Climbing up the inner forestay... solo


d'Albora's Action Project: AUS 360 Blog UpdateBlog 9.12.18

Afternoon all,

Well, it has been a busy 24 hours. Yesterday afternoon I had been watching the winds to see when they would shift from the WSW to the WNW so that I could gybe Climate Action Now over to the Port tack. Finally, at sunset, the shift came through. I still had the full mainsail up and the No 3 Jib flying off the inner forestay. As I had been waiting for this shift I didn't waste any time getting on deck and getting prepared for the Gybe. I had been sailing on a broad reach so my sails were right out and I knew that I would need to be careful gybing as the winds were just over 20 knots and I still had the full mainsail up.

I decided to centre the traveller first which is something I only do in stronger winds. When I was finished I turned around and noticed that my headsail the J3 that I was using was halfway down the inner forestay and half of it was over the side of the boat about to go in the water. Bugger. I wasn't sure what happened if the top of the sail had let go or if the halyard (the rope that we pull the sail up with) had broken or the shackle that holds the halyard to the top of the sail had given way but it was going to be a problem. I went forward and pulled the sail all the way down but when the top of the sail was about 5 meters above the deck it jammed and I couldn't get it to move. I noticed that one of the grub screws that hold the furler extrusions together had shaken out enough to stop the top fitting from getting by effectively stopping the sail from coming down. I was so thankful at that moment that the conditions weren't too bad.

After some thought and some more effort to try to get the sail down I finally conceded defeat and realised that I would need to climb up the inner forestay to get the grub screw in before the sail would come down. Ahh. This is a painful process as I am solo. Normally you would have someone winch you up in a harness however on my own I need to use a self-climbing system and the process is both awkward and you are not able to hold on to anything so you get banged up swinging into the mast and rigging as you climb. As I realised I would need to climb I decided that I would need to wait until the morning as it was almost dark and this would take a while. Also, the conditions were expected to be light in the morning making it easier. I left the J3 tied on the deck with sail ties and un-furled half of the J1 sail to get me through the night before finally going back and finishing that Gybe. The rest of the night was fairly uneventful but I was hoping for some good sleep as I wanted to get up early before the winds arrived and get this sail fixed.

In the end, I likely managed 3 hours sleep and woke up feeling irritable and tired. I didn't want to waste any time as the wind was currently the best it was going to be for this so I got right to it and grabbed my lock tight, Allan keys, file, multi-grips, harness and mast-climb system and went on deck to get stuck into it. I have a system that can be used with any halyard so I ran my spare genoa halyard to the bow of the boat and got prepped. I use 2 ascenders that are the same as what a mountain climber would use. The bottom one has a strap that you put your feet in and the top one connects to my climbing harness. what you do is sit in the harness and lean back bringing your feet up as you slide the bottom ascender up, then with your feet level with your chest you need to leverage yourself upholding the rope and stand on the foot straps. Once your weight is transferred to the foot ascender you can slide the top one up as far as you can before sitting back in the harness and repeating the process. Remember that the whole time the boat is rocking and the higher up you go the more you swing and more often than not there is something that you are swinging into with a bang. It is slow and you only get maybe 20-30cm of distance every time so I was grateful that the sail was stuck only 5 meters from the deck and not at the top of the mast.

It took me about 20 minutes to get to the problem point and once there it was a fairly fast fix and I was back on deck within an hr and had the sail down with me. The next problem was to work out how to re-hoist it without the halyard as this was still at the top of the mast and I wasn't keen to do that climb. I have 2 halyard exits at each forestay but I only actually have one halyard for this sail as the other one is for the storm jib that I will likely be needed on Thursday so after some consideration I decided to try my spare genoa halyard out on the J3 sail. It wasn't going to be great as it would be pulling from the wrong angle but it was better than not having the sail up. Another 10 minutes later and I was able to hoist the j3 with no issues and furl it away ready to use and all of this was before breakfast.

Job done I went below for a little rest and to make some porridge and thankfully for the remainder of the day there have been no incidents. The winds have been blowing at 10-15 knots from the NE and we are cruising along well. I am now just over 100nm from the bottom of Tasmania and so I am looking forward to rounding the final cape and heading for Sydney.

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