Check Around the Boat!

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I chartered a yacht based in France. I did not have a lot of experience: I’ve done my Dayskipper Practical, Yachtmaster shorebased, and I’ve crewed on quite a few coastal and cross-Channel trips, and skippered in the Mediterranean, but this was my first bareboat charter in France.

Handover was straightforward, despite having very little French – technical names for most of the inventory were difficult to work out, but the shore crew were very good.

We set motoring to the next port into driving wind and rain, so we didn’t get the sails out.

When we came to leave the next morning, it took us time to get out as we had a problem with the headsail. A sailor on another yacht pointed it out – we hadn’t noticed it. The shackle pin securing the tack to the furling drum had fallen out. My wife had found it by the toe-rail when we moored the previous evening; we didn’t know where it had come from but it looked useful so we had kept it safe. We hadn’t yet used the sail, fortunately.

I couldn’t pull the tack down enough to get the shackle pin in and it was too windy to pull out the sail so I used nylon cord to haul it as tight as it would go and put a multi-turn lashing on it.

At the end of the trip when we told the charter company, they said the owner had been using the boat and he had an alternative foresail – he obviously hadn’t re-secured the headsail shackle, and presumably no-one else had checked it.

There was no problem with the sail for the rest of the charter – we had a most enjoyable week and I learned a lot!

Lesson learned – when you charter a boat, check the obvious bits of the rigging – would more experienced sailors have done this as a matter of routine?

Should the shackle pin have been moused?

If it had been less windy I might have thought of slackening the foresail halyard, unrolling the sail and pulling it down to reunite the shackle with the furling drum, but we had a windy week.

CHIRP Comment:

We thank this yachtsman, and indeed all our correspondents, for sharing their experiences and lessons learned.

It is indeed good seamanship to check around a yacht when coming on board and before leaving the security of the harbour. As this experience has shown, the failure of a small component can lead to major difficulty. It is prudent to mouse all shackles where it is practicable to do so.

Notwithstanding these points, it is disappointing that the charter company had not already identified and corrected the deficiency before the client came on board, especially a fault that may potentially lead to difficulty at sea.