You may remember the article of last month when I wrote in more detail about a commissioning and handover of a brand new Oceanis 46.1 Performance version in Portoroz, Slovenia. Some of you dearest readers contacted me and asked me about a tiny-whiny details they thought they have seen on the pictures. Congratulations to your fine eyes, Gentlemen! You are absolutely right: This handover wasn´t that eventless as described in this article and this is what I want to disclose today. But first things first, why Slovenia?
Well, when we sell a boat to the Adriatic, no matter where it will have its berth later – be it Croatia, Greece or Italy, we love to commission and ready the boats in Slovenia. Why? Because many, many aspects, like short road transport routes, cost of course and the short travel distance from Germany make it an obvious choice. But its more than that: We feel welcome and “seen” in Slovenia and we – especially I myself – love this special Slovenian mentality, which I would describe as hands-on, outcome-oriented and creative. These guys are so helpful, friendly and “let´s do it!”-style, always have their work first and all the chatting and negotiating later. It´s a very interesting mixture of Italian coolness and Austrian humor, paired with Balkan coolness.
Now, what has this all to do with our Oceanis? Everything. I have written in lengthy detail about the fine work our pre-commissioning partners in Slovenia have done with that boat, which was fully specced and equipped with virtually everything you can pack on a quick leisure cruiser like this: Be it a gen-set/AC-combo, full Teak package, extra electronic B&G-setup including Radar, onboard WiFi, corbon steering wheels – you name it. Perfect work of our friends on the spot – smooth takeover by our own commissioning crew and a very fun, fast and efficient handover … until … well, until the very first time casting off.
Christening gone wrong: A Catastrophe happening
A long story short: The boat had been officially handed over, all papers signed, all explanation done and checklists ticked. We readied the boat for her christening dash outside, perfect conditions with a sunny, warm day and some 8 knots of wind. Well, until we had the lines taken in and the boat slowly left her box. A sudden gust (the plotter later showed a 19 knots puff) put her to drift aside. As in Portoroz the boats are put on moorings and on bollards simultaneously, I was stressed to put away all four bow lines, having no eyes what happened behind me on the boat. Which was a thing of mere 30 seconds: A big bang – and I saw a fender flying over the deck into the sea. Obviously that one got stuck between a bollard and the hull. The engine howling at flank speed, the owner seemed to panic.
As the boat more and more tilting in the box, the manoeuvre got out of hand and a second, sudden bang happened with the engine stopping all at once. “Line in the prop!”, somebody shouted and now I began to slowly panic as well. The boat drifting in the marina, the gust still on, people on the jetty running around. “Start the engine and put her short on reverse.”, I suggested, hoping the screw would untie itself. It worked! At that moment the boat neared dangerously close the concrete jetty. “Put her alongside by bow thruster!”, I screamed and luckily, the boat responded. In a hurry we hung two or three fenders to the boat´s side so that the impact wasn´t that hard. The whole mess wasn´t taking longer than 2 minutes, heartrate above 200 bpm, more and more people arriving at the scene. The owner seemingly out of his mind, body shaking, tears in our eyes. Look at this damage!
Apparently, one Gennaker sheet (port side) had come loose in the process and had been sucked in by the prop-shaft of the boat. As the sheet was secured and belayed on the pulpit at the front end of the boat, the sheer power of the 110 horse power Yanmar Diesel engine had coiled up the rope on the shaft, pulling down the steel pulpit to 90 degrees. The damage was crazy, awesome and cruel at once the excessive power needed to pull off such a damage. The pulpit bent down, one of the two steel-ropes of the reeling broken, two steel pillars of the reeling bent as well. What a mess! For now I was happy we had such a “lucky” wind direction, blowing us directly on the quay and not into the mooring yachts of the marina – but what now? Our client was completely mad (at himself) and besides, the family of his was arriving, planning to leave tomorrow. What can we do, how can we help?
Assessing the damage
Well, here is where Slovenia comes into play. Not the state, of course, but so many helpful, great people who instantly helped without asking. Well, we could have left the scene as well: Boat was delivered and handed over, the mishap a clear fail of the helmsman. But, of course, we stayed and did everything to assess the damage and help our client, of course. At first a man arrived who had witnessed the whole mess and instantly took out his phone to call a diver.
