Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Up and Down and Up again

I must admit that I really don't like heights... standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon gives me the willies. The kids seem to love hoping from one perch of "instant death" to another, and make any excuse to scare me to the point of nausea. I guess that having no fear is a benefit of being young and carefree... because I do remember falling out of a few trees in my youth.

But, if you have a sail boat, then getting comfortable going up the mast is essential. There are three reasons to go up and swing around like a rag doll... the first is to make sure that everything is in good shape and ready for sailing, the second is to fix anything that's not. The third and most important reason is to become comfortable going up and down and up again, not just you but your crew. Going up on a dead calm day is one thing, swinging about in a light breeze is another, but you can guarantee that when something breaks and you have to go up, you'll be rocking about in the middle of the ocean somewhere.

So, in this case I had to lash the spreader tips, sew on the leather boots that Doreen had so lovingly cleaned, and check all of the new rigging and attachments before we head out to tune the rig and do a bit of sailing. There was a lot of work to do, so we did several ups and downs, and took the opportunity to find the best route through the rigging, the best pulling points for the one going up, and most importantly to give the crew/family some winch time to get experience in the safety procedures and confidence in holding someones life in your hands.

It's just as important that the guys doing the winching are as comfortable as the guy going up. Doreen isn't good at letting you down, she doesn't like letting the line go through her hands and trusting the winch to do it's job.  Devon on the other hand is as smooth as silk, as long as he stays focused and doesn't get distracted.

Before anyone goes up, the crew should confirm calls, hand signals and exactly what each persons job is. It's safe when everyone knows what's going on and actually a lot of fun when it goes smoothly.

Winching doesn't mean that you winch all the way up. The guy going up needs to pull their own weight and the guy(s) on the winch pull by hand and take up slack quickly. It's the fastest and most efficient way up because trying to winch up a dead weight is very tiring, and to be honest it's uncomfortable for the guy going up.

I prefer using a halyard that's on a rope clutch so that if something goes awry with the winchers, I'm not coming down all of a sudden. But there are times when it's not possible, so choose a halyard that will take you up on the right side to do the work. Spinnaker halyards are good because they're on a free swinging block at the mast head and allow you to move easily from side to side.

Some stuff on the mast is sensitive, so care needs to be taken to work your way around things like self leveling radar and with any electrical wires etc. Also, spreaders are designed to be strong for horizontal compression and not rigid vertically, so don't sit, hang or bounce around on your spreaders, you can step on them close to the mast.

With sailing I've found that anything that's tough to do or requires a lot of effort, ultimately has a great reward. The view is always amazing and being suspended is very relaxing... time to think.

I'm sure it will be a different story in 30 knots, with a pounding ocean and a jammed mainsail halyard... but we'll be as prepared as you can be. The "we" is important, and everyone on the crew should go up and down and up again, just in case there's a time when they have no choice.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Kids Happy Hour

Social drinking and children don't mix. Whichever way you look at it alcohol makes you dumb, more social yes, but you still pay by loosing your faculties, common sense, balance, and in extreme cases the ability function at all.

So, what does this mean for cruising children? Well, even though the general attitude to social drinking in the US seems to be frowned upon these days, once out in the world you'll find that drinking is a highly popular activity. I'm not sure if American's feel released from the social pressure back home when they get across the boarder, but the peer pressure from cruisers of other nationalities is difficult to ignore... boy those South Africans can drink.

Needless to say, Happy Hour is extremely popular in the islands and with cruisers, and just about every drinking establishment offers dollar beers and two dollar mixed drinks on a rotating basis, so you can drink yourself into oblivion every day of the week... for the cost of a big mac meal.

Now we're not big drinkers... a glass of good wine with diner, a rum and coke at sunset, or cold beer at the beach, all on different days of course... that's social enough for us. But our three kids need social activities, and there are loads of kids stuck on boats while their parents get... well, social. There are island kids whose parents have set down roots or taking a break from sailing, so there is no shortage of children who love to have fun with other children.

It's wednesday at the Turtle Pier and it's cruisers night, and our first big Coffee and Ice cream kids happy several hours event of the season. We hold smaller events off season, but between December and March the volume of children arriving on the island increases dramatically. This year there are very few older kids, 10 to 16 yrs... if any at all, but no shortage of the younglings. I think it's because there are less US based seasonal cruisers sailing this season, the US economy may be to blame, or cruising with teens may be a bad idea... we're still in debate about that one, having two teenagers and one on the cusp. Simon (our youngest) sincerely promises not to turn freekyteen next year... that's what they all say.

Turtle Pier is a great place to hang out, not just for parents and especially for kids. They have loads of Parrots and Monkeys, as well as a beach area and of course a bar. There used to be turtles swimming around the dock, but due to the growth of industry and condos around the lagoon, the turtles are long gone (I'll do another post on that subject).

The children had loads of fun with arts and crafts, creating all sorts of unique things and generally getting messy. I'm constantly amazed at how awesome cruising kids are... well behaved, unspoiled, socially accepting without the uneducated judgement of others. The "attitude" that is so prevalent in the kids back home and in Europe is depressing to witness, but these cruising children give me faith that our kids will be alright in our modern world. Yes, they have most of the trappings of modern day life, video games, cell phones, huge libraries of films, music and books (they're Kindle addicts). But, they seem to have their own style, an independence and will that's not effected by peer pressure... maybe some solitude is a good thing.

Janien and Chris from s/v Ijubane are key organizers and do beach days during the week for kids and moms who can also find themselves stuck on the boats for long periods. Remember that cruisers don't have cars, we have a dingy. So, if Dad is onshore picking up parts for the generator or working to build up some cruising cash or the weather is foul, you can get stuck aboard with no escape.

All in all the Coffee and Ice cream event was a huge success and we have to thank our donators. Heidi Davis is a repeat offender and donates whenever she can. Heidi is one of our most cherished friends as is all of the Krenz family, and you won't find a more compassionate soul. Doug Smith and of course Rowena, as well as the Kashmanian family are all supporters and their donations pay for the crayons, paint, pool noodles and of course the coffee and ice cream that go into these events. Without the generosity of these amazing bastions of humanity, these kids would pass each other in the vast openness of the ocean completely oblivious to the fact that there are thousands of cruising kids like them... all waiting to have some fun.