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Barry's Blog #97 - Lessons learned - The hard way

We should have learnt by now that boat jobs always take longer than we expect them to.

However after the relatively quick and easy 1 hour replacement time of the head sail furling line, we were quietly confident that replacement of the main sail furling line would be a similar time. How wrong we were.

From start to finish it took us 5 hours working on a cloudless, windless day in 36C / 96.8F temperatures. By the end of it we were both experiencing heat exhaustion symptoms of heavy sweating, rapid breathing and a fast, weak pulse. The accompanying dehydration that Aannsha experienced caused her to be nauseous, feel like vomiting and almost faint due to low blood pressure.

With hindsight, we should've started the job as early in the day as possible, eaten something for breakfast, been consuming lots of water, worn hats and jumped into the sea a few times to cool off. Lesson learned.

Why did it take so long?

Unlike the head sail, replacing the main sail furling line required us to fully drop the main sail. Although the breeze was almost none existent, we know how quickly the wind can pick up and because we were doing the job while at anchor we wanted to get the sail down as quickly as possible once we'd fully unfurled it.

First thing to do was lay out the halyard so there were no kinks or snags in it. The halyard is the rope that you release to drop the sail or pull on to haul up the sail. There's also an access plate on the lower part of the mast which needed to be removed to be able to disconnect the top and bottom of the sail from the furling mechanism.

With those two things done, and the sail out, we gently lowered the sail while flaking it over the boom and tying bits of rope around it at various points to keep it neat and tidy. So far, so good.

Then we ran into our first snag. Note that I said 'first' there. Last time the sail had been fitted onto the furling mechanism both the top and bottom U shackles had been put on the wrong way around which meant that there was very little room to get tools into the space to unscrew the shackle pins.

It took 90 minutes to get them both undone. As novices we also did not realise that we should have undone the bottom one while the sail was still up, as access would have been a bit easier. Another lesson learned for next time.

Eventually the sail was disconnected from the furling mechanism and we could move on to the next stage which was the actual replacement of the furling line.

How do you do that?

We didn't know how to do that. There's no manual on board with instructions. The only thing we had to go on was a YouTube video of someone with a similar looking furling mechanism to ours.

They made it look easy. There was a hole in the bottom of the mechanism which their line was threaded through and it popped out of a hole underneath the mechanism where they could grab it, tie a stopper knot in it and pull it back tight.

We did indeed have a hole in the bottom of the mechanism which the line was threaded through, but there was no hole underneath. Ours was definitely not the same as theirs. Grabbing a torch (flashlight) to illuminate the small working area we spotted a big flat head screw and by reason of the fact that we couldn't see anything else to work with, we concluded that the line went into the hole and was held in place by the screw being tightly screwed against the line.

Because of the small working area there was the danger that when the screw was fully undone it could fall down inside the mast and from there it would be impossible to retrieve. That would really bugger things up. So Aannsha got some strong thin string and made a slip knot which she tightened over the screw head and held onto the string while I worked the screwdriver. It all went well and eventually the screw was out. A sharp pull on the furling line and it too popped out of its hole. Big sighs of relief all around.

Now put it all back together

The new furling line was slipped into the hole at the bottom of the furling mechanism and we were very happy to see that it also went right through and came out the other side. This allowed us to burn the end of the line with a lighter to form a hard seal so that it wouldn't fray. With that done the line was gently pulled back so that the burnt bit only just poked out of the hole, then the big screw was replaced and tightened and we were confident that it had a good firm grip on the middle piece of the line in the hole. Another sigh of relief.

The next bit is where we made the biggest rookie mistake of all. I put it down to not thinking straight because we were beginning to feel the first effects of heat exhaustion.

With the new furling line attached to the bottom of the mechanism, what we should've done was hand wind the line all the way to the top of the worm. What we actually did was only put 4 turns around the worm.

Feeling excited that we were nearly at the end of the job and more than ready to dive into the clear cooling water we ran the new line through the various blocks back to the cockpit and attached the top of the sail to the furling mechanism ready to haul the sail back up the mast. This time we made sure that the shackle pins were placed the other way around for future ease of access.

Hauling a sail up to the top of a 19 metre (62 foot) mast by hand takes a lot of effort and for the last little bit I actually wrapped the halyard around one of the cockpit winches and used that for extra pulling power. Again with hindsight I should have just used the winch from start to finish.

With the sail up we attached the bottom shackle, again the right way around, and went to the cockpit to furl the sail away into the mast and declare it mission completed.

To our dismay the sail furled in for only a couple of winch turns then refused to budge. I stopped and looked and immediately saw our mistake of not putting the line all the way up the worm. There were quite a few expletives and the realisation that we have to drop the sail, undo both shackles, wind the line up the worm, reattach the sail and haul it up again. This time the sighs were despondent.

That process took us another 45 minutes to complete and the relief when the main sail fully furled away without a hitch was palpable. With that job completed we now, once again, have full use of both sails.

Time to explore Milos

Lunch with the locals

The public bus services are a cheap and easy way to get around most Greek islands and we love getting on a bus to go exploring. On our trip to Triovasalos we had lunch with some lively locals at a typical taverna. If the locals are eating there you know the food's going to be tasty and inexpensive.

After lunch we hopped on the next bus that came through town to take us to Plaka. What a great little place Plaka is, there's plenty to see and heaps of meandering through whitewashed alleys trying to get lost in. We can highly recommend the sand museum if you're visiting the Plaka area. We never realised that sand could be so varied and when a talented artist is allowed to work with it what amazing works of art can be created. By mid-afternoon we were back at Adamas port and ready for a cooling swim off the back of A B Sea.

The following morning an email arrived from Australia. It seems that our story had been noticed by Take 5 magazine and they wanted to include it in their September monthly edition. After reading the contract and agreeing to a phone interview, a couple of days later we received a call from Courtney who asked us lots of questions and the rest you can read about in this month's (September 2019) bumper Take 5 magazine.

In next week's blog we prep A B Sea ready for departure as we continue to climb further north, against the prevailing wind, to try and get as close to the Athens area as possible in preparation for the arrival of our son Luke.

To watch the video that accompanies this blog click here.

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