4 December –

At 2230 last night I had to take in a reef in the main. The wind was up to about a F6 dead astern. By this morning at 0630 it had picked up to a F7. We were running dead downwind too fast and I had to reduce sail. I pulled on oilskins and went out to take in a second reef. I loosed off the halyard and began to pull the sail down. It came down about a foot and then stopped. I pulled harder but it was jammed solid. The sail was still pressed against the mast and it looked like the headboard might be caught at the upper spreaders. This had happened to me once before about a month ago.  I could pull the sail up but not down. I slipped the halyard and pulled on anything I could to get more purchase but it was solid.

When I looked up again the loose halyard had gone behind the two upper mast steps. Now I couldn’t get the sail up or down. I went aft to round Elsi up more into the wind and after a while the sail had flogged enough to clear the halyard and it had slipped down far enough to let me get it all the way down and I was relieved to get a rope round it and get it stowed.

I’d decided to set a headsail by this time anyway. It was too much wind for the jib so I dragged out a staysail and got that hanked on. With Elsi rolling around so much it wasn’t easy to do anything. Even simple things are complicated when the wind is up and nothing is still for a moment. At times like these nothing is ever straightforward.
Sheets will flog around and jam and get caught and need to be freed, the safety line isn’t long enough when you go to free them so you have to go back and unclip and move and re-clip. Sails want to balloon out and lift off. Whether setting or bagging up a sail there is always at least one of the spring loaded hanks that gets caught in the netting for’ard. Patience is a must and there is no point in getting fraught. It’s just how it is.

I reached for the halyard and just as I was about to unclip it we took a big roll to leeward and the strain tightened the shackle.
I braced myself and as we rolled back again the strain eased and I got it loose and got it onto the sail. By the time I’d pulled the sail up the two sheets had flogged so much they were wrapped around each other like twisted barely sugar.

I got aft and sheeted in the sail and shoved the helm across to get us heading downwind again. The weather was still warm and by this time I was parched. I went below and guzzled down about a pint of water. There was a bleeping noise. It was the collision alarm on the AIS. I shut it off but when I got back on deck and looked around I couldn’t see anything.

The log line had gone to the wrong side of the Aries so I had to unhook it and take it round. I pulled it right aboard and when I got the spinner aboard there was a length of green bamboo wrapped round it. I’d thought it was under reading for a few days and this was why. There were goose barnacles on the line as well. Although they are a real menace on the hull I felt sorry for them on here. It’s a pretty poor existence for them being spun round and round unceasingly night and day.

So, that was my morning. The wind has stayed fresh all day. The barometer has gone down slightly but the wind has stayed more or less the same. We get the occasional bigger wave that either surges us forward or slaps into the side of us. We’re still heading dead downwind with only the staysail set. It’s not superfast but it’s safe, we’re on course and we’re making headway.

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