Main problem forces Dee Caffari to take uninviting trip up mast

Date6 December


Yesterday was ridiculously busy. I managed to get through the night relatively unscathed. All the squalls we managed to miss the worst of and didn’t even get wet really. I should have known that was a bad omen.

This morning began about 0730hrs. I suddenly woke from where my head was resting on the chart table and heard really heavy big drops of rain. I ran on deck and saw this blanket of mist that we were about to be enveloped by. Quick as a flash, I put a reef in and then remembered to shut the hatches again for about the fifth time. I remember another squall had entered the radar screen and the alarms had gone off and I thought we’d just see how big he is before we make any drastic moves; at that point I must have dozed off to sleep.

So there I was in the pouring rain and watching this enormous cloud cover us. It stopped raining and the whole sky was grey and there was very little difference between one cloud and the next. I changed from my wet clothes to a lightweight foul weather smock and a pair of board shorts. I was ready to get wet then. The next cloud rode over and the wind changed direction massively. We were now hard on the breeze; Aviva was leaning over and everything. I have just spent two weeks sailing off the breeze and really enjoying it and now it was back to reality with a vengeance.

I looked aloft and noticed that my take down line for the mainsail above the third reef was caught round the front of the mast. I had my fingers crossed that it would free itself when I put the next reef in. In good fashion the next bout of rain and hail hit us and I went for the second reef. It was getting quite difficult and when I looked aloft I could tell that the take down line was preventing the mainsail sliding down the track. So back up I wound the main. I was still overpowered with the breeze blowing 30 knots and coming from in front of the beam. To help balance the boat I furled some headsail away.

I was then stood in the rain pondering my next move with the caught line. I could tack, but I really didn’t want to go in the wrong direction, I could re hoist and then try again hoping that the movement would shake it. My biggest concern was that all around was thick black squally clouds and the weather chart had shown areas of 30-40knots. I really needed to be able to get the main down if I had to.

I tried every option to avoid having to go up the rig myself. I spent half an hour wildly swinging the spare main halyard around hoping to knock it off, but my next black cloud was bearing down on us and I knew I wouldn’t be happy until I knew I could have control of the mainsail. I set about getting myself ready to go up the rig.

After the next black cloud, the wind was between 15 and 20 knots at about 60 degrees to the direction we were heading. I hoisted my climbing lines and off I set, not forgetting the camera. It was the last thing I needed to worry about but in order for you to live this whole experience with me, I needed the shot. So in the rain I set off. Aviva was wonderful she held her course and rode the waves looking after me I am sure. It is kind of nerve-wracking climbing up with no one left behind on deck, to top it all I am not that confident with heights. It is something I deal with due to the nature of my job but I am definitely not one to swing around and add any extras to the necessary job at hand.

I got to the second spreaders and sorted the job out, and then I sat and took advantage of the spreader and took some photographs. Then I had to change over from the ascender to the grigri to get down again. By the time I got down I was on fire. I was chuffed to bits that I had tackled adversity and won. In my mind my first ascent would be in perfect conditions, typically it was raining and we were doing 9 knots.

There was still no rest to be had, I then had to put the next reef in, that made it all seem worthwhile. Since then it has continued to rain all day with the wind flicking from 140 – 90 degrees true wind direction and from 10 knots to 30 knots. So there was no rest to be had. I just have to keep going then these changeable conditions will be behind me.

The jobs list continues to develop and old issues come back to haunt me, such as the water maker. However, as you learn, you get quicker and get the results you need easier. So this time when the water maker didn’t want to play, I knew exactly what I had to do.

Until tomorrow, a tired Dee & Aviva