A bosun’s chair. Much to David Copperfield’s dismay, I’m going to reveal my secret. After I took you all to Such Great Heights last time, many of you seemed far more concerned with my safety than the halyard (really? the halyard is so important!) and you wanted to know whether I climbed the mast without a safety net. “Why yes, yes I did.” she said with a wink and a smile. There was no net, but I can assure you it was climbed safely. “How?” You ask. With a bosun’s chair!
An officer on a ship whose job is to take care of the equipment and the people who work on the ship.
A “swab,” basically. And a bosun’s chair is really just a fancy little strappy device that you can use to hoist a swab (like me!) up to patch the sails, untangle a line, get the halyard down, etc.
You sit in the chair and hook a halyard (I’m sure you’re starting to get this by now – a halyard is a line that’s used to raise anything on the boat – including people!) to the orange rings shown above, and your faithful captain hoists your happy-swabbing behind up to do his dirty work. You’ll see in this picture, I was safely seated in a bosun’s chair for the entire “death-defying” ascension:
See! There’s a big, strappy bosun’s chair swaddling my derriere at all times. And, apparently you all think my ass just looks that big without a bosun’s chair because no one asked what that big, honking thing was on my rear. Thanks for that.
In all seriousness, bosun’s chairs are quite useful for repairing sails or working on the mast, but, much like the Slap Chop, they have many other uses as well. You can latch one to the spinnaker sail (we’ll get to that another day) to swing out over the water:
You can even use it to hoist Granny up and throw her over the side:
“Bye Granny!” And, sorry, I couldn’t find a video for this one. I know people do it all the time. Apparently they just don’t post it to YouTube. I don’t know why. You’ll just have to let your imagination run wild.
So, the bosun’s chair. Although we did use it, as well as a secondary line, to ensure my ascent was made safely, that’s not to say the climbing act didn’t require some good ole’ Annie gumption and secret circus tricks. Do not try this at home kids – I began climbing and jumping things at a very young age and have a wealth of circus knowledge to pull from:
Oh yeah, that is 100% authentic. Notice the metal Tonka truck (that’s before they started cranking out all that plastic BS), the flat soccer ball and the “bench” made out of an old railroad tie sitting on cinder blocks. Yes, that is indeed my New Mexico backyard circa 1992.
I had no idea at the time that it would take me some day to such great heights. We merely found it entertaining. Unlike kids today, the only thing we thought could make a hot, summer afternoon in the backyard with some rope and rebar hammered into the ground better was ice cream. Just ask my high-waisted friend here. Those were such good times …
After the bad news from Kevin about the batteries, we tried to call the marina in Carrabelle several times to get Mechan-Eric or a technician, anyone, on the phone to make sure our boat was plugged in and getting a charge. I finally got a woman on the line who said she’d “look into it” but I got the impression she was less than enthused and not nearly as concerned about our boat as we were. Or, scratch that, not nearly as concerned I felt she needed to be.
It sounded like she was writing my name and number down while painting her nails and twirling her hair, planning to leave them on a flimsy post-it note on the desk of someone who was already gone for the day. I was less than pleased with her response.
But it was Thursday. And, whether I went postal on her or not (which I didn’t – thinking she could light a match to the boat if she wanted to – best not to piss off the caretakers), we were not going to feel comfortable about the batteries until we went down there ourselves to see what kind of charge they would hold, if any. When we got back to the boat on Friday night, she was plugged in but only had about three (out of four) bars. That meant she was not yet fully charged but she was taking a charge, which was a good sign. When we had left her the weekend before she had NO bars – nothing, zilch, nada. So, some bars were good.
Now, I think it’s time for a fun little battery tutorial, don’t you? Because I now know way more than I ever want to about marine batteries and if I had to suffer through it, alas, so do you! So, shall we?
This is our E-Meter which shows four different readings for the batteries (these are the four circles under the “18.3” reading) from left to right:
1. “V” for Volts: Our battery bank is wired for 12 volt output. Meaning, the volts reading should ideally show around 12.5 – 12.6 volts (at max charge – a little over 12).
2. “A” for Amps: This reading (which is lit) is showing 18.3 amps are going into the battery because it’s plugged in and receiving a charge. This reading indicates the flow of amps either in (a positive number when the battery is receiving more charge than it is discharging) or out (a negative number when there is more discharge, like when we use it to run the fridge, lights, etc. while not simultaneously charging it). Much like a tank of gas, the batteries have a capacity to hold only a certain number of amps (i.e., gallons of fuel). Ours holds 450, so when we’ve burned 50 amps off and don’t re-charge it, we’ve only got 400 left, no more.
Knowing this, you start to get real familiar with just how many amps certain appliances are going to “cost” you. For instance, the fridge pulls about 4-5 amps/hour, the lights and fans another 1-2/hour, and these are purely luxuries (you can always bring ice and use flashlights). As you can imagine, it’s easy to start getting real “Scrooge-ey” with use of electronics on the boat.
