Sun a blazing on the glistening sea, puffs of cotton balls lazily wafting across the winter skies and the Zephyr, a gentle 12 knot breeze: perfect for exiting between the coral reefs.
Virtually impossible to comprehend, for the first time no dashing to and fro in a last ditch effort prior to departure. Like a picnic in the park, the morning saw us undertake the final stowing, a last minute trip up the mast to check stay fittings and a quick dip to clean Big G’s undersides for Bob, lunch: then it was time…..
Anchor raised, we motored into the Great Blue. Within one nautical mile, the sea bed rapidly plummeted from ten to two hundred metres, and navigating the channel nestled between the islands into the wide expanse left one tottering as Gratis exited the calm bay and entered the rolling hills of the mighty Indian Ocean.
By 14:00, the Gennie and Staysail unfurled and poled, Big G was virtually past the northern tip of Horsburgh Island, her bow Rodrigues bound whilst the fishing line trailed behind.
Two and a half hours later, a rapid whirring had us both bounding up. Such a rare sound to our ears, it took a while for us to connect it to that of the fishing line running.
Out we bounded, as much as one is able on a rocking horse. Seizing the rod, locking the drag on the reel, Bob backed and sat himself comfortably upon the cockpit combing. The combination of fish fighting and the pressure of pulling against the water required a constant mix of pull, wind, pause and repeat in order to reel our mighty catch in. Thirty minutes later, exhausted, Bob at finally brought him alongside. Gaffing the monster in the gills, he hefted a one and half metre Wahoo aboard: our first deep ocean catch. What exhilaration!!!
Gutted, bled and cut into steaks there was enough meat to provide six meals in twelve gigantic steaks.
Evening upon us, the most delicious of meals completed,
radar alarm activated and AIS on its 24/7 watch, Bob disappeared below for his six hour slumber, whilst armed with a good read I settled in for the duration.
Twenty minutes into my shift whilst in the bathroom cleaning my teeth, from outdoors the sound of an object releasing, followed by a thud resounded throughout Gratis – of course, it had to happen at night!!!! Expecting the issue to be the repaired whisker pole, I called out to Bob whilst simultaneously flinging open the door and racing up top where I found him already there: Bob is fortunate in that he can spring from a deep sleep into immediate wakefulness. Floods lighting the deck like a Christmas tree, he was peering through the window in search of the culprit – to our surprise the pole was fine.
Sails looking good and all else appearing normal, having searched outside and unable to find any issue, Bob was ready to head below.
With the advantage of having been wide awake and armed with the knowledge that I had heard something critical give way, my eyes continued roving the deck.
It took time, but at long last, there it was!!!! The staysail was hovering to one side. My eyes following its line down, further inspection revealed the furler was no longer attached to the bowsprit. The release I had heard was the drum coming to an abrupt halt as it caught the bow spit rail, and fortunately hung there waiting patiently for Bob to re attach the stay! Again!
At first appearance, the scenario appeared reminiscent of our first night sail along the top of Kangaroo Island: the bonus for us here was lighter winds, a gentler sea and the drum wasn’t flying out over the water. I believe it was the fact that the sail was poled out and connected to two preventer lines with the aim of restraining movement which stopped this from occurring (during the previous incident the sail was only attached to the halyard and sheet).
At the bowsprit, Bob discovered no requirement for the sail to be lowered to the deck. Whereas previously the whole lower half of the connection had disappeared overboard, this particular event differed in that the lower lock nut had loosened and allowed the bottle screw to unwind and disconnect This in turn enabled the entire staysail stay to come adrift.
Leaning over the rail, Bob seized the drum, hefted it aboard and attempted to draw the two sections together. Unfortunately, each oscillation of the boat took the staysail and drum with her, making it impossible to complete the connection.
Returning to the cockpit, I grabbed a rope hurried along the deck to the bow. Having passed the line to Bob, he secured one end to the drum’s base before anchoring the other to the bowsprit floor which in turn allowed the assembly to be positioned centrally over the bowsprit itself.
Wrenches required for tightening the lock nut once it was reconnected in hand, Bob proceeded to set the spare port side twin sheet. Stern end encased around the winch, he returned to the bowsprit and fastened the other to the furling drum. All components in position and ready for action, Bob sat himself upon the bowsprit and pronounced it was time for me to commence winching: this drew the drum downward.
A little too much, I marginally released both the staysail sheet and furling line, thereby partially expelling the tension. This enabled him to draw the two halves of the toggle screw together, the aim to connect both pieces.
Not quite there, a little more release on the furler and sheet by me, and finally the screw connected with the barrel.
A few turns, some tension applied and we could then breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Other than for losing a wrench overboard, the process went without a hitch: forty minutes later, I was once more upon my watch and Bob down below snoozing.