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(previously published in the 1999 Multihull Yearbook)

Chris Nutt purchased a set of mouldings from which he built his Iroquois catamaran which he recently completed with the Carbospars aero rig. The maiden cruise with his family on board was eventful:

Normally when we are sailing across the North Channel I have George with me but on this occasion there was Lyn and the family. We loaded up the boat and sailed to Portrush about two hours away. There Lyn and I went for a wedding anniversary dinner in the Ramore Restaurant. This is a world class eating establishment and we had a corner window seat overlooking our pride and joy which was tied up in the harbour. The children stowed away most of the goods except for a case of red which was left beside the table. After dinner I (ever the romantic) allowed Lyn to tidy up while I discussed the weather with some sailing friends. The forecast was to get heavier the next day but conventional wisdom tells that wind is always later and lighter than forecast, isn’t it? We went to bed planning an early start to catch the tide. There are two tidal gates, one at Rathlin and one at the Mull of Kintyre, but you can get through on one tide. The plan was to sail to Rathlin and decide there how things looked.

I woke to a beautiful July dawn and while everyone slept, we slipped out around 0500. I soon had all sail up, engine off and speeding along. I hadn’t got around to fitting the log (a trailing one) but the decca showed we were having the best sail for many a long day. Soon Lyn appeared with coffee and bacon butties. The wind was rising but the sun was out. As we approached Rathlin we saw another boat come out to head round the Mull. Not being used to the boat and sailing with a young family I tucked a reef in the main and a roll in the headsail. The boat was finely balanced but the helm started to get heavy. I realised that the downhaul we had fitted to the rudders was too stretchy and they were kicking up, therefore putting huge loads on the helm. The wind started to rise and head us so I started to engine to motorsail.

The weather started to close in and soon was very cold. The foul weather gear was below. I was very tired as the helm was really too heavy to handle. I was still enjoying myself and the masochist in me told me to hold on until we got to Campbletown. Lyn had gone back to bed and the children usually spend sixty mile passages in sleeping bags playing Monopoly. Suddenly I saw a large line of squall coming sideways at the boat. I let go of the main so this fancy rig would do its stuff and weathercock. It did. At this there was a bang and the rig started to sway in the tube. I knew immediately what had happened and ran below to get the bearing back into place. This was soon achieved and Lyn was brought out to sit like the little Dutch boy and hold it up. Carbospars were right, you do need the retainer blocks.

All should now have been fine and all Lyn would have to do was sit on the box of red wine and hold the bearing. Unfortunately when things go wrong, they really go wrong. When I was sorting things the rig was swinging about, the mainsheet decided to wrap itself around one tiller and jump overboard round the prop. No engine, a mast I was worried about and also the mainsheet had lifted a rudder stock of its pintails and sank it. I was also going to put in the splitpins on the cruise!

I knew instantly we needed help and I sent out a Mayday. If we had been in the middle of a large ocean we could have sorted ourselves out but on a lee shore, with a family, in worsening weather, I am sure I did the right thing. To praise the work of Campbletown Lifeboat would not be enough. They were soon in contact with us to tell us we were showing up well on the radar and where we said we would be. I think the carbonfibre corners on the boom act as a reflector. About an hour later they appeared over the horizon and came up to us. It was decided to put two men on us and I had to explain there was no trampoline net up front. They jumped unto the coach roof and immediately took over.

They soon rigged a bridle and I was sent below to get warm. I had immediately taken sick as they arrived but once stripped and in my sleeping bag I was OK. The first tow had to be dropped as the boat was surfing in the seas and they dropped us and fitted a drogue. The effect of this was unbelievable. We had been going so fast that we pulled the towing eye out of our dinghy. The lifeboat kindly picked it up when they had dropped us to brick back the drogue. From a wild sleigh ride to a very fast power boat was instant. The crew wanted to take me off to treat me for hypothermia but I wanted to stay and anyway I was getting better. By the time we got to Campbletown the coastguard were there to take us to a hotel they had arranged for us. The inside of the boat was a bit of a mess. To experience the professionalism of coastguard and lifeboat crew was a wonderful privilege and we are eternally grateful.

One of my worries was that this would put the family off sailing but the next day we came down and sorted things out. I ‘phoned Patrick Boyd to see what he thought about sailing with one rudder and he said he thought it would be all right and he was correct. I discussed what had happened with Damon Roberts of Carbospars and he agreed to fly someone up to look at the rig. While we tidied the boat I gave the children some money and sent them to a fun fair to give us peace. Within fifteen minutes they were back having won a goldfish! We named it “Campbell” and put it in the heads sink. It stayed there for the rest of the cruise and we fed it on Weetabix. It lived for a long time when we brought it home and suffered none from its journey.

We sailed the boat to Largs and met up with friends. The man from Carbospars soon confirmed all was OK and we checked all over. It ended up a great holiday and was followed up a few weeks later by a trip up the West Coast through the Crinan and back. By then we had two rudders again.

The lessons learnt are:
1. The boat was not finished and we should have tried it out more.

2. Always go to sea properly dressed.

3. Fix things as they happen and do not ignore problems. Had I hoved to and tightened down the rudders and put on more wet gear I would not have been so tired and perhaps the problems would have been easier to deal with.

4. An Iroquois and aero rig are a fabulous combination that make a really safe fast comfortable boat. My faith in the boat rose very much with this scare and other exciting months still prove the boat will still be going long for a very long time.

Heavy weather sailing
March 2009

"I have been capsized, foundered, run-down and placed in more survival conditions than I can remember"


A Voyaging Canoe for Tikopia
March 2009
A project to build a sailing double canoe for Tikopia.

Tikopia is a tiny remote Polynesian island in the Western Pacific, which has maintained self-sufficiency for 3000 years.

Using a Parachute Anchor
March 2009

Peter Clutterbuck, MOCRA Safety Officer, examines the benefits of carrying one on board, and compares with the conventional anchor.

Budget charters in Thailand
March 2009

We sailed "Veni Vidi Vici", one of Siam Sailing's Tiki 30's for two weeks in January

Read on...

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