Thursday, March 23, 2017

Herein lies the tale.

20 March 2017

We left Hog Island on a beautiful day – sunny, windy, 10-15 kts and fairly smooth seas.  It was a very comfortable broad reach with the jib partially out and no mainsail.  The winds dropped slightly after we had been out an hour so we decided to let a little more of our jib out. To our dismay, the furler mechanism at the top of the mast froze up and we could neither let more line out or take any in.  Since we were going along so well, we decided to wait until we needed to tack – in roughly 2 hours and then we would see if by some miracle we could free it up. Unfortunately by then the winds had freshened up significantly increasing to the 20’s with gusts up to 24 – 25kts.  This was getting a little too dramatic, but at that point there was not anything to do except proceed.  As we tacked and began motoring into the wind, the jib began flapping like crazy and the lines were whipping around the deck. They were still attached at the cockpit, but the lines between there and where they attached to the tip of the sail were free to whip around dangerously.   I pulled them in as much as possible.  Jim was up front but could not grab them until he was able to throw another line around them, and pull the lines down to the deck using the power of the anchor windlass. After cleating them off at the bow, the tip of the sail was tied down as was the top that was stuck in the furler.  It was the middle of the sail that was now flapping and snapping and the deck was bouncing like a bucking bronco.  He tried to wrap the sail around the forestay, but was just not tall enough.  Using a boat hook he managed to get a few wraps on. 

Meanwhile, at the helm, I was reviewing everything I ever knew about Man Overboard drills and mentally yelling at the winds to cease and desist. By this time, they were consistently between 24 - 25 kts with gusts up to 27 - 29kts.  Jim was crouched on the deck and then lay down on his back and just stared up at the mast, the jib and the furler.  It was incredibly noisy between the wind and the sails flapping so that we could not talk to each other and I wondered if he was OK.  

Finally he crawled back to the cockpit and said he had an idea.  He could not wrap the sail around the furler so he decided we could drive the boat in a tight circle which would effectively force the sail to wind around the forestay. We  had enough depth and enough room that we could do that.  Even at 2200 rpm the boat had a hard time when we were turned into the wind which tended to just blow us back the other way.  After a number of tries I got the boat moving in a tight turn and amazingly the sail began to wrap around the forestay!!   Once I got some momentum going, the turning became easier and the free part of the sail smaller.  I should have kept track of how many times we went around because after a few times, the cookies from the GPS gave up and just showed 3 or 4 circles.  It was probably closer to 20 times.  Under normal circumstances I am not good on merry-go-rounds, but adrenalin was high and dizziness was the last thing on my mind.

While circling, we were passed by a Coast Guard Patrol going very slowly – if he tried hailing us, we don’t know because between the sound of the wind, the waves and the slapping of the sail and lines we could hear nothing on the radio!  But since we didn’t hail him, he probably figured all was well, if not a little strange!

Once the sail was as wrapped up as it was going to get, Jim went back forward with a line and a boat hook.  He made a loop around the forestay and with the boat hook was able to lift the loop to the lower part of the mostly wrapped sail and then pulled it tight and voila, the bottom of the flapping jib was under control. 
Jib partially controlled with one line
The upper part was still flapping and very noisy but at least we could continue to our anchorage spot.  It was a very relieved crew when we anchored. Even the loss of our anchor buoy seemed like a mere trifle.  Once anchored, we were able to work together to get another loop around the sail, this time a little higher up.  Things quieted down considerably.  
Two tie downs to control jib
After a quick dinner we both crashed – didn’t even have the energy for a beer!  A little too much excitement for one day or as Jeff from Two Can Sail might have said – it was an “interesting day”!

The next day was too windy to work on the jib so we took the dinghy to Boca Grande, enjoyed walking around and treated ourselves to Key Lime Pie and iced tea at the Pink Elephant.  By the next day the winds had subsided so we could work with the jib furling line but had no success. With no other alternative, Jim decided it was time to go up the mast.  Out came his climbing gear and two hours later he was ready to ascend.  Amazing how much paraphernalia it takes but it gives me some comfort that he pays a lot of attention to safety redundancy, checks and rechecks.

Getting all his gear in order

Part way up

Even further up

Waving from the top
We communicated via cell phone (Jim handsfree with a blue tooth – which he kept in his ear thanks to a stocking cap).  When he reached the top, he lubricated the furling mechanism with WD-40, was able to twist it by hand and almost immediately I was able to reel in the jib!!  It didn’t take any blows with a hammer or any other severe measures.  We are now waiting for another low wind day to “exercise” the jib and make sure it is repaired at least for the moment.  Turns out there is a better lubricant than WD-40 which as soon as we can find it will require another trip up the mast.  

We are leaving Boca Grande tomorrow and I, for one, am looking forward to an undramatic day. 

1 comment:

  1. You guys are true sailors now! Hats off to Jim for a creative solution and to you for carrying it out. I wonder if you're on a Coast Guard report somewhere.