5:45am, just outside the pass in Tikehau.
“You should seize that shackle sometime,”
The casual words of our friend Spencer, aka master marine macrae, spoken 8 months prior, echoed in my mind, as I saw the boom swing out uncontrollably and smack into the lower shroud, moments after I had hoisted the main sail… The shackle’s pin had wiggled loose, as Spencer had prophesied!
The boom was loose. The boat was not able to sail until the shackle was fixed… which is this tiny thing at the end of a super heavy, and currently unstable object: the boom.
Four lessons learnt in those wee hours:
1. Sweat the small stuff that is crucial. Usually it’s a tiny pin failure that causes collapse of a mast. Like a sour conversation with a friend that, despite seemingly trivial, wrecks a friendship… Seize that pin, matey!
2. Act immediately when someone makes a suggestion that rings true. Don’t be a lazy bum…
3. Listen to your intuition and stay flexible. I had planned to leave late yesterday evening, but the sky looked ominous. “I don’t think this is the time to start a passage,” I had thought. How glad I was for that intuitive postponement, as I’d much rather be dealing with this issue in daylight, instead of in the middle of pitch-black squalls!
4. Have a backup plan. I secured the boom with another line, and dug around for a spare shackle. Cruisers aren’t kidding when they say, “have a spare for every single thing”. The spares don’t have to be exact replicas. It’s kinda like diversifying your investments, you need options when one thing fails.
I secured the boom with another line, and the autopilot steered us along to smooth down the motion. Then with a new pin in my teeth, I teetered precipitously to install the new shackle… like weaving a thread into a sewing needle with the Pacific Ocean swirling underneath you.
By 6am, Aldebaran was sailing south properly, with 10-15kts of breeze. I was shaking my head at my oversight… but we were on our way, and skies were beautiful! Nevertheless, more was in store for us.
Photo: the shackle that attaches the boom to the mainsheet — now properly seized! The “seizing” is the little wire that goes around the shackle’s pin to prevent it from un-doing itself over time… can’t assume it’ll stay in place, just because you tighten it like hell. That little wire is the solution to Murphy’s law, “what might happen, will happen at some point”.