Don’t Listen To Strangers – Jib Sail Blues
Right, so before we start our story about life lessons and jib sail blues, we need you to put yourself into the mindset of someone who has just recently purchased a yacht to live on. You have just bought your amazing new dream home and having never sailed or lived anywhere that wasn’t surrounded by bricks and mortar, you are now commencing your first week aboard. You’re like an excited puppy and oh so naive!
Mid week into my new adventure I decided to invite a friend over to have a look. We were clambering all over the boat like children on Christmas morning, smoking and soaking up the beautiful sun (something that the East Coast graciously offers especially near Brighton). Out of nowhere a bearded man appeared, excited to see us as much as we were as excited to see him. He asked us if we were the owners and if it was a recent purchase; naturally I replied yes and began our conversation down the rabbit hole.
The man began to tell us that he worked for the government drug enforcement team in the marina and was an ex soldier. He then proceeded to talk about an assassination attempt that had been carried out on none other than himself! Apparently he had been in a car driving along the main road when suddenly a motorbike pulled up next to his vehicle and opened fire. After a good hour of storytelling; tales with what i could only describe as some kind of James Bond plot line; we came to a point of utter confusion which i would later find out is called being “baffled with bullshit”.
I asked Bob about his reasons for visiting the marina as i wondered if he had any knowledge of sailing. After a long and lengthy discussion about his storm force 10 trips and how the coastguard knows him by name, we finally moved on to the subject of my new boat. He asked if we wanted any help looking over the rigging and at this point I’ve got to admit he had me fooled. We began with getting out the main sail which it turned out needed some work to release smoothly. The jibsail was up next; it consisted of what I now know to be a jib and headsail reefing system by Plastimo; older, but similar to the one for sale here. We managed to release the jib sail but getting it back was a major pain. Something wasn’t working and we didn’t know what. Something was stuck and the sail could only be painstakingly rolled in by hand, leaving the sail loose however more worryingly the sail could not be lowered. Our new friend informed us that this would be fine and proceeded to attach a few bits of rope around the sail to secure it. Just before our story teller and sea fearing friend left, I asked one more time, “are you sure this is going to be okay?” He shouted from half way down the walkway, “sure as long as there isn’t a storm”. I gulped and then naively thought to myself, “I’m sure it will be fine” – a thought I would later come to regret.
Well what do you know! A few days later the biggest wind that had hit the East Coast in a long time struck. In the middle of one of the noisiest and rockiest night’s I had on the two years of the boat to come, I decided to get up and check the jib sail. I say I decided lightly because it was more like the wind had made the decision I was no longer sleeping. The jib had started to come loose; nothing major but it had began to flap at the top. I added more ropes as high as I could get them to stop the sail loosening further. I anxiously went back to sleep until morning and when i woke up the wind had reached its worst. The jib sail was now too loose and something had to be done. After trying to secure it myself and failing miserably, it was time to get someone with experience! I ran into the marina chandlery to ask for help and luckily they came to the rescue. At this point the sail was thrashing about loose; the sound similar to that of a shotgun going off repeatedly, the boat rocking from side to side and getting closer and closer to the very expensive luxury cruiser boat nextdoor. I’m told before getting on the boat to watch my eyes as the sail, given the wind in its volatile state, could easily wip out one of my peepers! As my stomach began to flip like Tony Hawk doing a 900, the helper from the chandlery and I tried loosing the ropes; franticly trying to reel the jibsail back in to no avail. We tried to remove it for the best part of an hour while the sail thrashed around. It couldn’t be rolled in, the sail wouldn’t come down, we were at an end!
Next thing we know, the jib sail began to shred and it was at this point that we realised we needed a more assertive plan. Cutting down the jib sail was our only option! With a stanley knife on the end of a few fishing rods we began to tear at the sail. As painful as it was to watch, I knew with each foot of sail torn, the boat would become more stable. I imagine this draws a comparison to childbirth, where you just want to get the bleddy thing out! Also similar to childbirth, there were many people standing round watching and staring in horror. As we finished chopping the majority of the sail down a mystery person (who I would later find out was the Sussex Yacht Club commodore) jumped on the boat. To this day I’m not sure what he did, but somehow he managed to release the jibsail – not easily but he did it nonetheless. “Better late than never I suppose”, I think to myself, its not like I had just chopped my way through £600’s worth of jib sail with a stanley knife! A handshake and a major thanks to all those involved and the ordeal was over.
And just in case he works out how to use the internet and reads this, I take full responsibility for not doing more research after first checking the rigging, but understandably I wasn’t to happy with our friend who told us it would be fine! Later that week I asked a local if they had met our friend Bob (who had now offered to take us out on the boat as well), to which the local replied “Who- Bullshit Bob?!”. The lesson was learnt; beware of getting baffled by bullshit and always do your research! But whether our friend was telling the truth or not, he went on to be quite helpful and like many liveaboards and sailors alike, he was friendly and had an interesting story that we were (sometimes) happy to hear.