The plan is perfect. We’re using as much of the easterly component of the wind to head south. We’re heading to the Exumas and no one is stopping us. The Exumas sound like The place for us. No one around. Beaches. Fishing. Kitesurfing. I toss and turn at 5am. 6am and I’m up. Batten down the hatches. Get the navigation gadgets sorted and make coffee. Ashley finally wonders on deck as the smell of coffee works it’s way to the bedroom. She get’s a badge most every night for staying up late. Her Girl Guides sach is full of late night badges. She’s still working on her first early morning badge. Waking is a herculean effort for Ashley.
It’s blowing a near gale out right outside the anchorage. We pull the hook and head out. It’s a grand day. We’re ready to repeat the last passage; 8+ knots of boat speed. Only this time, the waves are bigger. They’re cresting. We get as far east as possible before raising the main and head on a SE course. 20-25 knots almost on the nose. There’s some chit chat about putting the 2nd reef in. I know what’s going thru Ashley’s mind. “It’s a race. Gotta get there.”
One reef in. Genaua 40% out. Life is good. I belch against the wind: “What shall we do with a drunken sailor. What should we do with a drunken sailor, early in the morning?..” This is what it’s all about! Sailing. Living on the ocean. Battling the elements. Floating around the world.
We watch the wind gauge… 26 knots. 28 knots… “Let’s throw in a second reef!” We man our stations. Drop the halyard a bit and pull on the 2nd reef lines. Slight problem. The main won’t come down. The wind meter reads 30.5 knots true wind. Shit fuck. We’re only supposed to fly this configuration to 28 knots. We exchange words. “Crank it!” And then, BOOM! The mainsail comes down. I feel something bouncing off me. Almost like hail. I look up. The main headboard car just ripped off the mast track. That was a ball bearing rain shower. Not refreshing. Dollar signs flicker in front of my eyes. There’s a pit in my stomach. No more Exumas. Visions of limping back to Fort Lauderdale. We turn around and run for cover. Back to the anchorage. Drop the hook. Crack a beer. Or four.
Final inventory of the damage is done. We have ripped our mainsail bag. Ripped our bimini top and exploded our headboard car (that thing that holds the sail onto the mast). I crawl under the covers and go to sleep. It’s 2pm. This was not in the plans.