So, we were lucky enough the other day to break something ELSE on our boat. I know, that doesn’t sound like a lucky thing, but wait, there’s more. Remember the last post? The one about the engine that decided to stop responding to our every command, and we had to limp into the marina. That worked out fine – we bought a new shifter/throttle control and installed it the next week – no harm, no foul. So this time, we were out on San Francisco Bay sailing with Christian’s parents – Tutu and Papa Michael, as they are known to Anna and Lydia – when the mainsail decided to suddenly collapse from the top of the mast and fall down to the boom. That’s not so good. We figured the shackle at the end of the halyard (the rope that pulls the mainsail up the mast for sailing) had either broken (and it was a brand-new shackle, too!), or we had done something stupid when securing it to the sail. Either way, when such a thing happens, the halyard ends up jammed at the top of the mast, with no way to pull it back down other than climbing up there to get it. Did I mention the mast is 60 feet tall? Up the mast we went!
Of course, as we all know – boats or no boats – any new project requires a new tool. This was no less the case here. Enter… the bosun’s chair, a wonderful device that one sits in as one rides up the mast to the top. We bought the forum-recommended chair – the super-elite-professional-comfy model that has a weight capacity suitable for the standard African elephant. We read up on the safety procedures – always use double lines, for backup; tie one line to the chair’s attachment point with a bowline knot (don’t rely on the shackle) and the other to a safety harness secured on your body, again the bowline knot. After the puchase and the prep – we were ready – yesterday, we went up the mast! That is, I (Jen) went up the mast, and Christian hauled my butt up there. Ray, the boat-owner in the slip next to us, pulled and secured the backup line while Christian worked the winch on the main line, and slowly, inch by inch upward progress was made. I was only about halfway up when I realized that this was going to get exciting before it was all over. Even then it looked like everything was impossibly far down. But…don’t look down, right?
Eventually, I was at the top. Wow – the view was gorgeous. And absolutely serendipidously we timed the moment at the top with the very moment of sunset (from up there, anyway).
At that point, it was just a matter of grabbing hold of the before-mentioned halyard shackle – which I then could see broken at the pin entry point (maybe we didn’t do something stupid after all?) – and hold on as Christian and Ray slowly lowered me back down. But before they did, I took a moment to just look around. My god – it was stunning up there. The breeze swayed the boat gently, which at the top of the mast felt a little more dramatic. And looking down, things were just impossibly small. Only 60 feet up and the boat looked like a little toy! The girls are smiling up at me in the top picture – they are the tiny green and red dots you can barely see. So I just took that moment to breath the air from up there… it was pretty amazing.
Then I said – okay! I’m ready to get the hell down!