Get on with it


Handling a boat single-handed is a great way to learn. I spent many years crewing on different boats over the years and what tends to happen in a well campaigned yacht is that each crew-member becomes very good at their specific tasks but does not become familiar with many others. This extends to all aspects of handling from entering and leaving marinas, sail handling, navigation and so on. The single-hander needs to be able to do it all.

I was on my own with a brand new Wichard backstay tension adjuster to install as the existing one had become unserviceable. To replace a backstay adjuster requires the backstay to be released. The backstay is obviously an important part of the standing rigging that holds the mast up. What was making me apprehensive was the wind blowing in the 20-30 knot range, gusting higher, over the port quarter. Even though the yacht was secured in the marina, there was enough windage in the rig, the furled mainsail and the mast to have her heeling slightly in front of the wind. Had the wind been blowing from the north, it would be coming over the bow and all load in the rigging would have been on the forestay and lateral shrouds. But that was not the case and the backstay was clearly under some load. I busied myself with other tasks hoping that the wind would ease, which it didn’t.

Nothing else for it but to get on with it. I’ve heard opinions that the best time to do a difficult task is now. Do not delay or procrastinate. I know of yacht skippers who never delay a departure owing to bad weather – they say that leads to constant anxiety, constant delays and prevents learning and experience that would otherwise stand the boat and crew in good stead. So get on with it: I rigged the mainsheet halyard to a line (of spectra – high breaking strain rope) and attached that to a deck fitting at the stern, in similar attitude as the backstay and tightening it with the halyard winch. I let go the backstay, replaced the adjuster and re-rigged the backstay, then let go the temporary line and halyard.

Simple really.

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