Farewell sun! Grey overcast skies greeted us this particular morning. Clouds drifted lazily across the heavens, seemingly only metres off the waters. This was a day of watching for squalls and waiting for the predicted wind shift, whilst the Cuvier Basin was traversed.
Another day of drama, although not to do with Gratis.
The first was related to Bob executing an action he had ordered me not to do some months prior.
During the process of releasing a small amount of the Asymmetric sheet, he was watching the sail as he did so. This meant he missed sighting the sheet abruptly unloop from the winch.
Occurring in only seconds, there was no time for me to utter more than ‘Bob’. Glancing down and taking note, in the belief he could control the line, Bob made the decision to hold onto the sheet rather than allowing it to ‘fly’. A mad choice, as out of the blue a wind gust sprang forth and thereby filled the sail. As the Asymmetric ballooned, faster than one could say ‘Jack Robinson’, its sudden pull upon the rope rapidly wrested the sheet through his fingers.
The human body being what it is, saw that fraction of delay time which occurs as the message is relayed from the senses to the brain and back being just long enough to cause a font of damage to Bob’s fingers prior to his releasing of the line.
Sail billowing and pumping, cursing like a trooper, he grabbed the sheet, wrapped it around the winch and proceeded to return the behemoth to its required position.
Meanwhile, having seen blood leeching from the wound, I raced to the first aid kit, gathered the necessary dressings and solutions and returned to the cockpit. His work completed, it was now possible to view the damage. Two fingers had minor rope burn, and another a minor open wound, however, it was to Bob’s index digit that the major damage had occurred!
The power unleashed by the rope as it slithered through his fingers had been such that multiple layers of skin had been ripped from the digit, thereby leaving a deep gaping wound in its wake. Had he held on any longer, bone would have been visible.
Lesson: stand at an angle to the winch. In the event that a sheet or halyard does unwrap, immediately release the fingers and let it fly.
1300 saw more excitement upon the Great Blue as the wind strengthened to 15 knots. Time to swap the Asymmetric for the Gennie. All was going well, until Bob inadvertently dropped the asymmetric tacker fitting (this is a sheath which rests upon the Genoa whilst a small rope attaches it to the lower section on the Asymmetric) overboard.
This was the perfect moment to practice the Man Overboard technique!!
Whilst Bob watched the sheath and directed, I turned off AP and took over manually. With bursts of engine power, Gratis rotated a graceful three sixty degrees to face the direction from whence we had come.
Arriving at the required location, pole in hand, over the bow leant Bob. Pass one, he missed! Not an easy task with a weighty pole in hand when one’s fingers were painfully sore and one was leaning two metres over the side of the bow!
A second three sixty ensued. Almost at the target, Gratis was placed in neutral, then a rapid short burst of power commenced her turning into the target. Another three repetitions of this procedure and we were there. With Big G in neutral once more, it was time for rescue attempt two.
Closer, closer, closer he came. Frustration plus for Bob, as with repeated thrusts at the object, he missed time and again. An unhappy man sadly watched as the attachment floated sternwards.
Tactic change this time.
A full burst of throttle in reverse saw Gratis, like a snail, gradually commence gliding backwards. Leaning over the life line at the stern, Bob now easily captured the rogue fitting. A beaming smile at his success lit his face as he turned and cockily re – entered the cockpit.
19:00, we sighted a ship closing in on the stern port side. Maintaining constant vigilance – one didn’t want a monolith of those proportions coming too close for that meant imminent disaster – and floods on to further illuminate the Gennie. On our radar the ship appeared to be on a heading which would see it eventually crossing our path some distance ahead: with the distortion of light and distance at night playing with one’s eyes visually, a person couldn’t always be one hundred percent certain.
A half hour later, with the megalith just 3nm off the stern, Bob made the decision to play it safe and contacted her via the VHF radio (by now, my stomach was filled to the brim with butterflies). The captain confirmed he had sighted Gratis and would be passing across her bow 1.5 nm ahead of us: Bob’s analysis proved correct.