Date: 28th January 2017
Position: 17°17.1N 058°32.4W
Wind: E 5
Swell: NE 4-5ft
Sky: 2/8 cumulus in the north, stratus in south
You may have noticed that our speed and course has been a tad erratic since early this morning. This was with due cause. We’ve been experimenting with new ways to fly the spinnaker. It started off with making the spinnaker into two separate sails, connected by a hard twist halfway up the sail. This is commonly referred to as an ‘hour-glass’. Very pretty, especially at 4am to sleepy eyes with a backdrop of stars. We have coined this technique SIR – Spinnaker Inline Reefing.
It turns it’s a lot easier to put in a SIR than it is to take one out. A good effort was made, but to no avail, and a short hour later we were also running a HFR system – Halyard First Reefing. This is where you shorten sail from the top down, and is best achieved by tightly wrapping the sail around the forestay of the rig for at least 10 feet. Both the SIR and HFR systems are often implemented accidentally, and can prove unbelievably difficult to reverse without drastic action, occasionally requiring sharp knives. The combination of both reefing methods at night is colloquially described as a massive ****up.
After a couple of hours of messing around in the dark, and an exploratory trip by Henry up the mast for further investigation, the report back was “those twists aren’t sail, they’re steel!”. I then decided that playing the ‘man unwrapping spinnaker 85’ up the mast game’ wasn’t best played at night, so we just left it as was for the rest of the evening, reefed down the main, and got everyone to get as much rest as possible for a busy morning of work.
Daylight was up, I stuck my head up on deck with the obligatory greeting of “haven’t you got it down yet?!” to the on-watch (which was relatively well received), and we set about making a plan.
Plan A (don’t wrap the kite) was already out.
Plan B was grind it out from the deck, and this was well expended the previous evening with no success.
Plan C was to make a few strategic tugs in the right place from the harness, but the previous “it’s like steel” comment put that out of the running.
Plan D was man in harness working his way down the forestay, carefully tying every 2ft of sail up until the whole sail was neat bundle, ready for easy unwrapping.
Plan E was pin the halyards forward, remove the forestay, lower the whole lot to the deck, sort out on deck, then put the rig back together again. However, taking the rig apart at sea could be seen as a bit drastic.
Plan F was just crack on, and anchor up round the back of Antigua to sort out there, but we didn’t want to go slow for the next 2 days.
Plan G was Ty’s suggestion, which was just sail straight into the marina with it all still up, to really impress everyone. I wasn’t sure this would be the good sort of impressive…
Plan H involved setting fire to it, but seeing as the rig is already covered in red dust, I wasn’t keen on adding smoke damage to the whole equation. So much cleaning…
It’s never great starting at a Plan D, but it was definitely first up for the trying. A fresh 30 sail ties cut, our mast koala Henry (on account of the way he hugs the mast tightly as he’s hoisted up – it’s very cute) was back up again, and did sterling work in very difficult conditions getting the top half of the sail nicely bundled up. In what must have been over an hour of hard graft aloft he was safely back on deck. Plan D was being so successful that the sail had already started to unfurl itself, but this meant that more of it was now exposed, and need further tying. I went up for a session in the harness to supplement Henry’s existing success with the ties, and soon after the whole thing unwrapped itself from the mast (albeit with me still attached to it…). Once the man/harness/sail/forestay combination had been reorganised and we were about to the drop the kite, all the ties slid straight up the top, unfurling a perfect flying spinnaker! Big result.
Lot’s of tidying up, shaking out of reefs, and another trip aloft followed before everything was totally back as it should have been, but we are now making good speed for Antigua once again! Joe braved the heat below to cook the last of the bacon for ‘victory sandwiches’, and the gift that Conall Morrison made to the boat was appreciated in full for the second time this crossing (big love to Conall, – we have kept a bunk free in your honour of wishing you were here to experience this all with us). Superb work by the whole team, with everyone putting in hard work and good input to the final solution, and lot’s off-watch time lost to the effort. Teamwork makes the dream work and all that.
So in all, an exciting 24 hours. I’m told by the team it was the most exciting thing to happen since The Raisin Incident – when Connor tried to throw a raisin at Alex through the saloon hatch and it bounced off Alex ‘s face, off the other side of the hatch, off the deck, off the mainsheet block, and then went straight into Alex’s mouth. I never thought we’d match those dizzy heights. What a day.