The Dismasting of Dragonfly

This is a description of the dismasting incident by Al, the captain and owner of Dragonfly.


  • Date: May 1, 2016 (Fiji Time) Time: 3:35 am
  • Location: Approximately 400 miles south of Hawaii
  • Wind: 20-25 knots apparent AWA: 45
  • Seas: 8-10’
  • Visibility: Very good
  • Skies: Clear
  • Moon: Last Quarter (36%) rising at 1am
  • Heading/COG: 22 degrees
  • Speed: 7.8 to 8.3 knots
  • Crew on board: 5
  • Team on Watch: Emerson & Jacque. Emerson was on watch and Jacque was lying inside the salon.


The Dismasting Experience by Al

As I did throughout the trip I periodically got up to check with the crew and make sure everything was in order and to provide instructions regarding the heading, power and other relevant things. Emerson and Jacque were on their team watch. Jacque was inside and Emerson was sitting at the helm station in the chair that was tied to the aluminum rail to hold it in place.

I went below to my berth, in the forward starboard queen berth and was lay down. Within 5 minutes, I felt a violent hit as the boat was shoved to windward, like we had been slammed by a large wave forward on the port side. This seemed extremely odd since the prevailing wind and waves had been coming from the starboard side. It was an impact like I’d never felt before. Within seconds I heard a noise that obviously needed attention.

Cockpit After dismastingInitially I thought we had broken the main halyard because coming into the cockpit I could see the sail draped over the hard top on the port side and we’d seen when the halyard broke . Jacque was assisting Emerson, who dove to the floor of the helm station, out-of-the-way of the boom that had fallen onto the hardtop. The hardtop was broken, but not completely collapsed. Fortunately Emerson was OK.

I stepped onto the starboard cockpit platform to see that there was no mast. It took a fraction of a second for it to sink in, but it was real enough. I could see the mast on top of the salon with a portion of the mast was sticking up.

The Dismasting Experience by the Crew

Emerson had just gone to the helm to check the instruments and noticed the time of 3:35am. He went back to his seat and looked at the mast, which he could see because of the moon rising on the clear night. Emerson felt three significant waves increasing in intensity hit the boat. He saw the mast shift, sway and then start to fall and he dove to the floor. Emerson is 100% confident that the mast failed first below the boom and that there were no breaks in the mast above the boom before he dove out-of-the-way.

Jacque, the second person on watch, was inside the salon. She felt the first two waves and stood up and then was knocked back down onto the bench as the result of another wave. If the wave had come from starboard, she would have been knocked away from the bench not onto the bench.

Stephan and Caroline were in their cabin on the port side getting ready to come up on watch. They felt the hit of a strong wave shove the boat and then Emerson yell. Jacque remembers having to clean up the salon and galley where things had been tossed off the counters and opened cabinet doors as a result of the hit. This was a unique experience.

Evaluating the Situation

I needed to see what the situation was so started forward on the starboard side stepping over the starboard shrouds which were still intact lying across the salon top. Stephan followed behind me. As we started to cross in front of the windows I could see the head stay from the genoa with the sail attached lying across the trampoline and deck. The bow sprit was in the water with the gennaker furler still attached. The furled gennaker was lying across the front bow just behind the first stanchion.

As we got to the mast step, I could see that the mast step was still intact. The mast lying on the salon top was cracked on the port side just below the boom. It had kicked out the starboard side of the mast surround partially lifting the window. The broken portion of the mast was still attached and lying at a 30 degree angle to the rest of mast with a crack on the port side.

The second break was on the starboard side of the mast just above the lower spreader. It was at the point that was just beyond the port side of the boat and angled down into the water.

We moved to the side of the boat and could see a third break was just below the upper spreader and just above the water. The top 45- 50′ was now sticking in the port hull. The jagged edge digging away at the fiberglass with every sway of the boat.

Image of Mast on the salon top with three breaks.

It was obvious that we needed to let the rig go before a hole was dug in the side of the boat.

Cutting the Rig Loose.

We went to the cockpit and I crawled under the sail on the port side to check on things and saw that the port shrouds were intact as well. But the antenna wire was broken from the mast.

Stephan and I gathered the grinder and cutting wheel and started the process of letting it go. We cut the starboard shrouds first then the port shrouds. We then went forward and pounded the pin out of the genoa head stay with the five-pound hammer and it slid into the water.

The gennaker still had the sail furled on it, so we hacksawed through the sail then the aluminum tubing and it slid off into the water.

We then got two box knives started cutting lines. We started with the furling lines and sheets of the genoa and gennaker. The main was next. We cut the reefing lines and halyard forward that were taut at the organizer on the mast. Then went to the back were we cut the main sheet. The boom came off the hard top and everything was off.

We then had to pull the bow sprit up out of the water and secure it.

Take a breath and communicate.

We waited until light so we could make sure that nothing was fouled under the boat. We started the engines and started heading to our destination. The dismasting made us a power boat.

Once this was done, we strapped the antenna wire to the long-boat hook that we strapped to the aluminum dodger frame and was able to tune up and send an email to my wife Jill.I remember going back and look at our track on iNavX as it shows us merrily cruising along at 7.8 to 8.3 knots on a course of 22 deg and within 40 seconds be doing .75 knots on a course of 290 degs.



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