February 12, 2009 – A difficult day. About 12 hours in the middle of the day produced no significant mileage in the direction of France. About 4-5 hours in the middle of that period, I rolled up the jib, reefed the mainsail, shut off the autopilot, and just let the boat drift in circles. This was easier on all involved.
In an attempt to do something positive during our drifting, there was one task that actually required the boat to be almost standing still, and so I tackled that one in the broiling Brazilian sun. This task was to try to tighten the fixed rigging on the mast by inserting a 3-mm shim under the mast. By inserting the thin shim, the mast would be raised ever-so-slightly (3 mm) and thus tighten the fixed rigging.
The process is relatively simple and is somewhat similar to changing a tire on a car: place a steel bar through a hole in the mast near the deck, raise the bar (and thus the mast) a little bit by pumping up the hydraulic pistons (think of a car jack lifting the car), slide out the old, thinner shim (take off the tire) put in a thicker shim (put on the new tire), and ease off the pistons (lower the car jack) so the mast sits firmly on deck again. It sounds easy, but it took a lot of effort to complete this job.
I went to set up the hydraulic pistons, one on each side of the mast. I got the starboard piston ready to go and oriented under the pin, and then I moved over to the port side to put the second piston in place. Oh no! Now I remember! We always had to take off the main halyard deck sheave, where the halyard comes out of the mast, goes down to the deck, turns and goes to the cockpit. No way was I going to disassemble that system, as that needs two people, one on deck and one below with a wrench. So I thought, “Is there anyway I can get that piston close to the sheave and mostly (if not all) under the pin?”
It looked possible, but the pieces of plywood and two pieces of aluminum that we use to support the pistons wouldn’t fit in the space. So I would have to cut them. So off I went below in the 100-degrees Fahrenheit heat to hacksaw off a corner of the 1/2-inch aluminum base and hope that would do. It wasn’t perfect for sure, but I pumped the mast up, was able to get a 2 mm shim out from beneath the mast and replace it with the 3 mm shim. I didn’t dare pump more to try to get them both in because of the pressure at the deck caused by pumping up the mast, but it still should be a bit better now.
Just trying to find a positive in the day of going nowhere.