Pleasant Sailing … but

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 9 May 2021 03:51
Noon Position: 33 47.0 S 165 47.6 E (from sun sights)
Course W by N Speed 6 knots
Wind: N F4 Sea: moderate Swell: NE 3 meters
Weather: cloudy, occasional showers, mild
Day’s Run: 121 nm

It has been plain sailing for the last twenty-four hours, close reaching to a moderate breeze, making an average speed of five knots. On two occasions I have put a precautionary reef in the mainsail as a rain squall passed by; once at 1500 yesterday and the other at 0200 this morning. In both instances the small squall was short lived and half an hour later we were back under full sail.

One problem that arose while shortening sail in the wee hours of this morning was that the jib furler has developed a jam. I didn’t really need to reduce the headsail but generally, if I think the wind might pick up some more, which is harder to assess at night, I like to put a roll in the headsail so that if I do have to furl some more sail later, it puts less load on the furling system. In this instance, however, the furler wouldn’t furl. Well, it wasn’t feasible to try and fix the problem in the dark at the end of a plunging bow so I thought it prudent to leave it until the light of day.

This forenoon then, after a late breakfast and in between sun sights, I had a look at it. The problem has occurred once before. That time I worked out that the foil had slipped down and jammed on the forestay lower swage. I thought it likely the same thing had happened again and on inspection I discovered that the two bolts that hold the foil in place were in fact loose (mental note – use ‘locktite’). So I undid the bolts very carefully while perched on the bow, placing them in a pocket so as not to lose them over the side (they are special bolts with no spares on board – another mental note), then got the spinnaker halyard, tied it to the foil with a rolling hitch and winched the halyard up until I had lifted the foil about an inch – this I managed to do with the jib still set and drawing. I replaced the bolts, ensuring they were nipped up nice and tight but not too tight, then tried to roll up the furler. To my great disappointment it was still jammed. Bother!

The next step is to dismantle the furling drum to see if I can find the problem deeper inside its mechanism but I am very reluctant to attempt this at sea, especially when there is a significant sea running. I figure the likelihood of dropping a critical part over the side would be approaching a certainty.

The ramifications of the jammed furler means that if I want to reduce sail, I will have to do it the old-fashioned way and drop the entire sail then set a smaller sail in its place. Fortunately I do have a smaller jib; however, this procedure is something I am not looking forward to. Handling sail on the foredeck of a small boat at sea is a rather a wet and untidy business, especially for a single-hander, which is why some clever sailors invented roller-furlers in the first place. Maybe, with a little luck, the winds will remain light enough for the remainder of the passage that I will not have to shorten the headsail. Though, on reflection, with over 600 miles to go that is likely to require lots of luck, rather than a little. (I can hear Annie Hill snickering in a moment of schadenfreude - curse you junk riggers I say!)

The words of famous Australian sailor and marine artist, Jack Earl, come to mind:

“You can’t fake it on the water. You can’t pack up and go home. You’ve got to see it through. If you make idiotic bloody mistakes there’s no skirting around them. You’ve got to use your initiative .... find a way out of it.”

And as Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”

All is well.