Two o’clock in the morning

Heidi was “on holiday” with her daughter in Lisbon and Max and I were heading south along the Portuguese coast to pick her up. The second night out the moon was shining, the wind was freshening and we were being followed by the Atlantic swell. Only another twenty miles to Lisbon as I lay down to get some sleep.

I had hardly closed my eyes when Max called that the Genoa (the large foresail) was “in the water”. He had heard a loud noise from the front of the bow and then seen that the sail was no longer properly hoisted and that the bottom was trailing in the sea.

Clothes on, headlight on, life jacket on, safety line on and up to the mast to try and pull the sail back up. The halyard (line that pulls the sail up) was jammed so there was no way to move the sail back up. Further forwards to the bow and I tried pulling the sail down but the sail was also jammed so there was no going up and no going down. Furling the sail (rolling it around the stay) was not an option with a third already on the deck so we gathered everything we could reach and rolled it all together with some spare lines. And this while being repeatedly doused in sea water and flogged by the sail.

Riggers at work

The top third of the sail was still loose and as the wind rose it flapped more and more crazily and filled with wind pulling us off course. The next twenty miles weren’t fun but at about six o’clock we were in the river motoring up and down in front of harbour control who had promised to have a pilot guide us to a sheltered spot at sunrise. But before the sun rose, the wind dropped and we managed to get the sail down and stowed before then continuing to a marina and tieing up on a pontoon.

Later that same day a local rigger came and repaired the damage. He explained that both foresails had been wrongly rigged in Scotand and that the failure was pre-programmed by that error. He also pointed out another mistake that had been made which would, at some point, have stopped us rolling up the sail. At least the failure happened near to land and not in the middle of the Atlantic and everything is now propery rigged.

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