Friday, 26 September 2014

Jib Sheets and Snap Shackles

There is a much under-rated musician, Chris Rea, who made an album in the 1980’s called ‘God’s Great Banana Skin’. The title track implied that over-confidence can bring bad luck. I always liked the song and now I have special reason to re-play it and take note of the lyrics. ‘Why?’ you may ask. Well, a couple of weeks ago I announced that, having renovated this boat, I knew her intimately, better than someone who simply goes out and purchases one from a production line.  Her construction and her ways on the water held no mysteries or surprises, I said. A lot can happen in a couple of weeks.

Last week Susan and I decided we would take her for a sail on Wednesday afternoon. The September weather here is unusually pleasant and mid-week we have the estuary to ourselves. Wednesday duly arrived and although it was sunny the wind was not ideal, a gusty North Easter. At times it was calm, hardly enough breeze to give us steerage-way and then a force five would come charging across the water, laying us over and sending us off down-stream like a goods train. All these terms are relative of course, A Westerly Nomad doesn’t heal like a dinghy and five knots is her speed limit – but it is fair to say that, at times, without a reef in her sails, she was over-pressed and the trip wasn’t easy or comfortable.

Earlier in the year, when I raised the mast and launched her I should have set up the slab reefing system but in my eagerness to get afloat I hadn’t bothered and so now, in this wind, reefing wasn’t an option. I suppose I could have set up some kind of jury reef if I had gone into the cabin and selected a suitable piece of rope from the tangle I had carelessly bagged up and thrown in there, but leaving the helm wasn’t really an option because I didn’t have much sea room in amongst the cluster of moored boat where I happened to be at the time.

My solution was to tack, push out across the estuary into clear water where, hopefully, I could find the space and time to sort things out. No such luck, as the boat came round onto her new tack, the jib sheet jammed in the port spreader. How could this happen? Well, again in my haste to get this boat sailing I had connected the jib to the sheet using a large snap-shackle. They say that if something can go wrong it probably will and today was no exception. On this, our fourth trip, the first trip where the wind was strong and less than perfect, the snap-shackle had ‘snapped’ itself firmly onto the shroud and the jib was well and truly aback. The weight of wind was such that the shackle could not be unfastened without bringing the bow back into the wind. Fortunately, we drifted past the cluster of moored boats, got ourselves sorted and no harm was done – except maybe to pride.

Ah well, I guess I got some changes and adjustments to make, might play that Chris Rea song a few times more too.