May 19, 2012.
Yesterday at work at the end of the day we got a phone call from the owner of one of the local race boats. It seems while attempting to install a new main halyard he screwed up somehow and had the old halyard fall out of the mast without the new one taking its place as he had hoped. He would like to stop in and have someone install a new halyard. Oh, and there’s racing tomorrow, could we do it right now? Sure Cap'n, come on over.
Its a fractional rig so there’s no other halyards that go to the masthead. That leaves me in the bosuns chair, dangling from the hook on the crane and hopefully, gently brought to the masthead to drop a new line down through the mast.
Like any normal guy the captain was a little chagrined at having screwed up the whole halyard exchange in the first place. He seemed to be very into letting me know that he knew what he was doing as he laid out the plan for the installation of the new halyard. I had already surmised that he knew what he was doing since he had decided to don sailing gloves for the 300 yard motor from his slip to our marina. I listened politely and then explained what was actually going to take place.
I was going to send a line down the mast that he would hook and pull out at the bottom. He'd attach his new halyard and I would pull it up and through the masthead. I stressed that he couldn't be jumping around the decks as he moved on his boat. If the boat heels only a couple of inches at the waterline the masthead wants to swing back and forth several feet. While at the masthead I wrap my legs around the mast to keep my relative position to the masthead steady. If the mast should get away from me it wants to swing 5 feet in one direction while my dangling ass wants to swing in the opposite direction. Swinging away isn't a big deal, its when we start heading back at each other that it starts to resemble “Bill the Piñata versus the 50 foot stick”. The last time I had a captains help it ended with my first emergency room visit in over 30 years. So captain please move slowly and deliberately.
I had to remind him twice from above but otherwise the new halyard installation went pretty well. But this is one of those times when you find out if a persons glass is half full or half empty. While at the masthead I discovered that his backstay had broken wires at the swedged fitting. So there's a very real possibility that if he had gone sailing this weekend it would have parted and he would have lost his entire rig.
When Karl returned me safely to the ground I explained to the captain that his backstay was partially parted. His first reaction was “Damn, after I just went through all this and spent the money to have you replace the halyard, crap”. Frankly, I was kinda dumbf'kingfounded. I looked at him and said “Captain, losing that halyard was a stroke of luck. You just dodged a bullet. That whole rig coulda come down. My trip up the mast is a drop in the bucket when you compare it to the price of your sails and rig. Not to mention that somebody could have been killed.” Right away he snapped out of it but he still lamented “I'm just so disappointed” I told him “Dude, your the luckiest guy I met today”