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Monday, February 8, 2010

The science of muddling through

With deference and great respect to my friend the late Leon Peres, who invented it.

First, the story - the science follows:
Here we are, hoofing along with just the headsail, poled out in 20+ knots true, so about 15 apparent. Rolling a lot, quartering sea, yearning for home. Time for the red sail twin poled. Muggins gets dressed, straight from a toasty bunk and starts to set it all up - cold and wet, longish process and needs methodical approach and careful sorting of halyards, topping lifts, inner forestay, downhaul, the works.

Pole attached to mast, topper and downhaul attached, boat rolling through perhaps 30 deg so pole end into pulpit and lean on it while hanking on the sail. Attach halyard - and the tricky bit, back to the mast and get the pole hoisted way high, sheet on so it stops pole from banging on the forestay foil and damaging it - and back to the cockpit to hoist the sail. Needs 4 sets of hands but possible in well set up boat.

The sail goes three quarters of the way up and jams. AAArrrghhh! Won't go up or down, so we have a biggish sail doing a Grand old Duke of York, neither up nor down and flogging but basically under control for the time being. Pole leaping around a bit. Looks as if the halyard has jumped the sheave at the masthead and is caught between the sheave and the cheeks of the block. For the nautically challenged, all you need to understand is that this looks like the beginning of some very bad karma indeed. Essential to get it sorted and now before things get really bad.

No option but to go up to the masthead and see whether it can be freed, or just cut or perhaps unshackle the sail and leave the halyard flapping in the breeze. Only the first is really a goer - the other options are potentially big problems later if things get otherwise pearshaped.

Muggins again - because I set up the arrangement at the masthead and know what's up there. Get into harness, struggle into our much too complicated bosun's chair with pliers, two knives, gloves and boots on and tether attached. Mast wet and slippery, no spare halyards to hold on to, Pete in the cockpit on the winch and off we go, muggins climbing with legs around swaying mast, holding shrouds, taking it slowly and resting the old carcase at each set of spreaders - tricky at the spreaders because you have to go out and around things but Pete winches away when necessary and we get me up there. Grip with legs around the mast which is swaying through a biggish arc, (for the record, it's about 55 feet above the water and probably rolling through 30+ degrees - not a lot, but interesting)let go with both hands and use the full, creaky power of the decrepit shoulders to work the halyard out of the jam. With a bit of effort, it happens and Pete hoists the sail the rest of the way while I hang on and try not to think of what might be happening to the nethers as the mast sways and the delicate parts, squeezed by the straps of the chair are alternately squashed against the mast and stretched away as I hang underneath it. Erk!

And back down again, slowly. Pete had just teleported Dr Gordon before all this started, so we had Long Consultation and thought about the science. When Roland at Tempo built the mast, he put, at my direction, agricultural kite halyards on it. I looked at them when the mast had been stepped and thought - Too agricultural - 12 mm spectra - so I put some much skinnier ones on instead, but did not change the masthead blocks, which have widely grooved sheaves to take the agricultural string. Mistake - too easy for the skinny string to jump as we discovered. But I kept the original halyards and we'll replace the skinny ones when we drop the sail. Muddling through towards perfection.

Now happily twin poled and hooning.