update from the bridge of gaiasdream

Update from the bridge of GaiasDream

With a series of lows rolling across the base of Australia, I decided to leave for the first leg of the Pacific voyage on the back of a large low-pressure system last Wednesday. Sailing out of Pittwater past the heads I was greeted by an angry sea and a 3-4 m swell. Coastal advisories were in place for dangerous swells and I soon found myself broad reaching into a messy swell. GaiasDream was handling it well and I was particularly pleased that the recently added davit for carrying the dingy along-aside was working well with only occasional wash coming onto the dingy.

A few miles offshore, and having suffered a number of jarring impacts from beam-on waves, I looked down an saw some ball-bearings on the deck. My first thought was that these ball-bearings must have come from my sons sling shot, but then shortly after I saw some more ball-bearings and realized they were coming from the base of the mast, which I had packed with ball-bearings to enable the mast to shunt along the track. I thought I had engineered the track and ball-bearing system to withstand three times the expected maximum force so seeing ball-bearings on the deck sounded alarm bells for me. A quick investigation revealed a broken bearing casing and I could confirm that the ball bearings were coming out of the bottom of my mast.

At this point there was no way to tell whether the broken ball bearings were due to a weakness in the material or due to un-anticipated stress. However I was immediately aware that if enough ball bearings failed, then I would not be able to move the mast, and that would leave me literally stuck. reluctantly I realized I needed to turn back and immediately set preparing to shunt and return back to Pittwater. Luckily the shunt went smoothly and I  made it back inside the heads and made it back to the mooring.

The positive news was that despite heavy seas that would have severely puts the brakes on a mono-hull, Gaiasdream performed well easily reaching speeds of  11 knots in winds of  14 knots hard on the wind. She is a fast stable craft, even in heavy seas and is easy to handle, even singlehanded. the new challenge is redoing the calculations for the ball-bearing system and replacing and modifying the  ball-bearing system to ensure they do not fail under load. This will require lifting the mast and with our  22 meter mast that is no small challenge. This will happen this coming week.  At the same time we will do some other minor modifications. After this small refit we will do some sea trails to make sure things are fixed and up to it. We will keep you updated for the new departure time for pacific project.

mast car

mast car


broken bearing

broken bearing

1 comment

  1. John Date

    Good luck on the mast step rebuild. I really like this arrangement, so I’m hoping your continued use of the sliding mast system is successful.

    Let us know what you learned from the existing design,, and how your redesign improves the system going forward.



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