The repair…whilst sailing

Once daylight broke we knew we needed to act fast to ease the motion of the boat and pick up speed. All the crew were feeling/being very ill by this stage. Russell scrambled around in the depth of the boat for our storm jib and lines (not an easy task in the swell and whilst ill) and gradually set up an inner forestay and running backstay to be able to use it. I’ve lost count of hours since we’ve had anything resembling sleep. It’s like trying to move in a thick fog when you are this exhausted. And the kids still need entertaining and feeding etc. It’s a new level of human endurance is all I can say!!!

The storm jib, albeit a tiny sail, balanced the yacht and added a valuable knot to our speed.

We tried to get some rest (we’ve been awake for over 30 straight hours now and starting to move in a zombie like state). By lunchtime we knew that we needed to get the fallen jib back up, the storm sail wasn’t the answer. I dreaded this knowing that meant one of us would have to climb and be hoisted up our mast to retrieve the halyard (because the top fitting of the sail was broken and still at the top of the mast). The mast sits 20m above sea level which was a roller coaster of waves (photos never do big waves any justice!).

Russell kindly voted to go up the mast whilst I balanced or rather wedged myself on a rolling deck by the mast to hoist him up. It’s hard work hoisting your husband 20m in the air whilst the floor you are standing in is moving in an unpredictable fashion. My muscles ached and I was scared of either of us falling but I didn’t dare slow down or rest. Russell retrieved the broken parts, halyard and swivel and I started to lower him back down. Equally terrifying. An extra large wave surprised us both and sent Russell flying off the mast crashing into forestays and the main sail. His leg was gashed and his arm took the brunt of the steel stay, I could see the pain etched into his face. “Please don’t let his arm be broken” I silently prayed as I gradually lowered the injured Russell down to deck level. Luckily it was a nasty sprain but nothing broken. After resting again Russell fashioned a new shackle made of dyneema and we then started the slow process of attaching the sail gradually, threading through the slot whilst ensuring the sail didn’t billow away in the high winds whilst standing on the bow as the yacht lurched up and down over the waves. We had to take the storm jib down to do this repair, so the boat motion was back on full washing machine spin mode.

Finally I winched the last hard few feet of sail and the jib was up. Hurrah! I’ve never been so delighted to see a sail in my life. You take for granted the bolts and shackles that hold these things in place.

Instantly our speed picked up and the boat motion returned to ‘normal’ Atlantic 2m swell blowing from the Spanish storm.

We still had 230 nautical miles sailing to land in the Canaries, (turning around and sailing back to the Desertas Islands would be into the wind in Force 6 and not a pleasant option) so it was a tiring next night and day. Everything was crossed for no more disasters!

The boys were great throughout, addicted to their audible books and now on book 18 out of 21 in the Famous Five epic, they remained oblivious to our troubles and enchanted by the adventure stories, despite the one unraveling around them! Thank goodness for Enid Blyton (again). I never thought I’d be saying that!!

4 thoughts on “The repair…whilst sailing

  1. That sounds seriously terrifying! Hope you don’t get too many more similar episodes – glad you’re all OK and hopefully catching up on some sleep!


  2. Sorry to hear you had to deal with this horrendous challenge. Glad the boat kept you safe while the crew were all struggling. Great blog writing, perhaps at the end of your adventures you could write a book.


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