12 May 2007 | Mouth of the Mississippi
We've had a very good trip so far. Just a few things broke. And, no major anchoring or navigation errors.
Our previous day and night anchoring behind the Chandeleur Islands provided minimal protection during Monday's 25 knot blow. Most of the Chandeleur Islands are awash and simply knocked down the big waves, but left enough of the confused seas to rock and roll us all day and all night.
Louisiana has very few hiding holes for anchoring on the Gulf side. So, transiting across Louisiana means at least 1 over night sail, through one of the busiest commercial ports, littered with oil rigs, dozens of crew boats criss crossing the area, and if that weren't enough commercial fishermen seem to like to fish around the oil rigs.
To make a long story short, I hit a poorly lit oil rig on Tuesday night (Wednesday early morning). It snapped the mast above the spreaders and pulled the bow sprit up and over, while sheering the dolphin knocker bolts which are below the waterline when Hello Texas is in forward motion.
Unlike the other rigs which were lit up like christmas trees, this huge rig had 1 little dim flasher on each corner. My night vision being what it is and it being past midnight, I interpreted them as being far away and not connected to one object but several smaller objects, so I motor sailed on. Holy Shit!!!
The picture on the left shows how the mast snapped cleanly and the top part of the mast is still hanging by the cables and halyards that run to the top. The picture on the right shows how the bow sprit was bent up and to the starboard.
The mast continues to stand with only the baby stays holding it. The genoa furler has been destroyed. The staysail stay snapped its bolts at the deck. We lost our VHF antenna, and wouldn't you know it, our backup handheld VHF picked this moment to have battery troubles. The back stays and genoa continue to hang on to the dangling top 8 ft of my mast.
Nobody was injured. The oil platform is no worse for the wear.
Within 2 minutes of hitting the rig and backing away from it, there were two boats within 300 yards of us. Neither understood our prediciment and our VHF was out. The fishing boat had nets deployed and could not assist even if he were willing. However, a crew boat did understand our flashlight signals and came over to investigate. They were very helpful and patient. They contacted the Coast Guard on our behalf just to let them know that Hello Texas was partially disabled and damaged. However, no assistance was required. We needed to know where the nearest boat yard was, since we could not leave the mast head dangling. If/when it fell it could do some more damage. The nearest ship yard was up the mouth of the Mississippi river.