Apparently April showers do not bring May flowers on our boat. We had just popped back out into the Gulf out of Clearwater Pass, enjoying one of the best sails yet of our trip, when we were showered with ball bearings from above. Phillip and I gently made our way up onto the foredeck to try and figure out what in the heck on the boat had just totally busted. We each started picking up these little bronze looking balls on the way that were lying all over. It was clear they were bearings, but to what exactly? We inspected the drum at the base of the forestay that furls the Jenny.
She looked fine, but we could tell the bearings in the drum were the same type that had rained on the boat, so we figured it had to be the swivel shackle at the top. We knew we were going to have to let the Jenny down to have a look at it. Not a real problem, yet. Perhaps we could fix it … We were being optimistic.
Phillip started to uncleat the Jenny halyard at the mast to lower the Jenny, and I positioned myself on the foredeck, ready to grab and flake her as best I could while Phillip eased her down. But, there was no easing about it. As soon as Phillip uncleated the halyard and let just a little slack in it, our big, whopping (135%) Jenny all came toppling and tumbling down onto the foredeck. Wha-boom! Thankfully, she fell so quick, she landed all in a heap, and – more importantly – all on the boat. Whew!
We wrapped her up with the Jenny sheets and secured her on the foredeck.
And, she looked so sad there. All tied up in a ball on the deck … Instead of the bright-eyed, fresh-faced Jenny we saw in the early parts of Forrest Gump,
ours looked more like the strung-out, cocaine-snorting leaper she turned into.
Yep, that’s the one.
Our Jenny was totally busted.
Unfortunately, the bad news just kept coming. We found the reason the Jenny had come all tumbling down at once when Phillip let some slack in the line was because the halyard shackle had come apart. There are two parts to the shackle that raises our Jenny: 1) the part that clips to the head of the sail and spins when the Jenny furls and unfurls, and 2) the part that clips to the halyard and remains still when the Jenny furls.
Hence the ball bearings in between. The really bummer part about what happened to our halyard swivel was that, when Phillip let just a little slack in the line, the shackle came apart – right about here –
and the part that attaches to the head of the sail came down, while the part that clips to the halyard stayed … Yep, you guessed it. At the top of the mast. Not ONE DAY later on this trip and we had another bloody halyard stuck up at the top of the mast. I mean …
We inspected the part of the shackle that had come down – the part that attaches to the head of the sail – and she did look to be in semi-working order, assuming the ball bearings were put back in.
We didn’t see any obvious crack or defect. But, we had no idea what the other piece that was still at the top of the mast looked like. It was clear there was going to be yet another mast ascension in this mate’s future to retrieve yet another halyard.
We began the troubleshooting process, which on our boat generally starts by whipping out what we call the “manuals bag” – an old canvas bag our previous owner kept on the boat that is filled to the brim with the owner’s manual to every single part and system on the boat. I’m telling you – manuals are key. Keep them (all of them!) and read them first when a system fails. It’s amazing what you’ll learn.
After a quick review of the manual for our Harken furling system, we were definitely of the opinion we had perhaps pulled the halyard up too tight when we raised the Jenny after having the UV cover re-sewn during our Keys preparations.
The halyard should be within the top 4″ of the foil, they said …
Snug but not too tight they said …
As if that can be determined with any kind of precision. (Insert frown here). But, we figured we had pulled her up too tight when we raised her, causing pressure on the joint between the part that attaches to the halyard and the part that attaches to the sail, resulting in the pop and shower when we were furling the Jenny. We certainly didn’t mean to, but it seemed we had caused the failure. Once we started to think it back through, though, we were actually surprised to find the two pieces of the shackle had somehow miraculously held together until the very moment we had decided to drop the sail, when we were ready for her to fall.
Can you imagine if the shackle had come apart in heavy winds, when the Jenny was under full load? The whole thing would have crashed into the water … Along with the Jenny sheets … And what if we had been motoring? And one of the sheets had caught in the prop? What if … When we actually started to think about it, we started to consider ourselves incredibly lucky that it had happened the way that it did. Perhaps Jenny was looking out for us after all. Maybe she does know what love is …
Once we had pretty much diagnosed the problem – we knew we no longer had a furling Jenny – we started working toward a solution. We started getting some of our cruising buddies on the horn to let them know what happened and get their thoughts. We were somewhat close to Punta Gorda, where our previous owner used to keep the boat, so Phillip also decided to call him to ask for a recommendation for a good marina in the area. He referred us to Embree Marine, where apparently they had done some work on our boat before. We called a few times, but unfortunately no answer. But, it was a Saturday, and we began to realize we likely weren’t going to be able to actually talk to anyone about repairs until Monday. And, to add just a little more dung to our already-heaping pile, Phillip did some research on our Harken furling system (checked their website and some sailing blogs) and found that the fine folks at Harken don’t make the halyard swivel for our furling system anymore. Apparently, ours was the Model 1 series, and they were now on like Model 7. There was the real possibility we were going to have to have a whole new furling system put on the forestay.
Like I said, when it rains, it pours …
But – you remember our motto for that day? If you don’t, let me remind you —
Wasn’t nothing gonna slow … us … down! Whoa-NO!
We had to keep on movin’! And, so we did. We knew we were going to have to pull out of the Gulf and into St. Petersburg for repairs. But, it was getting to be late in the afternoon, so we decided we would anchor for the night and make our way into Tampa Bay tomorrow. Phillip started checking the maps and the cruising guides, and we found Egmont Key. The cruising book described it with “tall palm trees, clear, and glistening waters, where couples stroll along the white beaches without a care.”
“Without a care … “ We could be that! Who needs a furling Jenny? I mean, really? Sailors have been hoisting their Jennies for hundreds of years. We were either going to get her repaired or hoist her the old-fashioned way. Let’s pull on into this anchorage, make us some dinner, and keep on enjoying this trip, shall we? We made it to a KEY! And it was gorgeous there. Sugar white sands, a beautiful old light house, crystal green water. It was perfect.
We dropped anchor and jumped in for the first swim of the trip!
“That’ll be two dollars, ma’am.”
Then we took a nice shower in the cockpit.
Then it was cocktails at sunset.
Phillip waved to the cruise ships that were coming through Egmont Channel.
Then we cooked up some amazing crab cakes with red peppers and the Captain’s own homemade roumalaude sauce.
And, called it a night. We’d deal with whatever the Jenny had in store for us tomorrow.
We were on anchor, nice and secure. Nothing could bother us now …