly after getting aboard, we
noticed our friends on Dasein sailing through the anchorage under
main alone. They sailed behind the stern and, as we were talking,
Nathan sailed by a bit and then headed up between us and the next moored
boat, intending to do a quick tack and sail back down for a chat.
After his tack, I could see
Nathan was having trouble getting the boat to respond to the helm, as is
common in Tritons under main alone. Jokingly, I called across the
water to him, "Hey now, don't hit me!"
however, to the horror of everyone on both boats, we could see that Dasein
was heading straight for Glissando's bow, and was still not
responding to the helm. A 20 knot westerly puff, however, was
filling his mainsail to perfection, which, in addition to pushing the boat
at 4 knots, was also preventing the bow from getting around. My
first instinct was to run forward in an attempt to fend off.
Immediately, though, I realized the stupidity of this action--Dasein
was coming on fast and inexorably--and I returned to the safety of the
cockpit, not knowing exactly how far her bow might penetrate.
It all happened so fast, I
don't even remember what it sounded like. Whatever it was, it
was a sound I'd like to not hear again. Dasein's bow hit Glissando
about a foot forward of the forwardmost stanchion on the starboard side,
in classic T-bone style. Heidi was safe in the cockpit, while
Heather--pregnant and due in two weeks--was on Dasein's bow, which
was good because immediately after the initial collision, Dasein's CQR,
which had been stored on a roller, came free and became stuck on Glissando's
deck. Heather managed to get the anchor free, while I yelled
to Nathan to get the #$*&#@%~!# mainsail down fast, to help the two
boats release from one another. (He
did.) Meanwhile, Dasein, now without the mainsail pushing
her, came free and, with the boom hanging over Glissando, started
to drift backwards. I grabbed the boom to make sure it wouldn't snag
anything else on board, and the boats floated apart. Nathan started
his engine, secured his sail, and hightailed it back to his mooring on the
other side of the anchorage, visibly upset. My legs were shaking
from the adreneline rush, but I was amazed that my boat was still
Meanwhile I assessed the
damage to Glissando. While the collision was serious, the
damage was surprisingly light. I had noticed, as Dasein
pulled free, that there seemed to be little or no damage to her stem.
In fact, I was amazed by how insignificant the damage was, considering how
hard we had seemed to have been hit.
The point of impact; the bow is to the
left in the photo, and the first stanchion is about a foot to the right.
From the outside, it definitely looked
worse, though the actual damage was pretty minor, considering.
The mahogany toerail,
with its backing of the original solid fiberglass molded toerail plus the
addition of a substantial amount of structural epoxy filler, had absorbed
the energy of the collision extremely well. While the mahogany was
shattered at the point of impact, and epoxy splintered out in all
directions, the damage seemed to end there. There were no signs of
the impact beyond the inside the toerail, on the deck, or on the
hull. The spoon bow on Dasein had ridden up, further
absorbing the energy, and the point of impact on Glissando was far
enough forward that, with the hull flare, the hull remained unscathed.
Minor damage to the lower lifeline
Another view of the crunched toerail, showing the original fiberglass
beneath and some of the epoxy backfill (red-brown color).
The bow had also hit the lifelines, stretching them out of shape a bit and
tearing the vinyl covering on the lower (which took the brunt of the
hit). The first stanchion was slightly bent (though barely
noticeable), and the bow pulpit loosened in its bases. Once I pulled
off the various loose and splintered pieces, though, the area looked much
better, and overall repair will be relatively minor. Proper repairs
will probably be best left till the off season.
For the short term, however, I decided to cover the damaged area partly to
hide it, but mostly to prevent water intrusion as much as possible.
Inspection of the crunched area showed that there might be a small area
where the fiberglass tabbing inside the original toerail was compromised,
so I filled most of the void areas with caulk and covered the whole area
carefully with duct tape. Later, I'll remove this stuff and perform
a more lasting temporary repair that will get us through the remainder of
the season; full repair will likely occur this winter, once the boat is
hauled. Both lifelines will require replacement, as the upper is
stretched enough that I can no longer take up enough tension with the
I understand exactly why
Nathan headed for the safety of his mooring, as badly shaken as he was; I
would have done the same. Just get the boats apart and safe--gut
reaction. Very shortly, however, we noticed Heather and Nathan
coming over by dinghy, plowing through the chop at top speed. As they approached, Heidi and I thought it
would be funny to play a little joke, so when they were close enough, we looked up in apparent panic and grabbed a couple cushions to
hold over the side where the dinghy was headed. Heather laughed, but
Nathan looked about one step away from Hari-Kari. (Fortunately, we
didn't have any long, sharp knives aboard.) "I can't believe
what happened. I feel like throwing
up", said Nathan. However, I think he was relieved to see that
I wasn't angry, or hateful. In fact, Heidi and I had been joking
about the incident since right after Dasein pulled away--what happened was
the result of an unfortunate circumstance, not the result of ignorance,
inattention, or lack of caring. It happens sometimes, and
could happen to anyone. While I'm certainly unhappy that the boat
was damaged, there's little sense in being angry or upset. If you
can't joke about these sorts of things, then what's the point? After
we inspected the damaged toerail together, we insisted Heather and Nathan
come aboard for a spell, to relax.
Over a couple beers that
Heidi had pulled from the icebox, we learned that Nathan had apparently
worried that I'd be unforgiving or angry personally. The
damage is repairable, no one was hurt, and I completely understand the
circumstances that led to it. I'm not one to get angry at these
sorts of things, unless I was the one who did it--then I get
very angry with myself.
Look for a full report on
the damage and repairs in a few months, when the boat is hauled. And
in the meantime, if you're wondering what the turning radius of a Triton
is, remember: it's 5' more than Nathan thinks! (ha ha)
All's well that ends
read about the repairs to the toerail, please click here.