Yesterday evening a spinnaker halyard broke, which I'll let those more
qualified than me explain elsewhere, except to say that it felt as if
the potential consequences were going to make reaching St Lucia a whole
lot more challenging. Until then I'd been wholly confident of a more
or less incident free cruise across the Atlantic in the capable hands of
Rob and Jo. But equipment failure like this really brings it home how
far from land we are and how vulnerable we could be.
We had some good advice at one of the excellent seminars laid on
pre-start that when something goes wrong, it's probably not as bad as
it seems - have a cup of tea, discuss the problem and come up with a
plan to sort it out.
Our plan required climbing the mast to feed a new halyard through a
block fixed at the very top. Last time I climbed Tintin's mast was a
year ago on a windless day in the safe surroundings of the Bag at
Salcombe. That was in Rob's "bosun's chair" which frankly feels very
like and as old as the garden swing we let our children play on some 25
years ago. Terrifying. And I'm sorry to report that it's still on
board. There was no way I was going to volunteer this time while
under sail in the middle of the Atlantic. No-one else put their hand
up either, so the skipper said he'd climb in the morning.
Overnight I read the chapter in Moby Dick on climbing the mast head.
He describes being:
...lulled into such opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious
reverie ... blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he
loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible
image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and
nature; and every strange, half-seen gliding, beautiful thing that
eludes him ...
This sounded like just the job for me. Surely fate brought me to this
very chapter at this very moment. And more, Rob also has on board a
very smart new climbing harness. So at breakfast I found myself
volunteering and kitted up with full length shirt and trousers, bike
helmet, sunnies and said harness.
And what an adrenalin rush it was. About a third of the way up as the
boat rocked from side to side I swung around the mast and realised that
this was no trivial matter. From then on I felt like a panda bear
clinging to an ever diminishing and very inadequate bamboo shoot for
support. By the second set of cross trees my legs were shaking with
fear. I told myself to MTFU and get to the top. Once there, job done,
I took not one moment to get my opium rush, and climbed down as fast as
There, welcomed back by the crew, Jo kindly observed that being
the first day of Advent, how nice it was to have a fairy at the top of
Tintin's Christmas tree.
Now from Rob (minus the literary opium-rush)....
In other news:
Those with sailing knowledge (especially Alistair Gurney) will realise
what difficult and terrifying it is to climb to the top of the mast
while under sail in big swell. I would like to think that I needed a
lot of persuading to let Jimmy take on the task...but I didn't.
The spinnaker halyard breaking with a huge sail up while going at
8-9knots could have been REALLY bad. If the sail had dropped in the
water and gone under the boat it would probably be 50:50 if we could
save the sail. Fortunately we had spotted the potential for disaster
and hoisted it on 2 halyards thereby allowing a quiet cup of tea
before deciding on a course of action and sorting it all out.
The second thing to go wrong was a stripped impeller, meaning a
sweaty 1/2 hour before breakfast changing it.
The 3rd thing to go wrong was the plunger on the cafetiere came
apart. Some of the crew wanted to divert to the Cape Verdes for a
replacement but the tea-drinking skipper made the hard decision to
press on under stovetop coffee only.
The angling society had its first meeting this evening. All fish safe
The sun is starting to go down now as we glide west under the
newly-secured double-poled-out blue water runner. Wind about 18knots
from behind and all good.
Wow, what a job well done James for climbing the mast I am impressed. Good to know you are coping with all incidents with aplomb including a broken cafetiere! N and R
Brilliant. 2 halyards eh? Love it. Forget the fish and catch another boat. SG from Malawi
I’ll drop a new cafetière down whilst flying over tomorrow night !
Dad!! I am more concerned about your dependency issues than ever! Do you not have enough tramadol on board? Or was this just an excuse to wear your bicycle helmet??
Fantastic writing- keep up the good work. The slew of images (childhood swing / opium trip / panda up a bamboo shoot) was jarring, but somehow effective.
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