Mick harnessed up 12 hours into our sail. The halyard from our smaller head sail which we had just hoisted had come away from the top of the sail in rough waters and quickly strengthening winds off the south coast of england. The solution was to go up the mast and get it! The plan was for me to winch Mick up the mast with Trav helming the boat through the waves. The wind was howling the boat was crashing on the waves and Mick was putting his trust in me to hoist him 40 feett up with no safety nets. As I began grinding the winch I could hear Trav roaring a reminder of the importance of my task. ‘you have Mick’s life in your hands, Mark!’.
I just about heard him and his words were not lost on me. If I made a mistake on this Mick would fall either straight into an angry sea or smash down on the deck of the boat. And as I inched Mick slowly higher I knew that any trouble I was having standing over the winch would be multiplied for Mick. He would be smashing his body and limbs off the mast. I have no idea how long it took but when I got the roar to let him down I eased the rope off the winch jammer and began lowering him to the deck with the halyard recovered. With that complete it should have been back to simply raising the sail again. But a pulley had swung away from him during the recovery and it was sitting half way up the mast. So up he went again!
The two mast climbs, two sail hoists and tidy of the boat after took about 90 mins and it all came from one loose knot. But the learning from the situation was and will be incredibly valuable.
First, trust is only built in practice, not in theory. Second, when things go wrong there is no room for hysterics. And third, prevention is always better than cure!