Wednesday, July 14, 2010

July 14, 2010 Daring repairs rival those of International Space Station - seriously

"A few notes on staging a trip up the mast (don't worry Mom! :) )

Today, we had some business which required a trip up the mast (replacing a shattered halyard block) and some which could have been taken care of by lowering sails, at the expense of speed (protruding top batten in the main).

Bob has a good climbing harness (much safer than a bosun's chair you might buy at WestMarine for dockside use). To that we tied a tool bag.

For safety, we used two halyards for hoisting (jib and the spare spinnaker halyard). We added a line down to the base of the mast to keep me centered on the boat if I lost my grip on the mast, versus swinging out over the water or other places. For reference, the top of a 50 foot mast on a 40 foot boat in a nice Pacific swell is a very interesting place to be. Boat motions which seem relatively minor at deck level are amplified by the long lever arm, and major movements are, for lack of a better word, "exciting".

With all hands on deck, we started around noon PST (it being easier to run our clocks on PST until the finish than to try to keep up with time zones on the way).

With Jens driving a relatively safe spinnaker angle to avoid any unpleasant drama such as roundups or excessive motions, Bob+Dirk+Tim+Jeff hoisted me up to the broken batten. It takes a lot of hands to work the two halyards we were using to hoist plus the bottom line and someone to pass items up and down via tagline.

The batten proved to be not just broken but split up the middle with a few sharp points. After attempts to fit it back into its plastic housing failed, we simply removed it: downwind it's a lot less necessary than it would be in an upwind race and we don't want it punching holes in the sail.

Up at the top of the mast, we had a block (pulley) to replace. It runs our extra halyard, for use if the ones inside the mast fail (such as via chafe) or are unusable for some other reason (such as the spinnaker wrapping around the forestay and trapping a few of them).

Even a relatively simple operation (cut the securing wire off a shackle, remove the block, replace with a new block, secure shackle pin) becomes more complicated when both legs and sometimes an arm are needed to keep in position and the basic task is one that would normally occupy two hands, one for the shackle and one for the block plus pin.

The operation was a success, with a correction from Bob as a second set of eyes for a reality check (being raher focused on not bouncing too hard against the mast or losing a grip on it, I'd initially passed the halyard down fouled on one of the shrouds and had to fix it).

Everyone did a great job (and a big thanks to Jens for keeping the boat steady for the 45 minutes all told that the operation took). Jens still needed to have a little fun, though, and apparently found the time for a 15 kt surf or two while I was up there: it is a race after all :)

We have a great video and some stills for posting later when bandwidth isn't measured in the hundreds of baud."


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