Blog Entry 13. 18th March 2022 - Eight bells and all ’s well

Ian Redwood & Laura Brown
Sun 20 Mar 2022 16:50

07° 16.0 S 098° 48.5 W  - Eight bells and all’s well


The trade winds have definitely kicked in.  We’re barrelling along at 7 knots.  We’ve got plenty of wind, (hurrah), but with it comes rain (hiss).  Tropical rain is quite something to behold, one minute you’re dry and the next a fire hose gets turned on leaving you completely soaked and sometimes struggling to catch your breath.  We haven’t required to wear our waterproof ‘foulies’ for about 2+ years – suffice it to say this is pretty hard-core for our accustomed cruising, warm weather beach-bum lifestyle.


Invariably, the strong gusts that come with a squall require an adjustment to sails.  Our mainsail needs to be adjusted at the mast, we’re not like a modern production yacht which has all of the lines required led back to the cockpit.  Having lines led back allows the modern cruiser to laze around all day, drinking gin and tonic, and when an adjustment is needed he can casually place his glass alongside his nibbles and pull a few lines whilst peering out under a partly closed eye, in order to raise, lower, and trim his sails.  Not us.  When an adjustment is required we have to garner ourselves to go and do battle in the elements.  Steely resolve is required to step outside of the secure cockpit and edge along a slippery deck battered by waves.  You need a good grip of static bits of the yacht as you begin this daring deed.  The occasional green back (aka a goffer) can sneak up and whack you in the back of the legs.  Each movement is challenging. 


Once at the mast we have convenient bracing bars either side – aka ‘Granny bars’ as they look like a zimmer frame, however they are fixed, immobile.   Granny would scoot over the side and into the oggin if they had wheels on.  The bars allow the deckhand to have a bit of security and lean into them when at the main mast.  Lines that are held by cleats are tidied away in coiled loops and can now be released and then arranged for hoisting with a winch.  Then muscle power is required to grind away a loaded line. 


With a strong wind buffeting the sails getting them down is not generally easy.  To reset a sail like this can easily take ten minutes or so.  After the sail is set, the non-working end then needs to be coiled and tidied away.  At this stage we have ropes all over the deck -sometimes it looks like a snake’s wedding – a crazy writhing of different coloured lines.  Like many of the adventurous pursuits effective ‘rope management’ is an important key to success.  A fouled line could mean a sail stuck in a position you don’t want, or, unthinkable in these conditions, a trip up the mast to retrieve it.  Perhaps worst of all, a line overboard is free to tangle with the steering gear.


In the time it takes to set the new sail plan and return to the cockpit the adrenaline rush will have kicked in leaving one with a dry mouth and feeling exhausted.  But stand-by, the squall has now passed and the sails need re-setting again.  This cycle of sail management can get more than a little tiresome.  However, if we want to get where we are going efficiently there’s no choice.


The ships batteries are not lasting that well at the moment and they require frequent charging via the generator.  It’s not surprising.  The solar panels which keep the batteries topped up during the day aren’t doing much work as they’re not getting much sun.  Lucky that our sunny sailor dispositions are still shining.  Yes folks morale is still good.  We’ve just passed a third of the distance to travel.  Eight bells and all’s well.