“I have 90 minutes,” Christian announced, so he quickly rigged a sail, grabbed a board, and launched. A few other guys decided to take a run as well, but after I took a minute to walk to the van for a swig of water, I could not see Christian on the water. No biggie, the winds (sail sizes were 5.2-5.8) were up and down, so perhaps a waterstart was proving elusive. After a few more minutes there is still no sign of Christian. What did he do, sail into a black hole?
I asked Jeff if he could see him. No, he can’t, but he has binoculars in his truck, and goes to get them. The winds were lightening and I was contemplating rigging big gear to go out and look when Scott came planing in (on a 5.8 and bigger board). Scott, have you seen Christian? Yes, he has, he spoke with him.
Well what’s happening?
“he quickly rigged a sail...”
-The Peconic Puffin, two paragraphs ago.
What was happening was Christian was down in the water with a sail that had popped off the mast. Whilst rigging it quickly the mast tip insert apparently never was seated properly in the mast, and when Christian made his first jibe the sail popped right off. So now he was in the water rerigging it. “I told him if he can’t manage it he should roll the sail up and paddle in,” Scott continued.
Looking out on the water it didn’t look good to me. For the most part I couldn’t see him at all, but every once in awhile his head and board would bob above the waves as he drifted towards the reef to the west. Ah, the reef. The reef where waves will surely make any rigging effort much more challenging. The reef where on very rare occasions we have seen a ...fish. Discussion about calling the Coast Guard begins. Someone says “five more minutes” and I am counting the seconds silently in my head. I want to see Christian toss the rig and start paddling in...this is way too exciting for me. Fortunately we are no more than two miles from the Shinnecock Coast Guard station.
“That’s what you do with your 90 minutes?” I asked? I am always helpful.
Christian explained that in order to release enough tension in the mast to slide the sail back to the top he had to undo the whole shebang. He keeps his downhaul line in the extension for neatness (as do I) so he had to separate rig and board (using the uphaul to tether the two for safety.) The outhaul had to be released. At one point the mast foot became unthreaded. But he got it all back together. Here is an excerpt from an email from Christian this morning:
"Things I learned: I'll never stuff my downhaul in my mast extension again.
I will be looking to buy a new UJ with a longer thread than the Chinook.
I will be double double checking the male mast head insert in future (duh).
I will once again ponder the need to carry extra bits and bobs when sailing. Scott pointed out that once upon a time Dakine used to have little pockets on all their harnesses. Makes a ton of sense.
Thanks guys for keeping an eye on me. The sailing in a group system worked perfectly. After I spoke with Scott I never once thought that I was at risk, which allows for a clear head when having to loosen everything you've got tightened some distance from shore. The photo says it all as far as the support that was there if necessary.
Thanks too Jeff for helping carry the gear. I needed a rest at that point!"
Amazing. Here’s what I learned:
1. I used to carry an extra piece of line behind my spreader bar. When I replaced that bar a year ago I did not transfer the line (held in place with duct tape). I’ll be addressing that before the next session.
2. Keeping the downhaul shoved into the mast base extension is an elegant way to keep the foot area clear, but it requires rig separation if you’ve got to release the downhaul at sea. What I’m not clear about is whether it’s possible to get a good angle to reapply downhaul tension with the uni still in the base, but I’ll be experimenting to see. I think there’s a good chance I’ll return to stuffing excess downhaul line into the bottom of the sail.
3. Call 911 if you need the Coast Guard. Jeff says also: Coast Guard Search & Rescue for south shore Long Island to NYC: 718-354-4353. Coast Guard Search & Rescue for CT & north shore Long Island: 203-468-4401
(Top: Jeff mans the binoculars while CD, Scott and I imagine what we'd have tried out there. See the waves breaking on the reef in the distance, to the right of the sign? That's just about where Christian drifted before he successfully sailed back to the beach. Bottom: See the speck? He's alive! Photos by Keith Schultz.)