We left our comfy anchorage about 8:30 this morning expecting 15-20 knot winds on our quarter. As we got out of the river we turned into the wind to raise sails and realized too late that the head of the mainsail was not in the track, either because it hadn’t been fed in properly or because it slipped out, who knows? About a third of the sail was flapping wildly, not attached to the mast. We should have just dropped it on deck and refurled from there, but in a panic, we furled it back into the boom, and as the wind gusted up to 30 knots it furled back from the mast instead of staying even with the mast. Hard to describe.
In any case, we fed the sail back into the gate and started raising it again, but as it got further up, a combination of a huge gust and the bad angle of furl from before pulled the bolt rope out of the track. Now we had a mainsail that was halfway up and we couldn’t pull it up or lower it down. The wind continued to pick up and the sail was flogging. Who’s making these weather predictions anyway?!
The only thing to do was to remove the gate so we could get the sail down. While I held the boat into the wind, Jack tried a succession of screw drivers and some PB blaster and finally got the gate off and we were able to drop the sail. It’s so easy to write that but it took a long time and a huge physical effort for Jack because of the size of the sail and the strength of the wind, and for me because we were encircled by fishing boats who wouldn’t stand clear, wouldn’t answer the radio and kept making me turn to avoid hitting them, which put pressure on the sail.
Finally the sail was tamed and tied down and we headed back to our anchorage to assess the damage to the sail.
Obviously we screwed up by not having the sail well into the track before hoisting, and for not just dropping it on deck at the first sign of trouble instead of trying to refurl it in those conditions. Live and learn.