The man – although it was Saturday (!) and midday – lunchtime (!) – arrived no twenty minutes later. Without long talk or trying to make a loadful of money out of our unfortunate situation, he suited up and went into the water, working 30 minutes his way around the boat. He freed the screw and shaft from the remnants of the sheet, checked for damage, loose parts or other irregularities and also went forward to have a look at the bow thruster tunnel. Luckily, he assessed no heavy damage.
I was astonished and shocked as he, bit by bit, brought the rope to the surface. Ripped apart, shreddered and seemingly mutilated by the power of the mighty engine. I had never seen something like this before. Most impressive had been the final parts of the rope which had been closest to the propeller: The rope molten to a solid ring of plastic by the sheer force and torque! I was speechless, never seen what these machines are capable of in this manner.
The diver re-surfaced and told our owner the details: No heavy damage visible, screw and saildrive freed of the rope but he advised him to eventually have the boat taken out of water and the saildrive, especially prop-shaft-connection checked. A stone fell from our hearts: Engine still running, no apparent damage to prop, saildrive or the bow thruster.
Altruist, helpful and practical
Apart from the fact that the gruesome other damage to the reeling was overarching, we still had a schedule to meet: Out client wanted (and had to) leave the marina for a 200 mile-trip to bring his new boat to the home port further down south in Croatia. His family was on its way, everything was set up and ready. I could have retreated as the damage was done after the handover and not of our fault, but of course I didn´t. Instead I went to a steel shop in the marina after we had dismounted the damaged pulpit.
Two guys – no English speaking capabilities at all – were just about to start their lunch, looking at me first, as I apologized and said I´d come later after they had finished their meals. “No, no, okay!”, they said, put away their food and immediately started to work on the freakishly bent steel frame. In the heat of the midday sun, both worked for 30 minutes, bending, hammering and working the damaged steel. I would have never thought that they´d make it, but apparently, they had it.
We went to the boat, with my clients still sitting on the deck, contemplating, shaking and thinking about the past disaster. The two steel-men fitted the pulpit to place, which took them another half an hour of hammering on the pulpit. As it fitted, they returned to the shop and welded the most damaged parts over to strengthen the steel again.
Spotless repairwork, hats off!
After re-attaching the pulpit, I couldn´t believe it: Voila! Of course it was a little offset. Of course one could see the black welding points and some dents here and there from the hammering process, but it fitted neatly and – regarding the heavy damage the whole thing took in the process – it looked … like nothing had happened! I couldn´t believe it! We re-attached the steel lifelines to the pulpit and after twenty minutes or so I was able to declare solemnly that the boat from my point of view was now officially safe to go to sea again: What a great work this was!
The best thing about this whole situation in my eyes was that the two guys had seen we had trouble and immediately went to work. They put aside their meals and – without hesitating, gruntling or giving away a commentary (which I would most certainly have done at least) started to care for us and our situation, offering a practical way out. That is Slovenia! And this is why we like to put all our yachts and boats in the water here in this little, lovely country – people are doing a great job here, caring for the outcome of their hand´s work, not talking – doing!
My client was happy, seemingly having tears in his eyes. After damaging a brand new boat that much, the shock was tremendous. Seeing his maiden voyage falling apart after the mishap, it must have been of great relief to have his boat back in action so fast – and the problems solved so good. The two steel bending men wanted to charge me only 20 Euros for repairing the pulpit. For working 2 or 3 hours in the midday heat on a Saturday. Can you imagine that? Be sure they received much more out of our deep felt gratitude.
Thatswhy we love Slovenia
We decided not to go out that same day again after the repair to do the last inaugurational sea trials after hand over. Instead, I reckoned, we´d go home, sit down, calm down and have a couple of beers instead. Go to bed and sleep that damn day away to perform a fresh start with our “new” boat tomorrow. The owner agreed and, you may have read the article, we did have a wonderful day out sailing and testing the new boat – with her new handmade pulpit.
Right now, as I am writing this article, I am in Slovenia again. We are handing over another Oceanis 46.1 right now. It´s even hotter. Although I hope we won´t perform such a stunt today, when we will go out to test the boat under sails as well, I do know that in case something happens, I can rely on this wonderful, heartwarming, skillful and lovely people of Slovenia, who I more and more adore and holding dear: What a great, proud, string and lovely country this is! A perfect start for an Adriatic sailing adventure for sure!
Also interesting articles which you might want to read:
Anatomy of a grounding: Running on dry
Collision avoidance, a not-so-by-the-book incident
MOB! Practicing the code of conduct