Peter has been up the mast many times. He has changed out bulbs, serviced our wind generator and retrieved runaway halyards. He is also a big strong guy. Knowing it’s difficult for me to even raise our 12′ dinghy up onto the bow by myself, we have always had assistance from another guy to crank him up the mast while I tail the line (hold tension and guide the halyard away from our manual winches).
After we were safely anchored in Salinas, we decided it was the perfect time to go back up the mast and take a look at our faulty wind vane. At some point during our travels in the Bahamas, our wind vane stopped giving an accurate reading of wind direction. The anemometer still accurately displays the wind speed, thank goodness, but for the last several months we’ve been sailing around guestimating the exact direction of the wind. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, teaching us the hard way to listen to our instincts and sail by feeling rather than by digital displays. We’re still relatively new to sailing but with over 2500 nautical miles logged already, I’d say we’re doing just fine!
Whenever one of us goes up the mast, we clip in to the boson’s chair and attach a halyard to its strongest point. For a secondary safety line, we wear our inflatable lifejackets which have a built-in harnesses, and we clip a second halyard to the lifejacket harness. In the event that the primary halyard were to break, the harness and secondary halyard will hopefully be enough to prevent us from crashing down onto the deck. Whoever winches up the main halyard, will also tail the safety line, maintaining enough tension to serve a purpose.
We decided this was the perfect time for me to conquer my fear of heights and go up the mast for the first time. It’s probably more of a fear of falling, than it is the fear of heights. If I know I can’t fall, it doesn’t scare me. The sensation of falling, however, is something I just can’t seem to feel okay about.
I began my ascent as Peter effortlessly winched me up our main mast. Our clearance from the waterline is 49′, significantly shorter than most sloops or cutters, but it was still way up there! With each crank of the winch, I slowly went higher and higher. I got to the spreader bars and yelled down to Peter, “I can’t do this… LET ME DOWN! LET ME DOWN NOW!!!!!” We debated for what seemed like an eternity. He tried to tell me it was okay, that I was doing just fine. He did his best to convince me to keep going.
Peter heard the fear in my voice and eventually let me down. I just needed a couple of minutes to regroup. Then, I tried it again. The second time wasn’t as scary, oddly enough. I approached the spreader bars for the second time and carefully climbed around, easing up on the death grip I had on the mast.
Peter let me take my time. Once I reached the top, I looked around and felt an enormous sense of accomplishment. For me, it was so much more than just going up the mast. I conquered something I had gravely feared, and I was safe!! I spent a few minutes taking pictures and enjoying the scenery. I saw the world from a view I had only seen in pictures. It was magical!! I was 49′ in the air, hanging from a rope at the top of a pole mounted on a rocking boat in the middle of the water. Spectacular.
After soaking in a few moments of new-found serenity, I did what I had gone up there to do in the first place. The wind vane was just out of my reach. My arms just weren’t long enough to bend the wind vane back into place. It was obvious it had been bent, and needed to be bent back, then recalibrated. I snapped a couple of pictures and asked Peter to bring me down.
In the meantime, some neighbors stopped by to see if we needed any help. Peter had to go up the main mast after me to bend the wind vane back into place so we gladly accepted help winching him up. It took just a few minutes and he came right back down. Unfortunately, it will require another trip back up to finish the calibration at another time. We sent him up the mizzen mast after that to do a quick repair on our wind generator. He added some bolts to quiet down all the vibration we were getting, and did a brief inspection on the rest of the unit.
Its times like these where teamwork is crucial. You have to trust that you’ll keep each other safe. With each obstacle we conquer, our confidence grows exponentially, preparing us for the next adventure!!!
Please stay tuned! We have many more adventures to share with you from our travels over the last few months! We are currently in St. Lucia waiting for the next weather window to move south to Grenada where we will spend the remainder of Hurricane Season. We may not be able to get back to you right away, but we love hearing from you. Please leave us a comment :)