Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Panama to Grand Cayman

Sailing with Dummies (California to Texas, Day 33)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

by Mike

“… again,” he said. And then Bob went back upstairs. Hmm. It was 1:50am.

I knew there were words preceding that, I just had no idea what they might have been. I sat up and decided to get out of bed and go see what he was talking about. I stretched, yawned, and stumbled upstairs and it began to make sense. “The front stay broke again,” he must have said.

The front stay was loose alright. It was flopping around banging into things. Part of the 60-fot furler was in the water – maybe 20 feet. And it was slowly continuing down. The bowsprit, furling drum, and assorted cables were dragging along in the water.

Our first action was getting the sails down and minimizing the motion of the boat. Then we roped the furler with some rolling hitches and stopped its descent. By then we had a fairly good idea of what happened. The stay (stainless steel guy wire) had broken in two and the furler was sliding off of it. The bottom eight feet of the furler and stay were hooked to the tangle of bowsprit and cables that were dragging in the water.

The biggest challenge was lowering the furler off of the stay and then successfully capturing and controlling the bottom end of a flailing, loose 60-foot stainless steel cable. Hopefully before it beat us or the boat into submission.

We wrapped ropes and halyards around the mast and the upper part of the stay to help minimize the stay’s movement once it was free. Bob lowered the furler into the water and jettisoned it when it was free of the boat. I grabbed the bottom of the stay and managed to get vise-grips on it.

With it temporarily under control (three pairs of vice-grips on it by now) we considered our options. When hanging down at the mast, it was broken off about five feet above the deck. It wasn’t a braided or twisted cable – it turned out to be a solid rod and very slippery. The sea was too rough (and it was too dark) to climb the mast and remove it safely. We needed a way to attach to the bottom of it to control it for about 12 hours.

We ended up drilling a small hole in the stay. With a small bolt in the hole, we tied ropes tightly around it. Then we wrapped the broken stay around the furled solent and tied it off firmly.

From there it was just a matter of getting tangled bowsprit mess out of the water, disassembled, and the cables tied off out of the way.

We arrived in Georgetown, Grand Cayman late in the afternoon. We got checked in with customs and ate supper off the boat at a local spot called Breezes. The island looked deserted. All the shops were closed, and most restaurants were closed … on a Saturday night! There were no cruise boats in town. That would change.

Fishing Report:

Morning twilight was just beginning when we finished our repair work and headed back north toward Grand Cayman. Naturally I put the fishing lines out, as I do every morning. Fullerton asked why we were fishing since we had a freezer full of fish. Elizabeth was properly greedy and said to catch more! Bob and I just understood: when you’re sailing, you’re supposed to fish.

Oh … no luck today.

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