Aannsha’s Blog #97 – We forgot to Slip Slop Slap!

If you’ve lived in Australia since the 1980s you’ll already know that Slip Slop Slap means ‘slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat’. SunSmart was a successful campaign aimed at keeping Aussies and Kiwis (Australians and New Zealanders) protected from the harsh effects of the sun (specifically UV). There’s some controversy as to the effects of slopping on the sunscreen vs lowered Vitamin D production and possible risk of cancer from the chemicals in the sunscreen itself, but that isn’t the subject of this blog.

Replacing the mainsail furling line

I just know that when Baz and I took advantage of the rare windless day in Greece’s summertime to change out the mainsail furling line, we didn’t anticipate it taking us 5 hours. When you consider the headsail furling line only took one hour to replace, we figured this would also be a fairly quick job.

How wrong could we be? In fact, I think when Baz said words to the effect of “How hard can it be?” I figured that was tempting fate. And yep, it was.

On the face of it the day was perfect with no wind to fill the sail when we unfurled it. We had to bring it fully out because we had to drop it in order to unhook it from the furling mechanism. Once that was done we could unscrew the big screw that held the furling line in the base of the mechanism, remove the old line, wind on a new line and reverse the process.

However, pretty much every step of this task took far longer than anticipated for various reasons. The two U-shackle pins had been put in on the wrong side of the access panel and left very little room for Baz to unscrew them; this alone took one and a half hours.

Heat exhaustion strikes

Slightly more than halfway into the five hour task, standing in the blazing sunshine (no clouds that day) and 36C / 96.8F heat, we both began to experience heat exhaustion. We were determined to get the task finished though because once the line was replaced, we’d still have to re-attach the sail to the furling mechanism, then raise the mainsail in order to furl it away and we didn’t know when or if the wind would pick up. And we couldn’t afford to take the risk of raising the sail in Milos’ usual wind conditions. So we pushed on.

Baz was doing all of the hard work, while I was the roving camera chic and also gofer (go for this or that tool), as well as handy knot-tying person (I tied slip knots in string which I looped around the screws and shackle pins so we wouldn’t lose them inside the base of the mast). But Baz had the responsibility of doing the job as well as manually hoisting the main sail.

As we got hotter, we both experienced heat exhaustion symptoms. Baz was sweating heavily, and breathing deeply, as well as developing cramping muscles in his hands but he soldiered on. I wasn’t about to let him down, so I gritted my teeth and hung in there with him. However, I hadn’t drunk much water that morning and had left our water bottles down below and didn’t realise I was dehydrated until I began to feel sick and light-headed due to low blood pressure.

After four hours we’d replaced the line and after Baz had tightened the pins on the U-shackles, he hoisted the mainsail. It was a huge effort and about half-way up we figured it would be a good idea to use a winch. That made it easier.

But when we went to furl the sail back in, it stopped after about 30cms / 1 foot. We both realised what we’d done wrong. Fuzzy thinking due to heat exhaustion had caused us to not wind the furling line all the way up the ‘worm’ screw furling mechanism.

We've made a mistake!

“Oh f@#$” said Baz. “We’ve got to drop the sail again and disconnect it from the furling mechanism in order to wind the line on”.

“I feel sick,” I replied. I didn’t know if I’ll manage to hold up any further.