David Scully explains how team Cheyenne carried out major repairs to the mast track
Job done! After a mammoth repair effort which started and first light yesterday, we are fully functional again, with the mast track back in place and all reefs operational.
It was to be a good weather day for this part of the world. Although the heavy swell persisted, winds were less, mostly under 20kts, and the day was clear. Still, my heart was in my mouth as I followed Justin up the mast early yesterday. I do not dangle in the upper rigging with the same frequency or enjoyment that I did ten years ago, and the last time I had been to the top of this rig in a seaway was an experience I do not dwell on.
Still, needs must when the devil drives, and after a few heart-stopping moments on the way up, we were able to lash into the jumper struts and get to work. We had brought the battery drill, drill bits, Easy outs and vice grips, and, invoking a separate saint for every sheared bolt, succeeded in backing all eight out of the rig before the drill bit broke. And that was the first step.
Back down the rig to the third reef location, where we removed the intact reinforced section of track, then back to the deck, where boatbuilder Mike Beasley was ready to receive the scrap and start piecing a new section of mast track together. That was step two.
We returned to the top of the mast with the third reef track section, and started the long job of bolting it into place.
Imagine, if you will, two bodies, tied to a pole that gyrates wildly through about an 8ft radius as the boat beneath it wallows through the waves and troughs, trying to manipulate precision machined parts with fingers numbed by exposure to the wind and cold. We were shaking about up there like Thibetian prayer flags in the wind, like a couple of wind chimes, working with the bolts and the Duralac, and the Allen keys and the tap set and the helicoils, and the screwdriver, and god help you if you dropped anything, because it was a long and risky descent to get another one. I was at the end of my endurance by the time the last bolt was screwed home, and I think that even Justin, tough as he is, was feeling it a bit. But step three was done!
Back to the deck, where Mike’s improvised workshop in the port cockpit yielded a perfect replacement for the third reef track section. The final step was to secure this in place, and mercifully, Mike and Damian volunteered to take on the job. In an hour they had it in place, with every bolt matching its hole spacing perfectly. Step four accomplished. The crew cheered, and put there backs to hauling the mainsail up to full hoist. We were sailing at full potential again!