Mast break…Heart Break – Capatins Blog

Winny is sailing so gracefully, the wind light and on the beam. Paddy and Vik are on watch … suddenly, with out warning, a stern fitting gives way, the bumpkin boom springs upwards, the rigging supporting the mast breaks lose. Crack! In a flash only a 12 foot splinter of a mast  remains! The rest  is over the side. All hands are soon on deck. The decision is quickly taken to abandon the mast. The crew in exemplary manner set too. All rigging is unscrewed or cut, the mainsail and the staysail  retrieved and with one final twist of rigging screw, Winnie’s mast, bedecked with prayer flags and rigging, plunges 2000 or so fathoms towards the ocean bed. Maybe even now  it is standing erect on the sea bed, flags fluttering in deep devotion.! Has it become a  new and unexpected  spiritual way point!

The engine mercifully starts, and were off. Dry mouthed and shocked we dink tea. But this is a songline… and sing we do, lifting our spirits and enabling us to  giving thanks in the  reflection that none of us our  hurt and in terms of   our great crew and quiet weather conditions it was a pretty good place to lose a mast!  We plot a passage towards the nearest safe harbour. A Coruña, is some 100 miles to the south. We start to make that passage. Strangely, a short while later we are circled by a twin-engine plane. They contact us on the VHF and enquire after our condition. We were able to assure them that we are safe and have sufficient fuel to get us to our destination. The coast guard continued to check up on us every four hours or so. It was very comforting to know that even in the middle of a wide ocean the Spanish/French coastguards were watching out for us.

On 28 June, some 22 hours of motoring  and rolling, at approximately 3am,  we are entering La Coruña bay  and the approaching  safety of its  harbour. After tying up in the Marina Coruña we jump ashore and hug each other in relief. It was then that we notice two ladies approach. They have seen our broken mast and have empathised with our situation. They too hug us enquire after our mast and then  invited us  to join them on board a very plush Sun Seeker motor yacht. Soon, after been plied with drinks, our spirits revived, we fetched our instruments. By 4 a.m. a full musical session is in progress. We make  music with a poignant tinge. The dismasting has taken the wind out of our musical sails. To the listeners it was sweet, but to us it was sad…..!  But  What an arrival! The sun is coming up as we settle in our bunks.

That day we gradually sorted out the ship and ourselves. The shock and the realisation of the implications of what had happened and its consequential effects on our journey was beginning to dawn more deeply. Local shipwrights were contacted, and insurance people informed. We started to adjust to marina life – showers and cleaning the boat were the order of the day. By late evening we find a café to  watch the Euro 2012 clash between Italy and Germany. We sit  watching  a telly in the street

The game over, it seemed a good time to play music. We struck up an Irish jig, the response was very positive. My…. what a session developed! After a few more jigs and reels we moved on to reggae and sea shanties, Gaelic  ballads and improvised choral music. Soon the street was crowded with people watching and dancing. A group of Galician singers  happened to pass our way. Not only were they in the mood for singing, but they brought a new dimension of   enthusiasm and  musical energy to the gathering. The session grows and  maybe a 100 or so people gather around. They sang, we sang, we all sing together. The atmosphere became more and more joyful. Winny, even without mast, was now in full musical sail … and all our new Galician friends were in full musical sail with us. We played danced and sang deep into the night. By the end of the session  many new friends have been made. It was so that our first evening in La Coruña  came to an end. It was  with many joyful hugs that we baid our new friends fond farewells. The pain of our disaster had been somewhat mitigated by the  wonderful  and truly extraordinary musical session which has  brought  hearts together in joyful happiness!

We might not have arrived where we had intended but it was a pretty good place to be never the less!

So what is the learning? Our pilgrimage of song, rich and redolent in spirit, carrying the prayers and good thoughts of many friends, a voyage which had touched many people in  many places had been abruptly, rudely even, interrupted by the failure of a single inadequate eye bolt.

So what is the meaning of this catastrophe? What is the message? Is this just a bigger challenge than the many other previous challenges? Is it merely a bigger obstacle in kind, another awkward  problem to solve?  Is it the test that really gauges the depth,  purity and quality  of the  pilgrimage journey? On the other hand is it a warning sign that Winny is not fundamentally supported in this journey? Is she just  too old for such shenanigans? Is it a message that says that the energy that is wrapped up in this pilgrimage should be used in a different way? Is it a warning shot across our bow that says we have gone as far as is wise, and to further our journey is to court yet greater and more intractable problems?

The jury is still out pondering these questions.

So far the journey has been totally wonderful… full of grace, ..marvellous meetings with many  beautiful souls, many  touched hearts, wonderful school visits that link children, heart melting devotional sessions and joyful music….. one thing is for sure, prayer and enthusiasm, even if they are abundant are not,  in themselves, able to keep a mast standing!



In technical terms the link that broke, broke the mast, broke the rhythm of our journey and broke hearts was not so old. It had not drawn attention to itself. It had not been identified as something that should be analysed for stress or weakness. Yet its strength was crucial to the success of our journey, one of the million things that needed to be sound and in place for the well being of the boat. One thing is for sure: Spiritual dreams and aspirations are dependant on physical means; hence the dictum ‘Walk the spiritual path with practical feet.’  Winnie’s practical physicality, although so good in so many areas, was weak in what proved to be a small but crucial area … and hence reflect on  the disaster.

We now try and find the best way  to make a new mast. We  reflect on  the song-line pilgrimage and how it might  unfold. What  future resources, inner and outer, are going to re-shape the journey. Please God we will be guided by the best wisdom. To the best shape. For that. all prayers and inspirations are very welcome. From a  positive angle, the dismasting took place in perfect weather conditions. It has brought us to this wonderful city.  Marina Coruña is in this lovely part of Spain  and has introduced  a different dimension to our journey.. We have made new friends, found unexpected opportunities to make   music and  made contacted the Baha’i friends in the area. From that angle the flow of grace is  immense!  Who knows in which direction lies our best future? Are all directions taken in good faith of equal value?

We  seek and try and be open  to best wisdom. We await, and in waiting gain information  on  which we can make decisions. We both shape and are shaped by  events. What form will  the pilgrimage song line will take? So far all problems have been surmountable surely this one will be too. At the point of writing the only definite co-ordinates are  to walk the pilgrims path to Santiago de Compostela, embellish it with music  and then…. God knows ?… We  are surrounded by many question marks. Please God in good time we will  find those many answers. What is certain is that  at some point in the future Winny will have a very fine new mast,  beautifully  tuned rigging and stern eye bolts with steely strong strength!!!



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3 responses to “Mast break…Heart Break – Capatins Blog

  1. Ken Nagle

    Hi Gary and Paddie,
    I loved your blog. There is a writer in you waiting to get out. Sabina arrived home at lunch time today a we captured more of the spirit of the songline journey. After reading your very thoughtful blog the following quotations came to mind.
    The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches the stronger it grows. The more you put gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts.Therefore the more sorrow one sees the more perfect one becomes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribulations and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge becomes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties. For this i am very happy-that you have had many sorrows. Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows. Abdul Baha “Star of the West”

    Another quote from Baha’u’llah also comes to mind. “My calamity is my Providence. Outwardly it is fire and vengence, but inwardly it is light and mercy.
    I imagine when you had all of the delays in Bristol because of engine trouble it may have appeared a disaster but all the work on the engine became very necessary when the mast broke.
    I’m sure whatever you do next will be what honours the journey because your intentions are so good.
    lots of Love and Bon Voyage.

  2. Thanks for that Ken…. Sabina was fantastic…. took everything in her stride and even when she was feeling sick!!!! total star!!!!

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