Life onboard

The best laid plans

March 23, 2019

I had plans yesterday. I should know better. You should never make plans on a boat. I thought my plans were innocent enough, but Neptune disagreed.

My plans involved a short but silly celebration for when we crossed the equator, which we were scheduled to do around 5:30 in the afternoon local time. Just before sunset – a perfect time to gather on the bow in silly hats to have a drink, perform a short celebration ceremony, and pour one for Neptune. Of course, it didn’t quite happen like that.

Let me set the stage. The previous night had been fairly uncomfortable. We had almost no wind at all, but we did have sharp seas that, when we were on our desired course, slammed into us on the beam, rolling Halcyon violently from side to side. We were motoring but we kept the main up to try to stabilize the boat a little bit. The main protested loudly with a THWAP and shudder every time the boat pitched, which was constantly. This went on for too many hours.

In the morning, we killed the motor and once again tried to force-feed Halcyon some sailing. Up went the spinnaker. We gybed. Down came the main sail. We gybed again. Amidst the sail changes, I found time to plan. I made funny gifts and certificates and brownies for our equator crossing celebration.

By the afternoon, we had settled into a pattern. With the spinnaker up and the main down, one person (me, at the time), actively trimmed the spinnaker, pulling in hard when the boat pitched, and easing out slowly to try to keep air in the sail, then pulling hard again when the boat pitched. We were only making about 2 knots of progress, but at least we weren’t burning diesel.

And then, in classic “Halcyon has an issue” form, John had just gone down for a nap when BANG! The boom fell off of the mast.

Yes, the boom literally fell off the mast. The mainsail was not even up, it was flaked and tied down neatly. There is this small but very important piece of hardware called a gooseneck that mounts on the mast and bolts through the end of the boom, holding the two together at a right angle. It broke. It would be as if your elbow suddenly detached itself from your bicep while your arm rested casually on the table.

All that flogging through the night was the last straw for Halcyon’s elbow.

We dropped the spinnaker, and Andrew steered the boat with the swell to minimize the pitching (which took us northwest, decidedly the wrong direction), while John and I first got the boom secured and then investigated the issue. In the end, we were able to perform minor surgery on the gooseneck and bolt it back together. It was a major breakage, but luckily a fairly quick and easy repair. Nice sendoff, northern hemisphere…

Within an hour, we were back on track, this time with the engine rumbling and no sails up. The pitching was even more violent without the main to stabilize us, but we weren’t pushing our luck on that one.

Don’t worry, we still had our party. It was after dark, and we were wedged in the cockpit against the lurching instead of lounging on the bow. But Halcyon was once again in one piece, so we had even more to celebrate as Lola pushed us across 00 00’00”.

A note for those of you unfamiliar – your first equator crossing is a big deal. Before you have crossed the equator on a boat, you are a Scalawag. Once you have crossed the equator, you become a wise and worldly Shellback.

To celebrate, once we had invited Neptune to have drinks with us, he christened us with our new Southern Seas names. John will henceforth be known as Gizmo, the Great Garibaldi. Our third crew member will no longer be known as Andrew, but instead as Skippy, the Scottish Sea Fritter. And yours truly, no longer the plain old Becca, is now Salty, the Scrappy Sand Dab.

We dared not attempt handling hot dishes with the way Halcyon was throwing things about, so we finished the night with cheese and salami sandwiches and a few brownies.

And that was Halcyon’s grand entrance into the Southern Hemisphere.

  1. Ollie

    March 23, 2019

    Nice to meet you Garibaldi, Skippy and Salty hope the rest of your journey , the winds be in your favor Love Oliviers

  2. Suzanne

    March 23, 2019

    I’m so glad the boom didn’t land on any of you! Indeed, quite the send off to Becca, John, and Andrew to your new lives south of the equator. I hope Halcyon and Neptune grow in their friendship even more down there.

Comments are closed.

John and Becca Guillote

John is the photographer. He portrays the layers of history, emotion, spirit and culture in each moment through his application of light, perspective, and detail. He also takes pictures.

Becca is the writer. She tells vivid stories of authentic moments, highlighting the beautiful, dangerous, dramatic and hilarious with grammatically correct sentences and her tongue held firmly by her cheek.


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