Sunday, January 31, 2010

So Tell Me Again: What Does Foolproof Mean?

Meredith remains in Vero.

Yesterday the Budget Committee went up the mast.

Several weeks ago while approaching the visitor centre on the Dismal Swamp (a free dock) poor Meredith was piloted into a tree by the Curmudgeon. Not a ground level tree, a great green aerial thingy with branches and leaves and things designed by God to have as their single purpose the mangling of our masthead.

You would be amazed at how often God has it in for the Curmudgeon. He is special you see.

In the process of docking poor Meredith the pilot somehow got his masthead into the skyborn minefield. It dislodged our windex which fell with a clatter and two bounces onto the deck. (For nonsailors the windex is a little arrow that sits on the masthead and revolves in the wind. By looking at the windex sailors can tell how badly they have trimmed their sails. It is invaluable as sailors are always interested in how well they have trimmed their sails (and universally dismayed at how poorly they have done). The windex is conveniently located at the masthead to make it near impossible to see. On a sunny day the windex also acts to ensure that sailors get a full neck tan, assured as they are constantly gazing upward.)

Anyway, ours fell off. And as all sailors know, you cannot sail a boat without a windex.

A new one was ordered from Defender, our mailorder house of choice, and arrived in a timely fashion on Monday last. Which is where it sat until the Budget Committee decided the wind had fallen sufficiently for her to be safely pulled up the mast. Fat chance of that.

In fairness it has been windy.

Friday was the day.

The bosun's chair was made ready by the Budget Committee and stocked with the tools and chemicals she would need to install the new windex. As she tended to this I concocted an intricate series of blocks designed to carry the halyard I would use to haul my beloved to her aerial workshop. The blocks carried the line from the mast to our powered anchor windlass.

Once ready the BC awkwardly (the only way you can do this) stood at the base of the mast with her rear end extended into the bosun's chair waiting for someone to snug up the halyard so she could sit.

A second halyard was attached to a shoulder harness worn by the BC as a safety measure. As the BC was hauled aloft the idea was that the safety line would be kept snug manually by the operator. If the main line failed for any reason the BC would be caught by the safety line and held up by her harness.

Snugging the halyard was simple enough. Wrap the line around the winch and press the "up" button. Yup. Foolproof.

The first go at it produced a snarled mess on the windlass capstan that tightened itself into a Gordian knot. It was nearly decided to cut the halyard until the windlass operator realized that the powered winch would be as effective in reverse as it was in forward.

This allowed the second go at it. Without going into a long embarassing story let's just say that the second go did not work either.

There was one really cool effect however. The Budget Committee got as far heavenward as the spreaders before things went awry. There she sat in her bosun's chair. The windlass operator (that would be me) dutifully snugged up the safety line. Just then the main line snagged itself on the windlass and things rapidly ceased moving. Breakers blew on the feed to the windlass which was disturbing because they were 60 amp breakers.

While the operator fought to free the main line the BC dangled in midair. Finally the windlass was persuaded to give up its hold on the main line and there was slack. The line loosened by a foot or two the operator continued to work at untangling the mess on the capstan.

The operator forgot however about the safety line.

The Budget Committee did not. As the shoulder harness took up the pressure of keeping the hapless BC aloft it tightened itself on the torso of the BC.

That harness settled on the firmest most prominent features of the poor BC and held on tight. The poor BC was being held aloft by her two most prominent projections. Talk about a bustier.

Apparently this was not a comfortable situation as the BC succinctly informed the ground crew. When the ground crew stopped laughing the BC was quickly lowered to ground where a further discussion of tactics ensued.

Moments later the ground crew had rerigged the halyards to the cockpit winches and started the slow labourious process of manually hauling his wife's ass up the mast.

Once there the BC worked like a pro - that is like she was being paid by the hour. Carefully and slowly she removed the remnants of the old windlass, reinstalled a new base and ressurected the windex pole.

And now I always know how badly my sails are trimmed.

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