Le Saberage was perfect mechanically for our entire, 10-day, two couple cruise right up until – and this isn’t hyperbole here – 5 minutes before the end of it.
We had a long motor back from Vineyard Haven to Jamestown in absolutely flat calm winds until we came to the mouth of the Narragansett.
As the mouth of the Bay came into view, we noticed a nice enough Southerly had built that we rolled out the jib, lowered the center board, and motor-sailed up through the mouth of the Bay. Then as we rolled up the jib and started to clean up, we were approaching the mooring at Jamestown and I cranked the centerboard up only to hear a sickening ripping noise as the cable failed, followed by a disheartening thunk as the board fell all the way to fully extended.
Ughhhhhh s&*t I groaned. I knew this very likely could mean the need for an expensive haul to replace the cable alone, and that assumed that (i) the board hadn’t snapped its pivot and been lost to Davy Jones Locker and (ii) that it hadn’t damaged itself or the keel when it fell.
To be very clear here, I blame myself for this one. In the spring I had noticed some fish hooks had formed in the cable and while I considered replacing it my to-do list was just so long that I let it go. Obviously I wish I could take that decision back.
Shortly after we picked up the mooring I donned some swimming goggles and dove under the boat to see if the board was (there, and..) OK, and to verify that the broken cable wasn’t trailing under the boat looking to foul on some under water object and cause more grief. Luckily all was well so I surfaced and started making phone calls for advice (THANKS Clay – and thanks for introducing me to Patrick!).
I won’t tire our poor readers with the entire saga but we decided first to hire a diver to inspect for damage, then, once we found no damage, to try to replace the cable using a mechanic (topside) and a diver. Two mechanics trips and two dives later we realized it was not going to work, tied the board in the up position, then ordered our $1,000 haul out from The Newport Shipyard.
Below: What a 10-ton Sabre looks like in a ship yard’s 100- ton Travelift.
Below: the dockline the diver rigged to secure the board.
My dear readers, if you take anything away from this blog it’s this: when you buy a used boat with a centerboard (and I would never discourage you from doing this – we love ours even in light of this incident), replace the cable right away unless you are sure it is brand new. When the old cable is in, the procedure is cheap and easy. When the above happens, it’s not! If ever I buy another centerboard boat replacing the centerboard cable will be one of the very first things I do.
Live and learn. That’s yachting. All of those glorious sunsets and upwind jaunts come at a price, both literal and figurative.