I paused (again) to catch my breath, and looked around. I was past the spreaders, almost to the top of the mast. The view up here is nice. On a calm day like this you can see the fort at Key West, the cruise ships docked near Mallory Square, the Frankfort Bank, and the bay on the other side of Fleming Key. Why am I up here? To re-attach the forestay we dropped in our last blog post
Usually I winch Duwan up the mast. She went up six days ago. She took lots of pictures and measurements, and determined that we just needed a pin to secure our forestay to the top of the mast. But she didn’t feel good about trying to reconnect the forestay itself.
We ordered a pin (3’’ long, 1/2” in diameter) to replace the one we’d lost. Then we tried to decide how to go about hiring someone strong enough to winch me up.
Thank goodness for FaceBook’s Women Who Sail group. Women can pose questions there without fear of being belittled for their ignorance. Duwan started asking questions, and relayed the answers to me. (As a guy, I’m not allowed to look.) We got several good suggestions, one on how I could climb a halyard myself.
We decided to use the climbing technique, Prusiking. Prusik knots are loops around the rope you wish to climb. Friction holds them while they are under tension. When the pressure is off they can be slid along the climbing rope. Using two Prusiks you can raise yourself with a foot loop, slide a second chest loop up. Then, hanging from the chest loop, slide the foot loop up. Simple!
It helps to have a bosun’s chair. And for added safety use another line which your sweetheart can tighten after each “step”.
Moving about 12 inches each step, it took me a while to get to the top of the mast. This is an activity for younger, lighter, stronger people. But I finally made it.
Next I hauled up the forestay while Duwan used a boat hook to try and keep it out of the wind generator and shrouds. I tied off the end of the forestay and carefully pulled out the replacement pin and tools. Don’t want to drop anything at this point.
Getting the forestay in place required a lot of effort. Even with the heavy swivels resting on the deck it was difficult to lift. I finally got the pin in. Then I inserted a cotter pin and bent it to secure the large pin.
I didn’t want to climb down, but my climbing halyard was too short for Duwan to lower me. (Lowering is much easier than raising.) So I hung from the backup line and loosened both of my Prusik knots. Duwan hauled on the climbing halyard until the bottom end was close to my feet. Then I tightened the Prusiks, and she lowered me on the climbing halyard.
Back on deck we loosened the backstay and connected the bottom of the forestay to the bow. Then I retightened the backstay. Yay. The forestay was in place. The mast was secure.
The forestay itself is just a stainless steel cable. To support our roller furling headsail there are swivels for the top and bottom of the sail. Also, the cable runs through a set of hollow foils. The foils run the full length of the forestay. They are screwed down to it. They form a long slot which houses the leading edge of the sail. Each foil is 7’ long. There are special connectors holding them together.
We had temporarily reinforced the foil connections with plastic sleeves. A rope ran inside the sleeves. My plan was to tug on the rope when we finished. The sleeves should slide down. The plan didn’t work. The topmost sleeve wouldn’t give.
After a lunch break it was Duwan’s turn to go up the mast. I winched her high enough to work on the topmost sleeve. When she freed it the rest came down easily.
Bad news. The foil connections are dinged up pretty badly. We can’t raise a headsail. We will probably need to replace the whole forestay assembly. If so, we may even pull the mast and do some other maintenance. These are land jobs, not to be done at anchor.
We can still sail with the mainsail only. If the wind is abeam or behind us we can make progress. If the wind is ahead of us the progress is very slow.
But we’re healthy, and all our new gear is working. I replaced a fuel filer and tightened all the fuel line connections. Blue Wing’s engine is running well now. The adventure continues.