Anyway, the Mast Didn’t Come Down, So That’s Good

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July 27
Cape Flattery to Kauai
Day 5

Noon position: 37.54.03N by 132.41.49W
Miles since last noon: 166
Total miles of passage: 786
Avg. Miles per Day: 157
Course: SW
Speed: 7 knots
Wind: N to NNE 15 – 25+
Sky: Low cloud and drizzle
Waves: N to NNE 5-10
Bar: 1022
Air Temperature: 73 degrees
Sea Temperature: 64 degrees

By late afternoon of yesterday the wind had shifted into the north enough to allow the port genoa pole, which I rigged without incident at 4pm. I’d had the large genoa out full and free before this, but polled down, controlled and flattened, it was more powerful. I unrolled only half and achieved the same speed. More speed actually. We charged off.

I stood over the cockpit dodger admiring the way the boat rode the waves–with ease and intention, with pleasure. Like the soaring albatross, gathering energy from the surging water and the wind, she could go on like this forever. 

Warm wind on the face, mind drifting. Thoughts of home. We were passing the latitude of Pt Reyes, a mere hour from the house in which I lived comfortably with a wife I loved. But the blessedly strong northerlies had effectively pushed us across a point of no return. Home was a mere 450 miles east, but to get there I’d need to sail another 4500 miles and around the Pacific High. Images: the garden bursting with flowers; a glass of wine with Joanna in the sun of the back deck. I could point to it. Right over there! But such a long way. Whose idea was this?

Then a squawk. Above the boat and twice around the mast a white tailed tropic bird, the black swoosh above the eye, the long white streamer. So far north? But it had been feeling tropical lately …

Something else caught my eye. Slender, jagged dark marks on the back side of the lower port spreader and lengthwise along my fiberglass tape repair. With the naked eye the marks looked like cracks. With binoculars, even more so. The spreader was cracking?

I froze. Could it be that the repair effected in Homer was failing? Now? NOW?

Visions of the spreader collapsing with a bang; the mast doubling over and into the water. OK that’s worst case. But where would I limp to from here? Hawaii was out–how could I expect the spreader to last another two weeks of such strong winds. San Francisco was out–a dead beat. Would bring the rig gown for sure. LA? San Diego? Lots of miles; would the spreader hold up even if I was careful? Would I have to motor? Oh god, deliver me from that!

I looked again through binoculars. No doubt what I was seeing; but was it real? Nothing for it but to go up the mast.

Heavy sigh. I hate heights. Add to this general hatred, and notwithstanding my above admiration, that the boat was yawing around like someone who’d misjudged her tequila.

I need the harness. Where’s the harness? Fuck the harness. Waste of time. Need to figure this out now. Remember, hold on first; climb second… OK. …because if you let go out here, the boat will be over the horizon before you can hail mary full of grace. OK already! No choice? No choice. Climbing. But the boot won’t go. What boot? The left boot, dammit; wont fit the mast step. Sure it will. Right boot’s in just fine. Try again. Oh. OK. Got it. Going up. Jesus; hold on; here’s a big roll. Nah. It ain’t that bad. You’re not even ten feet off the deck yet. Climb! Grab the stays. So solid. Focus. Nice view. Holy crap, it’s all water! FOCUS.

At the spreaders, just the first, lower set, mind you. Twenty-five feet off the deck. I stuck my finger to the crack and it was smooth. Like Doubting Thomas I stuck my nail in and it met hard fiberglass. The only problem was the paint. The silver spray paint I had applied to the repair, cheap hardware store variety, had been rubbed off along that trailing edge by the sail. There was not crack.

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Woke to find this ship a mile dead astern. First ship sighting, and was a surprise…

I’d been awake the half hour before and checked the horizon and the scope (chart plotter) but we’ve seen so little shipping, I’ve grown careless. Mistake #1 I failed to put my glasses on; and, Mistake #2 I didn’t see that the AIS targets on the scope go UNDER the compass rose. NOTE: in photo this boat is the white arrow. The gray triangle coming from under the arrow and pointing at 90 degrees is the ship. Not a close call at the end of the day, but could have been. Must be more careful.

In the early morning I put out the second genoa pole. We’ve been riding the glorious twin headsails since then.

8 Comments on “Anyway, the Mast Didn’t Come Down, So That’s Good

  1. Soon – explain your rig for twin head sail poles. Looks like sheets are in the pole eyes? Small jibs?

    • OK. Will try to do at some point. Yes, the sheets run through the pole ends. Emphasis, runs through; neither the sheet nor the sail are “tied” to the pole. One of the jennies on this boat is a triradial 125 and the other a 110, so no, not small. Can be rolled up to smaller sizes when wind is strong.

    • Afraid so. There goes your invite to be cook on next passage. Just look at what you’ll be missing.

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