Wednesday, 8 May 2013

I might forget but my body never will

Delayed by the strong easterlies of March and April we've only just put the boat back together. I chose the surprisingly relaxing job of untangling the lazy jacks (above) for my starter. These two lines hang either side from the mast to the sail cover on the boom, to make sure the main sail flakes neatly into itself when released rather than needing people to catch and fold it as it falls (as we did in the 'olden days'). Two pulleys and three small clips hang from the one loose end so it's a slow job freeing it from itself, tangled from having been washed. The cord is smooth and easy running, which makes a huge difference to the job.

It was pleasant sitting in the cockpit letting the cord slip through itself, slowly lengthening. It's an assault course for the fingers and eyes, a reverse macramé, the loose sensation of slipping with a river current that required little thought, more physicality. It's a rare boat job that doesn't have a low tremour of anxiety to it. Even mousing lines out of the boom or mast - tying the working rope to a smaller one and pulling it free so the track is still evident for when you need to return it - comes with a sense of worry that I may lose the knot half way down the mast, so pulling the small mousing line free and losing the ability to rethread the reefing lines or halyard.

This being the boat the relaxing job ends soon enough. The lines have to be attached to the pulleys two thirds of the way up the mast... 10 metres up. Even with someone else hauling me on two halyards in a climbing harness as I cling to the stays, the spinnaker halyard and mast, the ascent is nerve-racking. Not so much muscular as mental.  

Do not look down. There is no need to look down. As I rise. And with three people pottering about on deck each wobble of the boat is amplified as it is reverberates up the mast. At least standing on the spreaders to reach the pulleys meantsI feel a little more securely braced against the boat, and takes away the cut of the harness into my thighs, but my fingers are cold and need all the focus I can muster to co-ordinate to untie the end of one cord from my belt, thread it through the pulley, and tie it back to my belt, twice, to bring them back to the deck so we can raise the lazy jacks and therefore the sail cover. My right leg begins to shake uncontrollably, a minute tremour that prevents any load bearing. I press myself harder against the mast until I can shot Done! and am smoothly returned to deck.

As with seasickness, as soon as I'm on solid ground, the shakes cease. Stored invisibly in my muscle memory for the next time.

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