I goofed up big time the other day. Huge. We have a guest on board (yea!) in Antigua and are having a wonderful time, enjoying turquoise waters and sand beaches. The beaches have been sand but the anchorages have been in mud, which is unfortunate because sometime between here and St. Thomas the deck wash down pump kicked the bucket. This means that one of us has to use said bucket and brush to wash the anchor chain as it is brought aboard. Since we have been using our wonderful fail-safe-two-anchors-in-tandem method that means that EW has to man the bucket and the foredeck. (I cannot lift the second anchor.)
We had left a beautiful anchorage in Five Islands and were planning on sailing to English Harbor on Easter Monday (a holiday here in Antigua). EW and our guest worked for over 40 minutes cleaning the anchor chain while I manned the helm and kept La Luna pointing in the right direction, and away from our neighboring boats. EW got quite a work-out so I offered to haul out the main sail, something I’ve only done rarely and not once in the past year or two. He readily agreed.
We have a furling main that rolls up inside the mast. Folks often ask whether we have had problems with it and EW says, “Never. Works great.” He has been meticulous about maintaining the two winches, making sure any rigging work is executed appropriately, and about how he furls and unfurls the sail. One person holds the boat into the wind, with the main sheet running free, and the other sits or crouches in the cockpit and works two winches; one to pull the sail out of the mast and the other to tighten the slack and keep her taut. I knew that. Really, I did. But if “to know and not to do is not to know”, then I didn’t know.
While EW was distracted, I worked the port side winch more than I worked the starboard one, in exact opposite of the proper method. The result, a sail that had been loosened around the roller with no where to go. Consequently, it got jammed up in the mast. Big time.
This is wrong. Very, very wrong.
So we decided to anchor back in Jolly Harbor for the night and take time to fix the sail. First we lunched, then we napped, then EW felt ready to tackle the problem. Our guest and EW determined that we had to push the excess back into the mast so the sail had room to move. EW thought long and hard to find the appropriate tool for this job and decided that one of my galley scrapers would be best, so I sacrificed her to the cause. Our guest worked first on the lower part of the sail. EW would haul it out a until it snagged, release some of the tension and A. would push the fold back into the mast. As the mess at the lower end began to clear, we used the boat hook to shove the folds into the mast. We gained by inches, hauling out a bit, squishing in the fold, furling to tighten the roll, and starting again. At first it seemed like we weren’t making any progress, but gradually the messy folds appeared higher up the mast and with the sail unfurled incrementally more.
We reached higher and higher. First EW, than I climbed onto the boom and held on with one hand while pushing fabric in with the other. When the problem folds appeared higher up the mast it was clear that one of us “had to go up”. That would be me. We dug the Bo 'sun's chair out of the locker, strapped me in, and up I went. I’m getting better at this. This time I actually held on to the stays and braced my feet against the mast, taking some of my weight off of the halyard and helping EW lift me higher and higher. (“He keeps lifting me! Keeps on lifting me higher and higher!”) In fact, as I reported to those on deck, at no time did I lose the ability to spit and my mouth didn’t get dry at all until I approached the first spreader. (For those of you new to this blog, I learned what “scared spitless” met when I went up the mast for the first time. At no time have I ever actually spit from the Bo 'sun's chair.)
I’d wrap my right hand or elbow around a stay and use my left to work the fabric. A. worked the boat hook to keep the lower area clear, and EW, the man I tried to save from more hard labor, pulled the sail out, tightened it, loosened it and hauled it back in – over and over and over again. Some labor saving device I turned out to be. The three of us were cheerful, made jokes, worked as a team and hooted and hollered when we completed the task. We showed A. that cruising sailors do have the opportunity to fix their boats in exotic and beautiful harbors. She is smart woman and a great sport – the perfect boat guest.
We successfully executed our task before Oh Beer Thirty and toasted ourselves on deck. Another good day in paradise.