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Day 168

By Brian Hancock

Translated 9 are just 450 miles from tasting the sweet breads of Punta del Este, Uruguay. Right now the conditions are far from ideal with those whirly swirly winds I mentioned yesterday making life on board a challenge. However, looking at the Windy App on the Yellow Brick Tracker there is some decent puff (nautical term) coming in the next couple of days. There is a sneaky low pressure system that has Translated 9 in their sights and it will give them the much needed boost to get them into Punta.

With the boats all in port and hopefully stuffed with good Uruguyan food (and drink), let me explain something. It’s my goal to write an update for every day of this great adventure. It does, however, get a bit harder when there is only one boat left out on the course and since I am not in Uruguay, I don’t have have any first hand updates from life on shore, it gets more challenging. But I am up to the task. By the way to the person who asked on Facebook how my Nando Parrado story had anything to do with the Ocean Globe Race, it’s just a narrative to show what these great adventurers are going through and what they might encounter. It’s a little ‘colour’ if you will, with some personal anecdotes thrown in. But I digress.

In my last update I mentioned servicing winches. The other important (well most important) thing to service is the mast. The boats can have their masts pulled and inspected on the ground, but mostly it’s okay to service them when they are still in the boat. It requires a very close inspection of the tube itself, but more importantly, an inspection of the bits and pieces that hold the mast up; the rigging. That requires someone to go up the mast in a bosun chair. Hook a halyard to the chair and start to hoist. I say better not look down on your way up but once at the top of the mast you can start to inspect things. Look for any hairline cracks in the aluminium tube. Look for any kind of rust and probably most importantly of all, inspect the rigging. On these older boats there are turnbuckles that attach the rigging to the mast. Sometimes they might have rusted or worse yet bent. The point is you just have to inspect everything; inch by inch.

Then it’s time to come down slowly looking at the mast tube and then looking at the spreaders. You need to swing out to the end of the spreaders and check that everything there is okay. It’s a long and tedious business but so important. The inboard end of the spreaders is where a lot of masts fail so you have to give that a good going over. Try and miss anything. Once back on deck (by the way the view from the top of the mast is always amazing so take a selfie). Once back on the deck you need to check the turnbuckles at the bottom of each stay. Make sure that the cotter pins are all in place and that the turnbuckles are in good shape.

What we used to do way back in the way back machine was to send a second person aloft to do the same thing in case the first person had missed something. The mast is just that important for a safe circumnavigation. These days, with big budgets, they can just haul the mast and have a team of experts go over it on the ground. But this a retro race like we are doing this in the ’70’s and ’80’s. That’s the spirit on the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race.

Since this update has been about as dry as a piece of burnt toast, one more interesting story. And this hit me personally hard because I am small and light. In the days of the big schooners they would send someone up the mast to inspect things. What hadn’t been factored into things was that at some point the weight of the halyard in the mast would be more than the poor bugger going up the mast and the whole thing would get out of control. The crewman going up the mast would shoot to the top of the mast in a hurry as the halyard just did it’s own work. Sometimes it all ended in tears. They learned to put a retrieval line on the bosun chair so that it wouldn’t happen again. I never did figure out how they got those hapless sailors back down again.

Well, bubbles up to all the OGR sailors and those who have been following this grand adventure. Sail safe, be Boston Strong (some will know what I mean) and pay it forward.

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