Dismasted July 19th 1997, at 3:30 AM while on passage from Charleston South Carolina to the Chesapeake Bay. We were in the Gulf Stream about 150 miles out on our way around Cape Hatteras, in good weather and sailing at 9.5 knots in a 20 knot wind. The seas were about 6 feet but not uncomfortable while sailing steadily on a beam reach. Over the 30 years since they were constructed, the wooden masts had deteriorated due to rot and weakening of the glue joints and we were trying to get one more season out of them.
About two feet of the base of the main mast collapsed first. This loosened all the rigging which supports the mast and allowed it to break up with the stresses of motion, the wind pushing it over our port side. It happened fairly slowly and I had time to secure the boom with a line to hold as much on deck as possible. It proved to be too difficult and dangerous to try to get the sails down and I was reluctant to reduce stresses by turning into the wind since it could then collapse onto the pilot house and main salon. After the main mast collapsed, the triatic stay put excess load on the mizzen mast and it came down a few minutes later. A careful attempt to use the engines proved fruitless as the rigging in the water rapidly got caught in the propellers. We managed to contact the US Coast Guard with the help of a large freighter in the vicinity who relayed messages from our hand held radio since the antennas for our main radios were now underwater.
We waited a very miserable 14 hours, beam to the seas which were now 8 to 10 feet for the Coast Guard to arrive - even Cashmere (the cat) was sea-sick. It was then a 16 hour tow to Georgetown where we finally anchored and caught up on our sleep. The Coast Guard agreed to tow us with the rigging hanging over the side due to the difficulty in cutting it loose in the heavy seas, and to allow us to recover the valuable hardware. There was no concern of damage to the steel hull but our beautiful new paint job was rubbed off in many places.
During the next 10 days we cleaned up the mess, recovered as much hardware as possible and turned Yandina into a power boat. There was surprisingly little damage apart form the loss of the masts and sails, and fortunately no physical personal injuries. With twin engines and no sails to slow her down, she makes an excellent power boat and now we can travel via the inland waterways where the bridges and power lines used to be too low for our masts. New masts and sails will have to wait on a significant improvement in our financial flexibility.
So we eventually had our trip to the Chesapeake Bay for about three months, the highlights being a visit with relatives at the inner harbor of Baltimore and two weeks in Washington visiting the museums and galleries.