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Setbacks

May 7, 2011

Position: 13.54.171N by 122.03.403W
Course: 230t
Speed: 4.5kn
Wind: 9 knots, NE
Sky: 4% occluded
Temp: 75 degrees
Bar: 1013

122 miles in last 24 hours–average 5 knots per hour. Great!

The wind picked up considerably around sunset, up toward 12 to 15 knots, so I changed out the large genoa for the working jib before it got dark. I am now believe firmly that roller furling for the singlehander who has multiple sets of headsails and a good windvane is a waste. Hank on sails would be easier. Getting the working jib on in a nice breeze required raising the mizzen so the bow would point into the wind, and sitting out near the end of the bow sprit, feeding the sail into its track while pulling very hard on the halyard. It was one of the few times I appreciated wearing a harness.

Accomplishing that and getting it poled out, etc. required twenty minutes. But when I went to reset the main, I noticed something dangling from near the spreaders. The port side lazy jack swage had let go; the line was all over the deck and the upper wire was swinging in the wind. Apart from finding lazy jacks useful, having a free swinging piece of wire up in the rigging that could foul the main halyard, for example, is dangerous, and I found the thought that I will have to climb the mast while at sea deflating.

I am afraid of heights. I learned this in a profound way one afternoon a few years back while three hundred feet up the cliff face of a beautiful mountain in Hemmet, California. Without warning it occurred to me that my life was being held in the air by a tiny wire and a clamp squeezed into a crevice of rock, and that all of us on the climb assumed that it was a matter of fact that the wire and the clamp, not to mention the rock crevice, would hold. Faith in technology is for the young–I remember it well. But somewhere along the way you learn that things break, even when well built, and in the case of climbing gear, the guarantee is of little consequence. Somehow none of this had occurred to me before the third pitch of the climb, and my friend, an experienced mountaineer who had abandoned me and my tiny umbilical chord to set the rope for the next pitch looked down and with obvious glee said, “Dude, you look spooked!”

Ascending the mast presents the same problem. It is a mountain climber’s adage that “you have to trust your gear”, and I don’t. The climbing gear I use is new and robust, the line I use to ascend is new, but it’s attached to a wire halyard whose eye was swaged by me. So was the one that let go last night.* You see where this is going.

Yesterday’s wind did not hold. By noon it had softened to 7 knots and the sails slatted terribly. Moreover the sky was gloomy and low and foreboding. Humidity has invaded everything below. The cabin sole is damp and will not dry and my clothes are perpetually soggy.

The low sky and failing wind are not a good sign. This (above 9 degrees north latitude) is a dangerous place in summer, and the north east Pacific’s summer is eight days away.

We’re back to running with jib and mizzen staysail and are making four knots.

***

*To be accurate, the one that let go last night was swaged over plastic coated wire. The plastic had squeezed through the swage.

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One Comment
  1. Bolster permalink
    May 10, 2011 4:28 pm

    Whatever happened to the naughty Lazy Jack?

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