Friday, August 20, 2010


It was a beautiful day for sailing.

I launched and headed out on a long starboard tack beat to the middle of the bay. As I reached more open water, the wind freshened. I tightened the outhaul and downhaul. I tightened the vang a tad more.

I was tanking along, hiking hard, just me and the waves, all by myself on My Bay.


Oh shit. Something broke. The boom shot up in the air. The boat stopped.

I had spent a few hours last week putting some through bolts in the gooseneck which was starting to work loose. So it wasn't that. My first thought was that the vang fitting on the boom had pulled off because I had noticed some corrosion around the rivets there recently. But no, it wasn't that. The shiny stainless steel fitting was still there on the boom as it waved madly around at a rakish angle.

I looked at the top of the vang lying useless on the deck now. The frigging vang key had sheared! (The key is the tiny curved piece of metal used to attach the vang to the boom.) That had never happened to me before, in 30 years of Lasering.

I tightened the outhaul some more (to help prevent the boom coming off the gooseneck) and turned back downwind to limp back to the launch ramp. I pulled the boat up on my dolly and went off to the car to retrieve my toolbox.

I have an amazing collection of spare Laser parts in the bottom of my toolbox. Almost every small fitting that can possibly break. It's been accumulated over 30 years mainly through the habit of buying two of anything when it breaks; one for the boat and one for the toolbox. Surely I would have a spare vang key in there?

I rummaged. I searched. I spread out my collection of spare parts on the hood of my car. I couldn't find a key.

I'm sure my smart readers will have worked out by now why my search was fruitless. If I only buy spares when I first experience a breakage of that part, and I have never had a vang key break in 30 years... yeah, yeah, yeah... of course I didn't have a spare vang key.

I derigged the boat. I changed back into dry clothes. I put the boat on the trailer. I drove home. Two hours of driving to sail and rigging and getting dressed for sailing and derigging and getting changed again and driving home... all for about 10 minutes of decent sailing. I was not a happy camper.

Before washing the boat I got out the blender and the tequila bottle and made some margaritas for Tillerwoman and me. I drank some margaritas. I mellowed a little. I pondered that maybe I am the Luckiest Man Alive (again.) At least the bloody key didn't break while I was racing somewhere.

Life is good.


Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

You see? There you go! Vangs are good deals. But life is better!

O Docker said...

I'm surprised that you were surprised.

Do you not know Mr. Murphy?

Imagine all the spare parts that accumulate on a 25-year-old boat that is big enough to poop on. My spare parts box is overflowing with parts that I will never need becase the only things that ever break are the ones that you do not have spares for.

The things that you do have spare parts for know very well that you have spares, and they will only break if you don't have the tool to install them.

Baydog said...

Funny how something that looks bent from years of use is actually supposed to look like that. And anyone who's ever had a laser knows exactly and immediately what that thing is.

Any boat is big enough to poop on if you stand directly over it. And O Docker, do you find that when you have guests out for an afternoon, almost invariably someone needs to poop?

Tillerman said...

I am old enough to remember the good days when men were men and Laser vang keys were straight. I also remember when some nervous nellies used to have a spare vang key hanging from their vangs, all to be prepared for that 30-year-event when a vang key broke. I used to laugh at them.

O Docker said...

Baydog, out of respect for Mr. Tillerman and his readers, I shall dicuss neither pooping proper nor proper pooping protocol, procedures, or prescribed pooping preventative practices on Proper Course.

PeconicPuffin said...

I hate when that happens. Truly and deeply. How can I not have a friggin backup?

Baydog said...

Oh Poppycock!

"I'm going to bed now". And due to the current economic climate, I am forced to collect royalties from those of you who insist on using this catchy phrase, or variations on said phrase, when signing off on their posts. I never wanted it to be this way, but the winter yard fee is coming due September first.

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

(let's see you collect royalities on that!)

Pandabonium said...

I feel your pop. Bang. whatever.

As a much more clueless sailor than you, I surely would have had much worse happen without a backup by now. Except for the lucky fact that when I first ordered a part from a Lido aftermarket supplier, he suggested spares to me and I just told him to send whatever he thought I'd find useful. And I am so glad he did, as it might have otherwise left me high and dry at the end of a 5000 mile supply chain.

I check everything quite closely every time we sail (a habit I acquired as a pilot), but I still get surprised - and we're only on our second season of sailing!

Margaritas - now that's something I need to add to the list.

Baydog said...

Happiness is not all, the human also has the responsibility!

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Would a Force-5 vang blow up like that?

Anthony said...

Wow it all makes sense now. I bought my current Laser at the beginning of the season from a very successful Laser sailor in these parts. When I rigged the boat for the first time I noticed he had two vang keys hanging from the vang. I never paid much attention to it until reading this post. I'll leave the extra one on now. Man that would ruin a day of racing.

Baydog said...

It's always a good idea to leave a spare vang key with a neighbor. Or you could buy one of those hollow fake rocks to put it in.

Tillerman said...

Doc - who cares?

Anthony - you see? Very successful Laser sailors in these parts read my blog.

Baydog - I have a hollow fake rock that is camouflaged as a Force 5.

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