Monday, May 11, 2009

Something to Keep the Boredom at Bay

How nice it was sitting down to a glass of red wine before our lasagna dinner, freshly showered and shaved, sun closing in on the horizon. The wind was filling back in after a very light wind day, hard sailing conditions. I had spent the majority of the day reefing, rigging, sheeting, and fixing things that had worked their way loose from the wild rocking that comes with light wind and choppy seas. We were settling down in the cockpit when we heard a big swoosh! Immediately upon looking up we realized the spinnaker had come loose at the top and was dragging next to the boat ¾ of the way to the back. Either the halyard or the block had let go. We raced forward and manhandled the sail up out of the water and over the lifelines back on deck.
All the while there were half a dozen Dorado hitting the flying fish hard in the water around us. They cruise along in a pack with the greatest of ease. In a split second they bolt several meters away, engulf their prey, and are back in the pack like nothing happened. Megan was trying to enjoy watching them just off our starboard bow, while I was being military guy and spurring her to work, not watch. A part on the block had come in two, sending all to the water.
As soon as we got the spinnaker bagged up for the night and headed back for the cockpit I realized that we had a fish on the hand line. Perfect, my low speed trolling plan using a mid sized Repala magnum redhead has worked. Going four knots I wanted that heavy wiggly action to make something happen. The poor guy must have been on for a while because he did not fight all the way to the deck. He only had the energy to flop at the end.
After subduing him on deck, it was back up front to rig the genoa for the night so we could have a head sail. Another surprise awaited us. Laying right in the middle of the foredeck was a slit ring for a clovis pin (small pin for securing largest sized rigging bolts). We both looked at it and realized that it was a very serious situation. The sun was now just setting. We started going through bottoms of the shrouds looking in vain for where the ring may have come from. We both feared the worst, that it had come from the top of the mast. Next we shifted attention to mid mast level hoping that we'd find it easy. Nothing! We were getting almost frantic by this point. We both surmised that the block coming loose at the top of the mast may have pulled the pin out all the way up there. We tried looking with the binoculars with no luck, knowing that if one of the four stays (that hold up the mast) was missing a ring up top, it would only be a matter of time before it worked loose. If it happened to be the forestay that came loose, the roller fuller would be damaged on descent, and the loss of the forestay could easily lead to a dismasting. All very bad scenarios as we are 1,500 nautical miles from the Galapagos on one side and the Marquises on the other. It would be a huge show stopper to say the least.
We both knew what had to be done, and fast. Megan ran below to get the bosun's chair and unload the tools from it. I started getting the genoa ready to unfurl, so that we could drop the sail in order to have a halyard to pull me up. We usually use the main halyard, but in the sea state, we absolutely needed to leave the mainsail up as something to keep us going in the right direction and give us some control of the wild rocking. I really did not want to go up the mast, even though I've done it a many times before. If one thing went wrong, we could have been in a much more serious situation, but we really had no choice. In fast forward speed we got things in order and then I was on the way up. I remember thinking, "I don't want to fall and die today". I thought of the old square riggers with crew whose job it was to run around way up in the rigging, and sometimes fall and die. I hung on to the mast like a monkey, letting go with one hand every four feet to move the prussic line (safety catch) up. Megan was winching like mad, and in an uncomfortable motion as we were using a different winch that usual. But soon I was at top making a thorough inspection of all terminal ends. I found nothing out of place. Good news as it would have been very difficult to put the ring back in. Every minute or so a set of waves would roll under us sending us into an imitation of an upside-down pendulum. On deck it's uncomfortable; dishes slid and flip over, coffee spills, etc. Up on top it's down right scary. The back and forth travel is huge, like being a bug on the tip of a baseball bat. Any climber knows that going up is only half the trip. Although the top of the mast was wild, it was secure because of all the hand and foot holds. Megan got me down safe, smooth, and fast though. We were relieved to know it was nothing on top, but where was it? Same scenario of possible dismasting if a shroud or stay were to come loose down below. I started looking again, and the first thing I looked at, which was the only thing I'd missed before going up the mast, was it! The bottom terminal of the inner forestay had come loose.
After securing the pin in it's place, we next had to re-rig the genoa, with whisker pole and all, and then tune it for the night. We'd done more in 45 min. than we often do all day. We were both very grateful all events happened before the daylight had disappeared. But, there was still more to do after our waiting dinner of red wine, fresh baked lasagna and bread. The Dorado waited for me to fillet after dinner. By this time it was late and I was getting really tired. All there was left to do was put the fish in the fridge, and get ready for a nap. Upon opening the door, our big glass water pitcher jumped out of the fridge and landed top down on the galley floor. The plastic lid contraption was smashed and water flushed all around me. It was a two towel and one chamois clean up. The plastic went in the trash and the glass overboard. Finally, I switched the mainsail to a new position and to my surprise, the wild rocking and slapping ceased. I lay down in the cockpit tired, under a full moon and fell asleep. A hour later I was awakened by slapping sails and heavy rocking again. The rest of the night Megan and I shared the engine room ear muffs and had a fitful sleep. And so it goes…. Only 12 more days to go if we get good winds.

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1 comment:

erin said...

eek! what a story. SO glad this happened in the daylight. Sounds like your calisthenics are paying off with those athletic repsonse-times! phew.