Climbing the Mast
14 October 2010
Not quite the conditions when climbing the mast as this post relates.
It's been a long time since I updated you all about our travels since Beveridge Reef way back in August, ( Isabelle's been doing all the work) so I'll try to add a few posts in the next couple of days to fill you in from my side. James
At Palmerston Atoll, it had been a stormy day and everyone was feeling a little uncomfortable on the moorings there, where we were positioned outside and quite close to the fringing reef. The wind was always threatening to turn onshore to, a dangerous situation. Finally it did turn onshore and as our bow started digging under the waves as it tugged on the mooring, we decided it was time to depart. Five other boats did the same, leaving only one remaining who had only just arrived.
After it had just turned dusk, which also means night as there is hardly any twighlight in the tropics, our headsail suddenly started falling down. When we brought it all the way to the deck we could see that a shackle pin had fallen out, leaving the halyard and attached swivel at the masthead and the sail on the deck. With 500 miles to go to the next port and being unsure if the weather would get worse, I decided I should go up the mast while it was 'relatively' calm to fix the problem right then. It does not take very much movement at the deck to make a lot of movement once you are even half way up the mast. Even with the mainsail still up to steady the boat it was a nasty ascent. Try to imagine clinging to a narrow stick while some giant waves and flicks it around attempting to dislodge you, and you will get an idea what it is like to try to hang on. I made my way slowly to the top secured in our Bosun's Chair as Isabelle took up the slack on the halyard that it was attached to. My fingers sought out the gaps between the mainsail and the mast as i reached around, bear hugging the mast.
At last i reached the top and realised i had not brought a spare line to attach to the halyard so we could simply haul it down. Short of going all the way down and back up again ( not very desirable) my only solution was to go down via the forestay and take the swivel with me. Should be ok...
Turned out to be not so ok as each time the boat pitched on a wave it would make me do a lap around the forestay, first one way and then the other, like some evil fairground ride. I arrived on deck shaking and with grazed thighs and arms from trying to hang on, but we were able to hoist sail again.
I now have great admiration for all those brave people I've read about who have had to climb masts at sea, usually when it's rougher, a taller mast and even on their own.