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The Voyage of Spectacle Going Up the Mast

The Voyage

Spectacles

Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Going Up the Mast

As I mentioned, the furling drum did not come down the forestay when we dropped the halyard on the headsail, and as such, someone needed to go up the mast to retrieve it.  I suspect there’s something wrong up there since theoretically, it should be weighted enough to slide down on its own. 

Going up the mast is a boat task that is simultaneously mundane and terrifying.  You attach a seat, called a bosun’s chair, to the mainsail (or spinnaker) halyard, and use a winch to lift the seated person just as you would raise a sail.  Intellectually, it’s easy to understand that the load on a huge sail, in big wind, involving a 69-foot mast, far exceeds your body weight.  But you just can’t help but wonder if this might be the one instance that the shackle fails.  I was especially thinking this since I was going up the mast because of a failed shackle, but whatever.  And yes, I volunteered to go up the mast because in a way, running the winch is far more nerve-racking … the ascent isn’t that bad as the winch does all the work and there’s a brake preventing the line from feeding out should the winch fail or slip.  But, on the descent, that brake is open, and the line is manually let out.   

I’m not afraid of heights and I didn’t find the whole experience particularly scary, but the very top of the mast is fairly unnerving.  Past the highest set of spreaders, there’s nothing really to hold on to except for the big tree trunk of a mast that I wrapped my legs around.  And it’s weird to see the halyard, with which you’re being hoisted, become so short and then feed into the mast. 

Once I was up to the spreaders or so, I pulled extra slack of the headsail halyard out of the mast, and swung out to the forestay to inspect the furling drum.  That was a pretty strange sensation, but really, holding onto the forestay really freaked me out because it’s pretty loose, that is to say, definitely not as rigid as the mast.  The furling drum was definitely stuck, and no amount of muscle or slack in the halyard would budge it.  One of the connecting points on the forestay’s sleeve appeared to have some bolts sticking out that have loosened themselves. 

I reported down to Andy that the furling drum would not come down, and that I didn’t have the tools to try to fix it.  As such, he lowered me slowly down, and I was a snit for the rest of the day because he forgot to take my picture while I was up there.  Dammit!


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