I’m absentmindedly playing with a 40 mm by 80 mm piece of smooth 316 stainless steel that’s shaped into a U, while lazily gazing out over the boats tugging at their anchor rodes, thinking about what might have been. It’s been a very busy 24 hours.
This innocent piece of smooth metal has a jagged gap at the bend in the middle. Every time I sense the gap my finger lingers a second and I ponder its sharpness and how lucky we’ve been.
Sunday was one of those should-we-go-or-should-we-stay days. It was a one-day weather window that would get us down to a rolly anchorage in Roseau poised to jump over to Martinique at the first weather opportunity. While we were still in leaving mode we started our passage check which includes a slow walk up the side decks just to see if anything is amiss. It would have to be something really obvious to grab our attention on one of these inspection checks but we feel that it’s a good idea.
I walked up the port side while Marce started up the starboard. About half way up she suddenly stopped, turned to me and whispered “Jack!” If she yells I’m in trouble, if she whispers it’s really bad. Needless to say I was over there in an age-adjusted flash and soon felt like whispering too. She was pointing at a three mm gap in one side of a dual jaw toggle. It’s the gizmo that connects the boat to the wire that holds up the mast. Escape Velocity has only three. Had we left we wouldn’t have made it out of the anchorage with the mast pointing upright.
We immediately set our back stays and got some good advice from our online Manta support group to set our halyards on the starboard side to support the rig. It could’ve let go at any time. To top it off the beach barbecue was canceled so we had no distractions from a nervous night on EV.
Early Monday morning I dinghied into Portsmouth to see about ordering a new toggle or finding a rigger, all to no joy. None of our options were very attractive. Lashing down the mast and rigging, firing up the Volvos, motoring ninety miles and getting to competent riggers seemed to make the most sense. I mean I’ve never done anything like this, but I’ve read about it. But the sea state was rough and the winds were still high, not a good idea with a weakened rig. We had a kind offer from a boating friend for a similar piece but it needed lots of machining and was lighter in strength. Marce found Alexis, our official yacht services guy and put him on the case. He seemed confident that a wreck on the beach had the same toggles, I was skeptical. I mean what were the odds?
Fairly good, apparently. He came back with the lower half of a similar turnbuckle that with some additional adjustment and machining just might work.
Now we needed some moral support, so we put out an all stations alert and Wildcat, Field Trip, and Flying Cloud answered the call. We gathered on EV and I went over the plan while I re-tensioned the halyards.
As I turned the turnbuckle with a wrench to release the tension on the starboard shroud the tension on deck grew. With each turn the guys all said no problem, the mast didn’t move and soon the shroud hung loose enough to remove the broken toggle.
Oh, there were more problems. There are always more problems. Reaming out holes, redressing gulled threads, grinding, Dremeling. A dinghy was dispatched for an angle grinder.
We even had an attractive French vagabond show up looking to crew her way to Grenada. Two of the guys said “talk to my wife!” and pointed out their boats. After she left I said, “Man, you guys have a set. I’d be left for dead.”
In the end we got it done, which feels great. We are standing tall because of friends and community, in person and online. And I’m pretty sure that everyone in the harbor is giving their rigs a close inspection this afternoon.