Blog Entry 11 Double Checking

Ian Redwood & Laura Brown
Sun 20 Mar 2022 16:44
 06° 03.5S 094° 21.0W  15th March 2022 Double Checking

A successful life at sea includes the need for constant checking.  Not in a paranoid sense, it’s a vigil – it is a proactive effort to stay on top of all that nature would otherwise seek to destroy.  It’s attention to detail, it’s a discipline.  It’s because there is a certainty that at sea everything will eventually fail.  It’s just a matter of anticipating when it might fail.  After all, this is one of the harshest environments on the planet and RaLa is constantly in action.  Not a day off, not a minute’s rest for RaLa.  The environment is wet, windy, and salty and to top it all the withering equatorial sun irradiates everything – everything degrades, corrodes, or falls apart… eventually.  We have to stay on top of this because our yacht is our means of survival.    

Today, Laura found that the mizzen sail was coming apart – the piping on the foot of the sail runs within the mizzen boom, however the stitching had come away and a noticeable air gap was forming between the sail and the boom, and it was getting worse.  All hands to the rear deck.  First, the sail had to be lowered, then drawn out of the boom.  Then the detail of the tear could be inspected.  The repair requires specialist equipment and techniques normally conducted by a sail maker.  As evidence of all of the above, the same issue on the same sail was already repaired by a professional sail maker in Bonaire not 5 months ago.  

Now we had no specialist assistance to call upon.  The first of our challenges - we had to fix and improve his failed repair ourselves with little sleep and a rolling sea.  Then we had to assemble the materials and tools.  We had some extremely strong waxed thread and some sharp sail-maker's needles.  The latter are made of quality steel and are triangular in cross-section.  The point is also sharpened like a 3-sided blade so that it can penetrate the hard sail cloth.  If you stick one in your leg, they go in easily like a flechette.  The other necessary item for the needle worker is a sailor’s palm.  This is a strip of leather that fits around the hand with a metal heel.  The heel sits in the centre of the base of the thumb and allow the user to push the needle through the fabric with a bit of vigour and wiggling.  Then the painstaking bit - 2 hours of sewing by hand.  Working as a team, with one sewing and the other holding the sail and checking the work.  Every stitch an effort.  Every stitch pulled tight as can be, and locked if possible.

After finishing the job the final stage is to check it.  Satisfied with the end result, we rubbed candle wax along the new stitching to provide it with the slippery quality needed for it’s role, sliding inside the boom.  We hoisted the sail.  She looked good.  Then in the final analysis, we determined that we needed some cordage to lash the end of the sail to the boom.  This would stop the repair coming under excessive pressure and effectively insure our work.

Back to normal sailing, and the need to carry out more checks.  The vigil continues.  We have sailed about 1,200 miles since leaving Panama, only another 2,700 miles to go.  On, on.