Friday, November 30, 2012

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Many moons ago I wrote about how a boat next to us in Grenada had a loose, slapping halyard that would clink and clang incessantly when the wind blew (I followed up with a post about how to bungee your halyards to stop the ruckus).  Well, last night, we became THAT boat.  And boy did it suck.

You see, the other day our sails were removed to be cleaned and serviced which is no big deal really, until the wind kicked up last night causing our boat to rock and roll ever so slightly.  Then it was a big, noisy deal.  Here's the thing:  our boat has an in-mast roller furling mainsail.  Without getting too technical, inside our mast there is something called a "foil", which is an aluminum track where the luff of the main sail resides.  When the sail is "furled" (or rolled up), this foil is muffled by the sail and makes no noise.  When there is no sail, it's a different story.  No sail means no buffer.  No buffer means a ruckus that would put an elementary school marching band to shame.  The aluminum "foil" bangs against the aluminum mast with every roll, which then echoes down into the boat and out over the water for all our neighbors to hear.  It's sporadic, it's loud and it is NOT nice a nice sound.

Of course this happened the minute Scott left so it was up to me and me alone to solve the problem.  Initially, the sailmaker had attached the outhaul to the main halyard, raised the halyard about half-way up the mast and then snugged it up to create some tension on the foil and (hopefully) curb the noise.  This, obviously, did not work.  I took to our Facebook Page to see if anyone could offer any suggestions, and after trying three or four of those with no success, I knew I had to tap into my inner McGuyver and figure out a solution all by my lonesome.

I tinkered with different scenarios for about an hour.  I tried raising the outhaul further up the mast and tightening it more.  I tried slacking the halyard completely to see if that would help. I tried wrapping a towel at the base of the foil.  I tried even more halyard tension.  All of these did absolutely nothing to quell the obnoxious clanging, banging and clanking.  I was getting desperate.  Two of our neighbors had already gently mentioned the noise and offered assistance, but nothing was working.  I felt like a parent of the bratty child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store.  Embarrassed and at a loss for what to do, all I could do is smile, apologize and tuck my tail between my legs.

But as the wind kicked up further, it became apparent that something had to be done.  Because this boat is new to us, I wasn't entirely sure what I had to work with so I started digging in one of our cockpit lockers and found about 200 feet of super fat hurricane line.  The wheels in my head started turning.  What if I wrapped this fat line around the foil a couple of times at the base of the mast, attached it to the halyard and raised it all the way up?  In my mind, the big line wrapped spiral-style around the foil might be enough to cushion the noise, and raising it all the way up might help with the swinging distance of the foil.  If I then secured the line tightly to a midship cleat, it might just do the trick.  I donned a headlamp, grabbed my multi-tool and got to it.

Long story short, it worked.  I fixed it.

And this is precisely why I love living on a boat.  The satisfaction I felt when the noise was silenced was INSANE.  I wanted to crack a bottle of wine and toast myself.  I wanted to scream from the mountaintops "I DID IT!"  I had a smile on my face from ear to ear as I admired my work aloft from the deck.   Because we've been landlocked for so long I'd forgotten about this natural "high" that occurs from problem-solving on a boat; how much we are forced to use our brains and find creative solutions for situations that are not cut and dry.  I was proud of myself.
Picture 1 shows the slot where the foil begins, picture 2 shows the line wrapped around it, 3 shows the bowline I tied to attach it to the halyard, picture 4 shows it raised up the mast!  No more noise!
Turns out, necessity - combined with the fear of waking a sleeping baby, pissing off all your neighbors and the absence of your engineer husband - really is the mother of invention!


Paul said...

Good for you Brittany. I had the same issue for 2 months this fall while the top swivel and the mainsail were being repaired. Tried stuffing rags in behind the foil, using wire ties to stabilize it. Nothing I tried worked and I could hear the clanging clear across the marina. Never thought to do what you figured out. :-)

Chanon said...

I second that good for you! It's always when the guys leave that it all goes to crap! Also, remember that feeling, as it's exactly how Isla feels every time she figures something new out. It's so wonderful watching a child grow, learn, and explore! Our children amaze me daily....

Captain Rizzo said...

Very well done Brittany!

Robert Salnick said...

Well done!

(and well written)


Peter Webster said...

I read this with interest since I have had this happen to me as well. Congrats! Excellent thinking, very creative and YES! You should feel "high" about this. I will try this next season when necessary!

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