After a few days on the boat, I quickly leaned what it meant to be the 3rd crewman on the boat…it meant I got all the most undesirable and more dangerous jobs. While sailing north on the Drake Passage one afternoon, a strong gust of wind ripped the clew of the jib off leaving the sail flopping in the wind. Our efforts to save the sail were futile and it quickly started ripping in the strong wind. We rolled up the sail, hoping it would be stay rolled tight to the jibstay.
Later that afternoon while laying in bed listening to some music, I was startled out of boredom to the ever popular shout “Brian, where’s Brian.” I rolled out of bed and Carsten said to me, “Brian, we have a very special excursion for you at the front of the boat.” “Oh great,” I thought, “what next.” I put on my gear and wet outside on deck. The weather had calmed a little in the late afternoon, and the sun was shining on the waves. Carsten was holding some sort of seat harness and the sail was completely unrolled off the jibstay but was stuck half way up. Carsten explained that we had to get the sail down before the wind got stronger.
I put on the seat harness and tied myself in to two thick ropes that went up and back down the main mast. Silke and Carsten attached the other end of the ropes to two winches. I walked to the very front of the boat and attached myself to the jibstay. As you may have guessed, the bow of the boat takes the brunt of the waves and moves up and down considerably more than the stern, making it nearly impossible to even stand up without holding on to something. I gave a thumbs up, threw my legs and arms around the past-vertical jibstay, and they started cranking the winches, slowly pulling me up.
I eventually reached the part of the sail that was jammed, about 30 feet above the churning sea. Being up that high and attached to the jibstay, every movement of the boat was magnified. I was flung back and fourth as the boat bobbed and swayed in the waves. I tried to free the stuck sail, but it wouldn’t budge. My only option was to cut it away. I pulled out my trusty knife and made quick work of the rope that held the sail to the jibstay…mission accomplished.
The picture below shows me once again on the jibstay, but this time in the calm of port in Ushuaia.