4.15.18 @ 1700 Zulu Day #21 Latitude: 02°30 S Longitude: 133°32 W Covered Distance Last 24 Hours: 124 NM Distance to the Marquesas: 535 NM Distance from Punta de Mita, Mexico: 2511 NM Weather: 40% Clouds Winds: E 18 Knots Sea State: SE 2.5 Meters Sea Temp: 82° Air Temp: 84° Course: 216 T Speed: 5.5 Knots Barometer: 1011 Crew’s Mood: Tired and sore!
So it’s another picture perfect day out here on the Pacific. I know, I know, you’re tired of hearing that but it’s true. Dan’s down below napping and I’m enjoying a bit of me time in the cockpit as we cruise along at 6 knots in 14 knot winds. The sun is warming my skin. I’m checking our emails and life is truly grand. Yeah, I get it, how cool is it that I can check emails thousands of miles from shore?
“What the hell over? Why are we stopping?” I look up from my iPad to see what is happening. The swells are still swelling and the wind is still blowing but it’s obvious something is a miss. I hop behind the wheel and start checking the instruments. Everything is just as it was except we went from 6 knots down to 1.8! A very strange feeling comes washing over me. “This isn’t good. Something is very, very wrong.” I change course a couple of degrees but our speed stays steady. Then I start looking on deck. “Oh my God! Where is it? DAAAAN! GET UP HERE NOW! WE’VE LOST THE JIB!” I yell below. And when I say I yelled, trust me this southern belle has a set of pipes. They probably heard me in Hiva Oa 600+ miles away.
I can’t see the jib from the port side of the cockpit so I’m frantically scanning the water. “Where is the damn thing?” While I’m waiting for Dan, all three seconds, I walk up on deck and there’s the jib hanging by the tack shackle over the starboard side of Dazzler. It’s half on the boat and half in the water. Dan comes flying out of the cabin like Superman in his underwear with his Captain Save-A-Hoe cape flying off his back. “When did we put a telephone booth down below anyway?”
He rushes on deck to assess the situation. We start pulling the sail up on deck. If you’ve never dealt with the size sails used on a boat like Dazzler you probably don’t understand or appreciate how difficult it is to bring this beast back on board. It’s sort of like wrestling an anaconda snake out of quicksand. The sea keeps trying to suck it in as this beast is wrapping itself around us while we are rocking back and forth in ten foot swells trying to pull it on board! It takes some wrangling to be sure but we finally get it on the deck.
Dan surveys the situation for a few minutes as I catch my breath. He determines that the head shackle has failed. “Okay, what now?” I question even though I’m almost certain I already know the answer. “Well, I’m going to have to go up the mast.” He replies. There it is, the answer I knew was coming but that I was dreading like the arrival of that freak relative on Thanksgiving Day.
It’s not that I worry so much about him going up the mast, you know, in port where it’s calm and the boat isn’t healing 15°-30° back and forth in ten foot swells. No, in port it’s fine…out here…not so much. Our mast is 48’ off the deck. That’s a long way to fall, even if you hit the water. Listen, I jumped off a 26’ waterfall on a canyoning adventure in Wales and broke three ribs. Water from that height is like concrete. From 49’ I can only imagine. No, wait, I don’t want to imagine. But, I know Dan and I trust his abilities greatly so I’m going to have to just watch and be calm.
At first he decides to free climb which means he won’t be using his climbing harness. He’ll just climb the mast ladder and clip in each time he moves. He will always have one clip on the ladder plus the safety break. He starts up and I start praying. Yep, talked to God, Neptune, Mother Nature and every guardian angel I have in Heaven.
He gets about halfway up, just to the spreaders and he starts coming back down. “What’s wrong.” I ask. “It just doesn’t feel right.” He replies. “I want my climbing harness.” One of the things I love about this man is that he doesn’t ever take unnecessary chances so as much as I hate the idea of him climbing this mast I know he’s using every possible precaution.
He goes below and gets the harness and all the gear that goes with it and within minutes he’s on his way back up. I continue my prayers as I look off the port side and see rain headed our direction. “Really? Now? We don’t have enough to deal with?” I question the gods. It’s at this very moment I start holding my breath as I watch him slowly ascend the mast.
He’s given me a job to pay out line that is attached to him. It’s the line he will attach to the upper bearing for the roller fairing for the jib in order to bring it down so we can attach the new snap shackle and ultimately the head of the jib. I really don’t think he needed me to hold this line while he climbed up rather I think it was his way of keeping me focused on something. You know to keep me from worrying. So I believe a person really never knows how long they can hold their breath until you just do it. I’m pretty certain I held mine the entire twenty minutes Dan was on the mast. I’m thinking there’s a place in a record book for me.
Watching Dan come off the mast was the most awesome thing I’ve seen in a long time. As his feet hit the deck I started to thank all those I prayed to minutes before. Of course, this was just a small part of the ordeal. There was still work to be done.
I won’t go into all the gory details about what was done because honestly I’m sure I’d get the names of the parts wrong. I’ll let Dan tell you all about it tomorrow. I will, however, tell you about how I learned to truly appreciate the strength and power of wind in a sail.
Once Dan had all the doodads and doohickeys repaired and back together we had to get the jib back on the furling tube. This is a tough enough task sitting in a marina where it’s dead calm and the boat isn’t moving. Out here, it’s just plain brutal! My job was to feed the sail into the track while Dan hoisted it.
Well, let’s just talk for a moment about the working conditions here. In order to even get to my station I have to jack line in and crawl over a mountain of sail onto the bow pulpit while the boat is rolling back and forth and bouncing up and down in the huge swells. And quite frankly, that was the easy part. Feeding this mammoth sail into the track while it’s being hoisted into 15 knot winds is a whole other story.
The first ten feet or so was easy. After that it became a true test of strength. With one hand wrapped around the tube I’m guiding the sail into the track but as the wind starts to fill the sail it wants to lift up so with my other hand I’m having to pull down on the bottom to keep it and me from flying off the bow. Seriously, this thing had some awesome power going. It was like trying to hold onto the wing of a jet as it’s taking off. The higher the sail goes the more force I’m required to use to keep it where it needs to be so I can feed it into the track. All the while I’m using every muscle in my body to balance and keep my feet on the 18” wide deck of the pulpit.
It only takes us about ten minutes to get the job done but it felt like an eternity. Once she was back up, however, we were off to the races again and sailing along at 5.5 to 6 knots. I ever so carefully descend from the pulpit back to the deck where I clip into the line over the dinghy and lay across it thanking God I didn’t fall off the pulpit where I would have been dangling by my tether to the jack line. My arms are shaking and my hands are curled up like claws. Even now, close to seven hours later my hands and arms ache from the task.
It took us about two and a half hours from the moment I yelled for Dan to the time she was back up and running. It was a pretty stressful afternoon and one that taxed every bit of mental and physical strength in my body. Once the job was done, we showered and I made a quick, light dinner. After that I poured a small glass of rum and sat at the table licking my wounds. No, we don’t typically drink under way but I was so amped up that I knew I needed something to relax me so I could get some sleep before my watch.
Thankfully tonight’s watch is a pretty calm one. Our sails are up and we’re cruising along at about 5.5 knots. The sky is clear with no rain in sight and I’m sitting here talking to you fine folks. Yep…just another day on Dazzler.
Until next time…