Turn that light off would ya? It ain’t Christmas!
But, Scrooge or not, there are some things you simply HAVE to run whether you like it or not: a mast headlight so other boats can see you when you’re at anchor (1-2 amps/hour), navigation lights (bow, stern and mast) so other boats can see you when you’re under way at night (2-3 amps/hour), etc. Hence the all important “Ah” amp hour reading.
3. “Ah” for Amp Hours: This reading shows you how many “amp hours” you have pulled off of the battery, much like the needle on your fuel gauge. If the amp hours are showing roughly half of your 450 amps (around 225) remain, you’ve used about half of your tank of gas. Which begs the question: how long can I go on a half tank? That’s where the time reading comes in.
4. “t” for Time: This is the total time you have left on the batteries based on your usage and is akin to the number of miles you can go on the remaining gas in your tank. As you know, the faster you go, the less miles you can travel on that tank. Similarly, the more appliances you use, the less “time” you have left on the batteries. And, just as you don’t want to suck up all the rusty junk floating around in the bottom of your fuel tank, you don’t want to let your batteries get down below 50% because it’s not good for them. So, when you near the half-way mark, you should really try to give the batteries a charge (either by running the engine or plugging in if you have access to shore power).
See? All very interesting stuff that you can impress your friends with at cocktail parties.
Oh Bob … Your amp hour calculations are so exciting they make my head spin. Ha, ha ha!
Trust me, everyone is dying to know about marine batteries. I promise, just ask them. If they say they’re not, I would just walk away. They’re clearly boring people.
So, we let ours charge up fully and then unplugged her and kept the fridge and some lights running to see if she would actually “hold” a charge. It wouldn’t help anyone if she showed four bright shiny bars when we set off into the Carrabelle River only to drop down to nothing the minute we got back in the Gulf. This is what Kevin told us can happen when batteries are completely drained and re-charged. But, we were apparently lucky – this time. We watched her for two hours and she held a steady charge, which gave us hope.
With the battery situation now put to rest, we set our sights on the Genny and getting her raised back up on the forestay. (Recall that’s the wire that runs from the mast to the front of the boat that the Genny furls around).
Well, I’ll tell you we learned a very valuable lesson that day. “Don’t let go of the halyard!” That may mean nothing to you, but you’re about to see why it’s so darn important. It’s something terribly basic but easy to forget. Like the sailing equivalent to “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!” Such brilliant advice.
So, the halyard. On a boat, that’s any line (which, remember, is a rope) that is used to raise a sail. On our boat, there is a clamp on the end of the halyard that pulls the Genny sail back up the forestay. After we had dropped the Genny halyard from the top of the mast down to the bow of the boat to lower and take off the Genny, we promptly pulled the halyard right back up to the top of the mast, thinking “What a nice, safe place for it. I’m sure it’ll drop right back down when we need it to … ”
We were dumb. So dumb. Julia herself should’ve slapped us.
Because I’ll tell you what didn’t happen. That halyard didn’t drop. Wouldn’t drop. We shook and banged the line, hoping the clamp on the end of the halyard would vibrate and wiggle down, but it wouldn’t budge. So, I remind you again, “Don’t let go of the halyard!” Now, how does this all translate to entertainment for you? Trust me, it does. Because guess whose happy little ass had to climb that 50 foot mast to get the halyard down. Uh-huh … That’s right. Yours truly. Albeit a bonehead move and not one I think we will make again anytime soon (let’s hope), that little mistake of ours took me to such great heights:
And there she goes …
Annie are you okay? Would you tell us? That you’re okay?
That is one tall mast let me assure you. And, you may be wondering how the heck you climb a thing like that. Years of training with Tibetan ninjas, that’s how.
But I think I’ve enlightened you enough for one day. I’ll save that post for another. I’ll tell you, though, it really did feel incredible up there. Every tiny little rock of the boat is magnified and it feels like you’re swaying from side to side like blowing with the wind in the top of a tall pine (when the boat below appears to be standing perfectly still). Funny thing about climbing a mast, though. It seems to attract a crowd. A bunch of old salts, who clearly had nothing better to do, started to gather around as I ascended, telling Phillip “Woman like that oughta have a sister!”
I do. She just didn’t get the looks in the family so we don’t really like to acknowledge her.
Poor thing. I don’t know what she’s made of herself. Probably nothing nearly as cool as a sailor-slash-blogger. Not nearly.
The good news is I made it down safe and sound and the boat was looking ready to go. We emptied out the fridge and turned off all the electronics so she would stay juiced up no matter the “plug” situation. Mechan-Eric told us they were expecting the new transmission to arrive the next week and then they would drop it in there. All seemed right with the world, so Phillip and I headed home to start planning the last leg of The Crossing – over drinks and dinner of course! Phillip made us his famous pan-seared grouper and mushroom risotto with sauteed spinach to celebrate the big climb:
We woke up the next morning to a hot, stuffy boat. The fans we had blowing on us during the night, our “boat AC” if you will, weren’t running and we were sweating like two prostitutes in church. The fridge wasn’t cold either so a nice, refreshing glass of OJ was out of the question, too. What kind of five-star operation was this? Pretty Woman got better treatment than this, and she was an actual prostitute! Phillip went up to check on the cord and, sure enough, Plaintiff’s Rest had most definitely been unplugged:
Ours is the sad, little unplugged one on the bottom.
