…As in tangling the halyard at the top of the mast just minutes into our first attempt of raising the mainsail on Gémeaux. We had arrived in St. Martin on December 28th eager to make this new boat our new home and see if she would actually sail. We cleaned, sorted, purged, repaired, and learned. And then we did it all over again until the sun set each day. Finally, we put the steering mechanism back together and attached the jib—two pieces apparently essential to making the sailboat go–and deemed this first day of 2017 to host our maiden voyage.
We release the dock lines and cut the umbilical cord from the Ft. Louis Marina mother ship. Just 15 minutes outside the harbor with the marina still in the rearview mirror, we decided to put up the main sail. Captain Allen was at the helm, first mate Jim Moore stood ready at the mast to guide the sail, and I had the task of raising the mainsail–a very difficult task that involved pressing the up button. In 25 knots of wind, we started the process of putting up a 750-foot sheet of nylon. Up, up, up went the sail, flopping around as its big belly filled with air. We watched with great anticipation and excitement. And then just inches from the top, all progress stopped. The sail would go no more. Squinting up the 70-foot mast we could see that the critical line on the sail was twisted and the sail could not go up any further. Worse, the sail wouldn’t come down either. We pushed and pulled, twisted and swore, but the halyard would not budge. Hmm…what to do? We could send Shiera up the mast to untwist it. Recall that the wind is blowing about 25 knots. I don’t think so. We could swallow our pride and phone the marina for help. Come on, we can do this. And we did…finally. After more than an hour of turning the boat around in circles to alleviate the pressure on the sail, and much wiggling and jiggling, the halyard broke free of its tangle. We brought down the sail, surveyed the problem, and fixed the problem. We love zip ties, don’t we Jim Moore?
Thankful for two engines on this sail boat, we gave the halyard a rest and motored on. Our short journey landed us safely at the dock for Road Bay, situated on the southwest edge of the nearby island of Anguilla. Normally a bustling tourist destination, the beach was empty. We walked about a mile uphill where Google Maps promised beer and an Ace Hardware that would secure the temporary zip tie fix on the halyard. Unfortunately, Google didn’t account for the annual holiday and we discovered most businesses on this little island hotspot were shut down. Thankfully, the Chinese weren’t yet celebrating their new year and we found Limin, a small Chinese grocer open for business. This little oasis of civilization provided great entertainment as we marveled at the variety of available provisions, from motor oils to ice cream and even almond milk.
Later that evening as we dissected the day over beer and our sacred bottle of Blue Sapphire gin, we agreed on two things–first, there will always be something that happens unexpectedly in this new life of sailing. And second (related to the first), not buying beer in advance for a trip clearly is a bad decision.
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