Up the mast


Top of the mast heading to New Zealand, circa 2013

Sunday Morning August 23/20 07:30
The sun is just coming up over the trees in our front yard. The crows and seagulls are greeting the new day with their usual cacophony of song, if you can call it that. I was up early and had a good night’s sleep after a fabulous dinner that MaryLou cooked. These dinners with Claire, Nicola and ML are very special. This time next week I could very well be on my way out the Straits and gone for eight months. I was up last night at 02:30 taking the thoughts raging in my head and making yet another list in my trusty Moleskin. Not bad actually, only 31 items! This allowed me to go back to sleep.

I had a small accident last week. While cleaning the main cabin in my flip flops I raked past a reciprocating saw blade and sustained a rather long gash over the top of my left foot just at the base of my toes. Yesterday, after two days of changing dressings twice a day it started to swell and there were signs of infection. This morning, after cleaning it thoroughly last night and keeping it elevated, it feels and looks a lot better, although at the end of today it may be different.

I made great, satisfying progress yesterday. Among several small jobs, I was able to focus on the sails and rigging, the real boat jobs. I started by hoisting myself up the mast with two jobs in mind, first to push the staysail halyard through the shive on the mast which had become stuck while trying to re- rove* it through the inside of the mast. The second was to retrieve the spinnaker halyard which I had let go the last time I was up the mast a week or so ago and has stubbornly remained there. Going up the mast this time I felt in much better shape than that first ascent two weeks ago. I didn’t get out of breath and my fear of heights remained in the box. It was not without its problems though. Planning, when you’re by yourself doing rigging jobs is very important. My first job on my way up was the staysail halyard and though I thought it was going to be just a matter of pushing the taped join through the shive, it remained jammed, I either needed to extend my arms to thirty-five feet or lower myself down to the deck and pull on the trace line as I push from above. Not possible!! (common predicament for a single hander). It was early Saturday morning and with a panoramic view of the yacht club and Cadboro Bay perhaps I could persuade some unsuspecting person to lend a hand. I soon realized I was alone and going to have to go back down the mast and get another purchase on that trace line then go back up the mast and try again. Being lazy at heart, from my unique position I scanned the area for a helper. After a short time my helper appeared, Mike, who was rowing back from a night of self isolation to practice his guitar on his boat in the bay so as not to keep his family up, was rowing quietly back to the dock. I hailed him and he responded with bewildering swings of his head searching for the source of the hail as if God was speaking to him from on high. Mike is a wonderful fellow and dutifully rowed over to WW II and climbed aboard, solved my problem and went on his merry way.

Now for job two, retrieving the spinnaker halyard. I pulled myself the rest of the way up the mast till the climbing gear was stopped in the mouth of the main halyard shive, 55 feet off the water!  I reached and grabbed it and started back down the mast easing the bosuns chair line slowly hand over hand with the vagrant halyard attached to the chair. I soon found myself stopped in mid air not being able to descend any further! The other end of the spinnaker halyard was still cleated to the base of the mast 45 feet below! Not even my thirty-five foot arms could rescue me now. I quickly  turned around and yes, Mike was still in sight. This time when I hailed him he didn’t even turn while he was wrestling his dinghy into its berth on the dock and said “I’ll be there in a minute”, rather gruffly I thought. I shouted back “thanks Mike” from my pulpit up the mast. Once again Mike came to my rescue and problem solved. All this took place before 09:00. I pushed on with my day and list. Next the staysail was bent and the sheets roved and brought back to the winches in the cockpit, through the turning blocks inside the stays on the deck track, especially positioned for them. The new main from Leach and McBride Sails had been bent and hoisted once but the reefing lines and ties had not yet been roved. This went well till it came to the reefing ties. The dyneema line I bought was too small and my figure eight knots pulled right through the cringles*. It’s one of the items on that list I did in the middle of the night! The rest of the day went pretty much the same with some successes and some new items for the list. I find as usual  if I just keep moving forward bit by bit I manage to make progress, and if I’m not there nothing happens so I’m off again now back down to the sea where the call of the list beckons me.

*rove: a small metal plate or ring for a rivet to pass through and be clenched over, especially in boatbuilding.

*cringle: an eye through which to pass a rope. In nautical settings, the word refers to a small hole anywhere along the edge or in the corner of a sail, rimmed with stranded cordage.

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Port lights

Friday, August 21, 2020

1/2 inch plate glass sandwiched between polished stainless steel outer trims

One of the jobs I managed to complete in the past weeks is re and re all of WW II’s ten port lights. This is something I needed to do since landing in Fremantle in 2014. As with all projects like this, 80% of the project is in getting all the materials up together and prepping the surfaces. That took the better part of a year and the actual installation took only eight days.

Twin back-to-back ‘C’s of the words Chris Craft

Of the ten lights, four are the same size. They are the largest and their unique shape represents the twin back-to-back C’s of the two words Chris- Craft who manufactured the Comanche as part of the then “Indian series” sailboats that Chris-Craft made along with their famous power boats. West Wind II was the last of the 22 Comanches built in the sixties. These four lights have 1/2 inch plate glass sandwiched between polished stainless steel outer trims and varnished mahogany inner trims held in place with quarter inch bolts and flush nuts. I put these together after several hours of preparation and a great deal of thought. Each one required one and a half tubes of caulking inside and out that all had to be put together at one time, glass, inside trim and outside trim and all 16 nuts and bolts had to line up as well as be tightened all in one process by myself. Holding the glass in place then the inside trim braced to the other side of the cabin, then the outside trim, then line up the nuts through the caulking and hold the nuts on the inside as well, without getting covered in fast setting caulking! 

I’ve realized over the years that taping each surface inside and out is the best way to stop the spread of the caulking to everywhere but where you want it. It is not foolproof by any means, and I always keep a 2 litre container of Methyl Hydrate handy. I also wear two pairs of murder gloves so when one pair become covered in caulking I peel them off to have a fresh pair as emergency back up. 

WW II had six beautifully chromed opening port lights that were in different stages of decay. I managed to rescue three out of parts from the original six and had them re-chromed and reinstalled, two in the forward cabin and one in the head. The other three I had new 1/2 inch glass cut and similar inside and outside trims made  to match the four larger ones. While I had these ten lights out I sanded the cabin sides and prepared them for paint. This led to a much bigger job that took longer than I thought and required a whole other set of skills but same elbow grease ingredient. I experienced the phenomenon commonly  known as “project creep”.

Before I knew it I was preparing and refinishing WW II’s entire deck including the the non skid! I really didn’t need this pressure but choose to push on and get it done.       

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