Toerail Damage

26 July 2003

Q:  What's the favorite kind of steak on Dasein?
A:  T-Bone!

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!"

Almost immediately, 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 floating.

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.

toeraildamage1-o.jpg (23650 bytes)
The point of impact; the bow is to the left in the photo, and the first stanchion is about a foot to the right.

toeraildamage2-o.jpg (27892 bytes)
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.

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Minor damage to the lower lifeline
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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.

toerailtemp1-o.jpg (20348 bytes) toerailtemp2-o.jpg (31956 bytes)

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 turnbuckle forward.

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 well.  

To read about the repairs to the toerail, please click here.

Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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