Saturday, January 9, 2016

Up The Mast

Going up the mast is something that most sailors seem to have done at one time or another, but it so happens that we had not yet undertaken this task.  With our chaffed genoa halyard that had fallen down inside the mast, it looked like this vertical trip was in our future before we could venture north to Dominica.

Early last week on our sail from Ste. Anne to St. Pierre, just after having a great sail across the inlet to Fort de France, we went to unfurl the reef in our genoa.  Instead of shaking out to the full size of the sail, the whole sail gently glided down the furler to the foredeck where it toyed with the idea of blowing overboard into the waves below.

Once we collected our thoughts, looked at each other and commented, "That's not quite the unfurl we had in mind!", Henry took control of the wayward autopilot that couldn't quite handle the sudden change in sail trim, while I went forward to wrestle the sail into a bundle that I then tied to the fuller and crossbar with the sheets. 

Not an elegant look, but at least the sail was safely onboard.

Once in St. Pierre we had a better look at the situation and realized that it would be prudent to replace all our lines at the mast, so the task was set once we procured all the necessary lines.

Fast forward to Wednesday after our shopping trip and excursion around the island, we were graced with a cloudy but relatively dry day and set up our plan:

  1. Replace the topping lift - done from the deck just by using the old line to guide the new line into place.
  2. Replace the spinnaker halyard - also done from the deck in the same way
  3. Replace the main halyard which is a 3:1 setup with the bitter end tied to a shackle at the top of the mast.  We removed the connection to the main sail and then tied off a bight in the main halyard to raise the bosun's chair.  This meant we weren't using the 3:1 mechanical advantage but were also not using the bitter end of the line in the lift.  Once up the mast I could cut the knot and replace with the new halyard at the top of the mast while still attached to the old main halyard, and using the new topping lift as a safety line.
  4. Replace the genoa halyard, feed the line down the mast and fish it out the exit hole about 12' up the mast.  My fingers just wouldn't quite fit in the hole in the mast, but careful use of a skinny screwdriver and a piece of wire fished out the line successfully.
Amazingly things went pretty well to plan and we had the genoa ready to be hoisted back up pretty quickly - just one last job:  replace the missing tell-tales that had disappeared over time.

Temporary butt-splice of the old and new line.  We found that even a wrap of tape over the splice was too thick to pass through the mast fittings.

New telltales on the genoa - we'll see how purple ripstop nylon holds up.

While up the mast I managed to snap a few pictures as well with a view of the anchorage and Blue Moon beside us.  Jason, meanwhile took a few pictures of me up the mast and reminded Henry that, "Now is the time to negotiate anything you want!".

Clouds rolling in from Mt. Pelee, St. Pierre waterfront is still dry.

A new view of Mowzer (yes, that's laundry drying on the front of the boat.)

Blue Moon in the anchorage next to us.

Hi there - but I'm not letting go!

It felt like a long way to the top.
Our mast has an air draft of 55' and while not particularly tall compared with other boats, every little wobble on the water is amplified.  It was a pretty calm day but I still came back to earth sporting a few bruises on my knees and forearms.