Saturday, March 3, 2012
The Value of Rig Checks - Also Known As "Where in the Heck Did That Nut Come From?"
Stooping down to examine a nut lying on the deck, I muttered, "Huh, wonder where this nut came from?" We were at the beginning of one of our first 4+ hour crossings as a family, and I was getting ready to set the mainsail. Or so I thought. The seas out from the island we departed from were 8-10', and winds were a steady 25 knots. That 29 mph for you landlubbers. So it was going to be a fast diesel-less day to the next island. Or so I thought.
So I hoist the mainsail. That thing looks funny. "Huh, one sail batten is no longer attached to the slider in the mast". Let the sail down, instruct Mikai to hover lest we get into shallows, run to get a bolt and LOCK NUT, oops got one too big, ok back to get the right one, hoist away again. All's great, we're still dead into the wind for sail-hoisting thanks to Ninja Driver Mikai, and I move into place to adjust the mainsheet and traveler.
It's at this point I stoop down and grasp for the nut lying on the deck. Butterfingers, and it flies into the drink. I guess that was a sign of what was to happen next. No one really saw it, but about ten seconds later, a black shadow shot into the drink too. Then the main was magically loose or at least looser (not sure I wanted that yet). "WHAT WAS THAT?" At first nothing seemed wrong, the boat was fine, I was fine, the crew was fine, nothing was falling, nothing broken. Or was it? The mainsheet, the line (NOT ROPE you LANDLUBBER) that holds thousands of pounds of wind on the mainsail had only one block (pulley in landlubberese) holding it. Now if you remember your physics or anything about levers, you'll know that losing that one block changes it from 4:1 to 2:1. One lonely block left to hold all that weight. I guess we could have sailed on one, but if that one fell off, we'd have a boom BOOMING all over the places as nothing else holds the sail and boom except the mainsheet.
So, about two nanoseconds later (nanosecond one was considering jumping in after the block), down came the mainsail, and motoring it was to the next island.
That's the kind of stuff that happens on a typical day. It's not the boat really--this happens to new and well-worn boats, although a LOCK NUT might have helped. Anything that does happen is my fault. Yeah it really is. Did I do a rig check? No, not that day. Would I have caught it if I had? Maybe. I'm always keeping a keen eye for anything amiss. The nut on the deck (no I'm not referring to me or any of the family) was a sign, a 10-second sign til the damage was done.
So we motor off to the next island, and I think, well, I'll just go to the chandlery (hardware store for boats) and pick up a new one. Except no one has that particular block. Four local stores later, then 10 in California, no one has that block. So I call the block maker. They ask to send a picture, sounds like a custom block. So at 9pm in the middle of pouring rain (not my choice or directive), a few shots are taken, and I get them the next day, and find out there are 14 left in existence, and have it shipped overnight.
I didn't realize this would be 24X7 adventure, on and off the boat.
I also am happily reminded since nothing truly bad happened, that a 5 minute gaze at everything topside on the boat is paramount. And I'm sure something unexpected will happen next time, stay tuned here for more.