A naughty mast

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My alarm went off at 0140 and I sleepily turned it off. Instead of spending those extra two minutes in warmth as I had done the last few nights, I jumped out having faith that the beautiful sunset meant there would be some stars in the sky. Since leaving the Azores, we had nothing but clouds and an icy cold North wind. I don’t mind bad weather, but taking away my stars is like putting me in prison.

 

It was still a cold icy North wind. I had put my own foul weather jacket underneath the large one that was issued to me by the boat. Before I went up to the cockpit, I was given a fender cover to use as a blanket for my legs because it really was that cold. It reminded me of the best sleep that I had in the cockpit when we were on charter in Trade Wins. We had taken the dinghy cover off for some reason and we wrapped ourselves in that so we weren’t touched by the wind. Us sailors are creative! Anyway, I trooped up the stairs, happy to see that the Universe gave us her stars that evening.

 

After handover, I went to sit on the comfy sofas to do my stargazing, but they were soaking wet and the wind wasn’t really protecting me. I managed to find a corner that was ok. Then the bilge alarms kept going off, so I eventually sat by the helm where my watch partner was in order to turn them off quicker and give everyone the rest they so badly deserved. The wind was bitter cold, so I slouched down and put the humongous fender cover on the side of me and over half my head to protect me. I was feeling all nice and cosy and ready to watch for falling stars.  I looked up and saw a piece of the masterpiece that is the sky and was so happy. That was…until I noticed the spreader was swinging dangerously. I quickly popped up and got my headlamp out. I looked up and holy shit it was broken!! I showed my partner who’s response was to give me the radio to call the Captain.

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The engineer came up first. He had turned the lights on before he came up and before he was all the way up, he swore and ran down for a torch. He came back up followed by the Captain. We turned on more lights, which are as bright as a football field lit up at night and we could see the spreaders were ok. The rotating mast was just rotating MUCH more than it should. We prepared to drop the sail, put her into the wind and I pulled down on her with all my might, swinging in the air to put as much weight on it as I could. I just wanted it down because these masts weigh tons and could do some serious damage to the boat and cause death or life changing injury if they crash down on anyone.  We spent a tense 45 minutes securing the boom to take the swing out, which could cause further damage. It is hard to de-mast a boat with healthy rigging, but it’s possible.

 

During those 45 minutes, the GPS alarm kept going off saying there was no signal. Yep, we lost the GPS. Luckily there was a back up one and with those good old smart phones, they give GPS coordinates so we could plot them on a chart in the worst case scenario. There is a metal tube that holds the wires of the electronics as well as preventing the mast from rotating too much and that welding had snapped off breaking the cables and allowing the mast to swing freely.

 

Of course this happened at 2.23 am, as all bad things happen on a boat between 2 and 3 am, so we didn’t know this until the morning. My watch partner and I spent a stressful two hours steering and praying that the boom didn’t fall on our heads. The boom is directly above the wheel. I talked out an escape strategy if it all went bad.

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I woke up after my shift and was happy to see that the mast was still there as well as the stay sail, so it couldn’t have been all bad. Then I went outside and saw the beautiful sunshine shining down on a gorgeous deep blue sea. There was a big gentle swell with white caps accentuated by the sea blue. I thanked the Universe for keeping us safe the night before and for giving me this beautiful scenery to celebrate living another day. I was so energised and invigorated that during my watch I steered for three hours. The waves were so beautiful and I was loving perfecting my technique of sailing over the waves while keeping within five degrees of the course.

 

There are many reasons why I love sailing. It’s nights like the one we had last night that remind me to appreciate every single second of my life because we never know when it’s going to end. It makes the colours of the world so much brighter because without being morbid, I appreciate how close we are to death and that I have the choice to live life to the fullest. I reflected on my life today and realised that I am living life to the fullest and what an amazing adventure I’ve had so far!

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