After the Great Tonic Crisis, and the minor Starboard Toilet Blockage crisis (how dare it be the one that blocked – I don’t even use it!), I think I was suffering from a dose of hubris: this is not so hard!
Only 500 nm to go – that’s just a jaunt around the park, really!
I think this solo sailing thing is pretty basic, really. Blah Blah.
So now with 150 nm to go, I am battered and bruised, mentally and physically quite knackered, feeling quite chastened. Oh, and enjoying the sunset now with a G&T (the very last of the T…). And I’m not the only one. Hans and Astrid had a panic moment yesterday when their gennaker ended up in the ocean, and Hans nearly fell in after it. My Spanish friends had a shackle fail on their genoa halyard, too, in 25 knots at night. Four of them with headlamps struggled to get it back on board. And their alternator is still stuffed (you try warm beer in the tropics).
So I may not be alone, but my three latest crises are ‘notable’ at least – topping out the bizarre and idiotic scales nicely.
First was the B&G crisis. 100% self-inflicted, mind. My wind indicator was playing up so I went for a ‘system reset’ of the wind board, pressed entirely the wrong buttons and ended up resetting EVERYTHING. There I was, sailing along with main, full goose-wing genoa and staysail up, and suddenly nothing. Nothing at all. No instruments, no autopilot, alarms flashing, ‘Fault 101’ flashing. And of course, it would be fault 101 – it is the fault of idiots.
This is where the solo sailor needs the 2nd pair of hands. Ok, you steer the boat while I lower some sails, find the manual, read the impenetrable mumbo jumbo that some mad scientist wrote. It turns out I had accidentally completely deleted ALL calibrations for the boat. I had to effectively recommission the entire system, including help the autopilot ‘learn’ the steering by following a sequence of actions. The thing is, if the boat moves as you do it, it is: GO BACK TO GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200.
I had a few false starts until I had hove too properly. It was all fine in the end, but during that 1 hour of self-inflicted torture, I started to imagine what I might have to do if the autopilot is gone. Humbling.
But the hubris, of course, continued. I was bored. The only way to make the boat move in 10 knots of wind was to sail in the general direction of New Zealand, or, put up a coloured sail. So I pulled it out again, hoisted it and promptly wrapped it in a tight knot around my new inner forestay. Bugger. That took at least two hours and a lot of luck to sort, and finally, in the end, I went below to get a drink of iced water, only to find the porthole in the galley had completely lost its window. Now, this is a well-known issue – I am forever telling people to shut that porthole at sea because the spinnaker sheet will get under it and break it. You didn’t want to be in that galley, I tell you, as I gave myself a pile of expletive-ridden admonishments…Ok, there is good news here. I happened to have a piece of Perspex (thanks Baz!) which I can fashion into a replacement, not opening, window. Another hour later, job sorted.
And yet, still, there was hubris. I convinced myself since I had managed to hoist the spinnaker, surely it would be no issue to lower it again. I am an expert now, right? Some little voice, fortunately, told me to check it all out when the wind was still moderate. To my absolute horror, I discovered one of the lines on the ‘sock’ had wrapped itself around a fitting on the top of the staysail foil. It was stuck. It didn’t matter how I flicked it this way or that way, I was screwed. I am there thinking, ok Ken, stay calm, there needs to be a way out of this. But it looked seriously dire. I couldn’t move the sock and I couldn’t lower the halyard, because the line on the sock would keep the sail caught on the staysail. What do I do if I can’t get a sail down? And not just any sail – a brightly coloured scary one? Crap. More expletives.
There seemed no choice. Last November, somehow I must have imagined this might happen because I bought online a thing called a Top Climber. At the time I thought ‘of course I won’t need that’, and I had promptly stored it without pulling it out of the bag. Anyway, it was my saviour. I eventually figured how to climb my way up a 10mm line (it looks so thin!). I am bruised and battered now, but I did get to the top of the mast (with a full main and spinnaker up), being thrown from side to side. I took a break on the way, sitting on the spreaders, and had a moment to think how did I get myself into this?
I have now packed that pesky coloured sail away. I am 150 nm from Hiva Oa, and Astrid and Hans should arrive within hours of me, sometime tomorrow afternoon. We’ve already planned sundowners, then lunch at the hotel (with pool and wifi!) on Sunday. My clearance agent will meet me there – how civilized!
They say sailors are a superstitious lot, and I really get it. Here you are, completely at the mercy of the weather and dumb luck. I am hoping now that crises happen in threes. After all, what can happen in a mere 150 nm??