FROM 1-23. Next landfall Tasmania

Oct 07, 2005 - 2355hrs UTC

2355hrs 07 Oct 2005 UTC 31’51”S 016’16”W Ref 422

On stuff-ups and rolling hitches.

If you are the sort of sailor who never makes mistakes, checks everything twice, always hooks on the kite the right way round – a golden haired favourite of every skipper – read no further. If, like me, you get things wrong bigtime every now and again, there may be something in this for you. Stuff-ups usually start with simple mistakes that compound to the point, sometimes, when they can become dangerous.

I have just been there. We were poled out on the port tack. It’s a black night now with cloud covering the moon. An hour ago, I pulled in a new grib file and decided that we need to keep our options open and head further south. Pete snoring happily, as he mostly is when I’m writing to you. I assessed the situation and decide that I could just take the pole off and gybe the main and we’d sail in the right direction. I was wrong and, having got the pole off, done the gybe and discovered how wrong I was, I had a bit of a handful to sort out. Basically, we needed the pole set up on the other side and I had no easy way of doing it by that time. I set up the boat to sail off the wind on the starboard tack with the preventer on and went forward to rig the pole on the other side. No problem so far. Think – check sheets etc – so rerun the starboard jib sheet through the outer block and hoist the pole. Set the boat up downwind and gybe the jib. It came across ok but the jockey pole had been stowed over the top of the downhaul. Not a showstopper but a nuisance needing to be fixed. Set up the new sheet and grind it on and discover that I have made basic error in rerunning the sheet, so that it is through two cars and around the lifelines. Sheet by this time like a metal bar pulling the boat along at six knots in heavy rolling sea and bending the lifelines. Way beyond any simple fix by hand. What to do – undoing the gybe seemed the obvious fix, but another 20 minutes work redoing all that I’d just undone.

Enter the rolling hitch – a wonderful knot that most sailors never use and can’t tie. It is a very simple three turn knot that you tie with a second line around a rope under tension, (or a pole or a bar), and the second line locks onto the first when you tighten it and can then can be used to substitute for the first from the point of attachment.

So there I was – jib sheet under tension and I had to get the tension off the end of it so that I could sort the mess and keep the sail working. I tied a rolling hitch around the sheet forward of my little bit of spaghetti using a short length of 6mm spectra and led the spectra back to a halyard winch and tightened it. It took up the strain and started to pull the boat along and I was able to unravel the now free tail of the sheet, put it back through the correct block and grind it onto its own winch before releasing the spectra strop. Cosy, but you gotta know how to tie a rolling hitch. In the dark. First time. Go practise, if you are planning to come this way – it could get you out of serious trouble. The standard stuff up when it comes in useful is when you get a jammed riding turn around a winch. Teach it to your kids.

Comments are closed.