We had been operating under the assumption that our boat would remain plugged in while the folks at the marina were working on it, which is why we had left the fridge running. Don’t want the caviar and Cristal to go bad. Well, you know what happens when you assume … There we were – two asses baking on the boat.
It could have been our boat neighbor, good ole’ Tenille, who unplugged us so he could run a belt sander or beer fridge or something, or one of the mechanics or some other boat that pulled up. We eyed everyone around us suspiciously, but the truth was we had no way to know who dunnit and it didn’t matter anyway. It was already done. The batteries had run clean out. We plugged her back in so she could recharge and started packing up to get back home.
If you recall, we had taken the Genny sail down so we could re-sew the sail cover. Now, the sailing newbies out there (trust me, I used to be one) may be scratching your head. What on earth does that mean? Let me drop some sailing knowledge on you. So, the Genny (short for genoa sail) is the headsail on the boat.
It’s called the headsail, or foresail, because it’s for-ward, up near the “head” (the bow) of the boat, as opposed to the back (the stern). The Genny is furled (really fancy sailing term for ‘rolled up around’) the forestay, which is the wire that runs from the mast down to the front of the boat. In the previous photo, she’s pulled out, and here, she’s furled up:
Now, you may be thinking: Well, how do you pull her out and roll her back up? Great question. With your teeth! I’m kidding (but that may explain some scraggly pirate grills out there …
No, you do it the same way you handle all sails on the boat – with lines (another real fancy word for rope!). So, you have lines (ropes) that pull the Genny out, either to the starboard side or to port
You see them here, one going to either side of the boat.
You then secure them on either the port or starboard side with big wenches in the cockpit. You remember these (they debuted in several of The Crossing photos):
And you roll (furl) her back up with one line that runs back to the cockpit and it spins the drum you see here at the base of the Genny to roll her up:
Ahhh … learning. Wasn’t that fun? Reminds me of the good old days of PBS and “The More You Know!”
So, the UV cover on the Genny is the green trim you see here:
That covers the entire sail when it’s rolled up to protect it from UV damage when it’s not being used.
The cover on our Genny had begun to tear and flap during The Crossing which meant we needed to sew her back down to be sure our Genny was getting adequate protection from the sun. Nobody likes a burnt Genny.
So, we packed the sail up and took it over to our trusty broker’s house for some hard-core Martha Stewart action with the sewing machine. Did somebody say Sew Party?!?! Yes, please!
Roll that fabulous footage:
Yep, that’s exactly what you think it is. A big ass sail we dragged into Kevin’s foyer.
Kevin was a rockstar with the sewing machine.
After we (well, I should say Kevin – he did all the real work) got her all stitched up, we dragged her out to the front lawn to properly flake her.
In other words, fold her up right – like so:
It took some thinkin’
More on my part than the boys. But that didn’t stop me from telling them how to do it (never does!):
But we got it done and shoved her back in the Prius till we could get her strung back up on the boat.
Then, as one always must do after sewing festivities, we engaged in a rousing arts and crafts session with Kevin and Laura’s little cutie – Kai (beautiful name by the way – it’s Hawaiin for ‘Ocean’ – he’s clearly got sailor’s blood).
Did someone say Sticker Party?!? Yes, please! Let’s face it – pretty much anything that ends with “party” is going to be a ‘yes’ in my book!
Anyone who can rock a Sponge Bob sticker on the forehead gets a kiss from yours truly!
Great fun was had by all and it was very productive. We got the sail cover fixed and we thanked Kevin, Laura and Kai by leaving them with an original, signed hand-made Annie sticker masterpiece.
So good it kind of blows your effin’ mind, right? I know. I get that a lot … They can hock that puppy once I die and make some real dough!
But, we had one major problem. As we were telling Kevin about the boat and the battery situation, he laid some nasty news on us. Apparently, it is not good at all to run the batteries on the boat completely down. Turns out simply plugging her back in doesn’t always work. Once they’re run completely out, they sometimes can never be charged back up, or if they do charge up, they can’t hold the charge. Kevin was worried our batteries might never recover.
I tell ya … with boats … if it’s not one thing it’s a damn-nother.
We still had one more leg of The Crossing to make (about a 48 hour sail total) to get her from Carrabelle back home to Pensacola, and if the batteries were toast, we were going to have to throw a new batch in along with a transmission. So, we needed to know exactly what kind of state our batteries were in – sooner, rather than later. We jumped back in the car the next day and drove our happy behinds back to Carrabelle to check on the boat … yet again.
Nice action shot of Phillip making the drive – all serious and Japanese anime-like. Go, go Speed Racer!!!