Another good point, Evans
One of my more extraordinary experiences at sea was getting rid of the Stoway mainsail
on a 52' alu alloy cruiser (a "proper yacht", along Alden lines, even down to the midnight blue hull
...) when caught napping by a miniature tropical revolving storm in the South Pacific
The exercise was made considerably more interesting by the fact that the bottom washboard remained in harbour stowage throughout... in a beautiful teak
compartment in the skipper's cabin
This was a split-level cockpit, with a lower sole level under the discreet hard dodger
To my way of thinking the bottom washboard -- effectively a removable bridge deck-- which went almost down to the sole of that lower level, and which bolted into place with rubber seals
, should have been a permanent fixture off anchor
We had far too much sail up, and only three people on deck
--and no-one we could spare to roust out the nominal skipper
, whose rank was entirely due to being the owner's eldest son. He later pretended to have slept through the whole thing!). It's lucky we didn't fetch him, because he subsequently said he would have rounded up to put the sail away. No worries. Yeah, right!
We were making more than twelve knots the entire time (in a narrow, non-planing hull
, in flat water) with the anemometer needle never off the peg -- the peg representing 70 knots. There was nothing visible below the gunwhales: the spindrift had become a silver carpet at about that level -- but you could tell that the seas had been blown completely flat - the crests presumably converted to spindrift.
Another, even younger son was on the helm
, and he did the seemingly impossible, the only conceivable option, to enable us to get rid of that #!$%!!* sail.
For a prolonged period, I'm guessing three quarters of an hour, he steered almost but not quite dead downwind, and we had the boom hauled in almost amidships. It was the only de-power option available, and in any case the sail would only furl when the membrane lay close to the axis of the slot.
For the entire time, we were on the razor-thin bleeding edge of what would have been a catastrophic gybe, even if the washboards had been in place.
And during that time, unperceived by us, the wind
went gradually through 270 degrees, so our track must have described a massive question mark across the ocean.
Meanwhile the remaining two of us strained on a double winch
handle in the pathetically undersized line-driver winch
, relying totally on a constant-diameter splice in the endless braid furling
(We should have repositioned the splice to always be on the return side -- which we could have kept doing, because the line-driver winch slid along a track, and I imagine we could have periodically loosened it and fed the other loop around the drum inside the mast).
Inch by inch, we ground that sail into the mast
, and by the time we'd done that, the wind
had dropped to nothing (well, forty knots, anyway) and the sea had become a mobile, scaled up version of the pyramidal teeth on a meat tenderiser. So we had to get half of it back out again!
The helmsman was mentally exhausted, as you might well imagine, and we were physically shattered ...