Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Freshman goes to Graduate School

Kintala is a serious boat, built to sail a serious ocean and stand up to serious weather. She demands a serious, knowledgeable Captain. After this weekend its pretty clear I'm not that person; not yet anyway.

Three things need be done to step a mast.
A. Lift said mast as high as necessary.
B. Control the base of the mast.
C. Line the mast up with the boat, or the boat up with the mast, one or the other.

Before the mast leaves the cradle, set a timer for a full hour. Then review the lift. Slowly inspect the whole rig and anticipate what is going to happen to each stay, line, halyard, and shroud, how they will lift, where they will end up hanging, what will they snag or tangle. It only takes 15 minutes? Do it three more times.

On Friday I did a pretty good job on "A", but wasn't smart enough to think of "B" or "C". We had to figure those out after the mast was half in the boat, which was a bit too late. (In my own defense I hired someone who has done this hundreds of times and no, I don't know what went wrong.)

With the mast in place and Kintala back at her pier I spent about an hour figuring out what had to be done to finish the job...yep, that's the hour that should have been put on a timer. Rigging at the top of the mast can best be described as "needing some tension." The port side baby stay got kinked up somehow with the hook end in the mast out of place. On the starboard side the stay was hanging forward of the lower spreader. (Oops, baby stays pull aft.) The topping lift was wrapped around and around, (and around) the back stay. On the foredeck, coiled up kind of neat, was the entire length of the jib halyard. Most of the main halyard lie in the cockpit. Apparently, while I was down below playing dodge 'em with the mast, the deck crew was hastily trying to come with "B" and ended up pulling on the wrong ropes.

Saturday it rained all day, making any trips up the mast a bad idea. Inside boat work filled the day. This morning we were short on time as we needed to be back in the city before noon. But it wasn't raining. I would feel much better leaving the boat for the week with the baby stays, fore and aft main stay, inner forestay, and lower shrouds snugged up. Going as high as I could on the halyard for the inner forestay would get me where I needed to be to straighten out the baby stays. Deb wasn't happy with me going up the mast with so little preparation, but let me have my way.

Now I know that sailors normally go up the mast on one halyard while using a second one as a safety line. Climbers though, go a lot higher than a sailboat mast on a single climbing rope. I'm a moderately experienced climber and besides, I only had one halyard available.

Friend Kort volunteered to help Deb on deck and up the mast I went. A few minutes later all was well with the baby stays ready to take up some load.

"Okay guys, I got it, let me down."

The Bosun's chair dropped a to just between the upper and lower spreaders then bounced to a stop. All was no longer well.

"Ummm...guys, let me down please."

"Hang on, the halyard is shredding."

"Hang on to what? I'm hanging on the halyard!"

The outer covering on the line had parted and managed to get totally wedged in a jam cleat, reveling an inner core that didn't look too healthy either. I was stranded with no obvious way to get down. At least no way that involved a soft landing.

Sometimes a man needs a good idea in a hurry.

Kort is a dive master, climber, and long time sailor. He's a cool head and has worked his way out of a lot of interesting situations. Deb is a sailor, pilot, climber, and life long biker. She too has had her share of moments where thinking quick and getting it right are of equal importance. When things go south she is the one person I want nearby.

Me? Well, I've survived my own stupidity for this long. I figured I had a pretty good chance of getting out of this one. (Or maybe I'm just too dumb to know when I'm real trouble?)

Kort ran to his boat for a line and carabiner for me to haul up on one of the baby stays. If things go wrong when Mother Earth is a lethal fall away, a good line, a locking carabiner, and a solid anchor point are all one needs to go from barely hanging on to just hanging out. Kort had me two-thirds of the way; all I needed was something to hang from. Deb suggested I make use of the sling we had tied off between the spreaders to lift the mast, which (fortunately) was still rigged above me. Hoping the halyard would last for just a few minutes more, and knowing that I would be betting the farm on the knots I was tying in rather trying circumstances, I released my death-grip on the mast, managed enough slack in the sling for an overhand loop, clipped on...and just like that all was well once again. Kort (and a few others who had tuned in to watch the show) picked my weight up on the good line. I untied the fraying halyard, tossed it away for a faithless whore, and soon touched softly down on deck.

I gotta get smarter, faster. But I have gotten this smart. Even if I have to work a few extra months to pay for it, before Kintala takes to big water every bit of running rigging is going to be replaced. And I'm never going to believe another surveyor...ever.


Bill K said...

I do not believe for a second that you had a REAL certified surveyor.

You had someone that told you he was a surveyor.

I am not a surveyor but had two surveys done and believe me what was missed on your boat would not have been missed.

I am sure glad you are ok.

Bill Kelleher

KAR said...

Any video of this?

Deb said...

No video. We were all just a tad too busy trying to prevent disaster.

Ed said...

I would seriously check the chain plates. They are very difficult to inspect thoroughly on the Tartan 42.


Ed said...

Tim and Deb,

I know you two are having a time of it right now, once you get everything sorted out you are going to have a great boat.

We smoked a Hylas 54 under the Bay Bridge this weekend.


TJ said...

Ed, thanks. I do feel like things are just a bit out of control at the moment. Still a bit of a "Stranger in a Strange Land", I think the surveyor saw me coming; (Bill is right, this guy was a quack.) friends at the marina might have underestimated the change in scale dealing with the Tartan; and the people who owned the boat before us simply didn't use it as we intend. Once I get the mast disaster squared away and canvas flying, things will be a lot better.

RichC said...

Great story ... not so great a situation, but glad it was you up the mast rather than Deb!

As for surveyors, I suspect your opinion is the norm rather than the exception. I've talked to too many buyers that have had sour feeling for the surveys they have had done ... no matter how many pages or how professional the notebook of items.

I learn something every read ... so keep posting.