Do NOT “run to failure”

Dec 14 2010

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We have a saying on the boat, particularly amongst the staff at Pangaea and 5 Gyres that “the sea is not your friend.” That reminds us an important fact about the boat, mission and our work at sea. While we do important work, we have fun, and we are passionate about the sea- she his not interested in your success. Weather and harsh conditions do their thing- regardless of your schedule or objectives. Its not that the sea is out to “get you”…but just don’t expect any special treatment.

A big part of this maintaining Sea Dragon in the absolute best possible condition. The cost of failure in terms of safety risk, mission failure and the often ultra premium costs of catastrophic failure at sea are high. Like astronauts, airplanes and lots of medicine, we are not fault tolerant. Hence we always shoot for preventative maintenance- fix it before it breaks!

A great example of this is our rigging. The “rig” is the mast and all the heavy steel cabling that is required to hold her in place. Besides being a big chunk of metal hanging over your head, the rig is our power plant. It carries the sails, and transfers the full force of the wind into the hull, thereby moving the boat. The power required to move 100,000 lbs of steel through dense water is awesome. The rig must be strong.

So, despite an already busy schedule we are right now pulling Sea Dragon’s mast and rigging for a total overhaul. Neil and Tim are with Hemisphere Rigging – the original Challenge Fleet riggers. She’s been around the world and all across the north and south Atlantic with the existing rig. Now’s the time to change. Take a look at this photo just in from the boat today. Here is one of the thick cables on the “lower shrouds”. You can clearly see one parted strand and the rust stain of deeper corrosion. Easy to say, “Oh, its just one strand…just one cable.” No dice. Did fine crossing the Atlantic, but definately time to change this out. The problem with much of this is it can be extremely hard to see. We have been up and downt the mast looking carefully for faults- and saw nothing untoward. We, Dale Selvam in particular, spend ALOT of time checking, imagining failure, worrying and looking for newer, more reliable technology to stay on top of this constant challenge. Safety, productivity, efficiency is the constant objective.

In a few days Sea Dragon will have a new “powerplant” and be ready for another 50,000+ miles of hard ocean sailing.