With the threat of our second Nor’Easter in a week looming in the next day or two, today’s sunshine and mild temperatures seemed like the perfect time to get some outside work done. I could have cleaned out the boat, but with the kids at their grandparents for a few hours, there would be no better time to replace the jib halyard.
For those who need a refresher, a jib halyard is basically a rope. What could be hard about replacing a rope eh? On the top of the mast there is a tiny hole, and there is one at the bottom as well. The halyards (ropes) go in the holes at the bottom, and come out the holes at the top.
The jib halyard is in red. The difference between this diagram and Indy, is that the top hole is right at the tippy top of the mast.
They are used to take the sails up and down. If the person in the boat pulls the halyard at the bottom, the sail goes up. They then tie off the halyard, and it stays up. When it is time to take the sail down, they simply untie the halyard, and pull down the sail.
On an unseasonably warm October afternoon last year, we had our birthday mackerel fishing trip. As we were packing up, the crew began pulling down the jib. I forgot to tell them to unshackle the halyard from the sail before folding it up, and the loose end at the bottom, was pulled up inside the mast. ….shit.
I’ve been wondering how I would get the halyard back in there all winter, as the elders of the internet had no consensus on the best route. all they could agree on is that it’s a major pain in the arse.
Since this was the last trip of the season, the mast was taken down, and Indy was brought back to the drive way. May of the people I’ve read about remedying the situation, had to climb up the mast and deal with it from 30′ in the air.
Before there was any hope of getting a halyard back through there, The creatures that were living in the mast had to be evicted. I don’t know how long it was there, but birds had been stuffing straw, twigs, and mud into the hollow bottom of the mast for some time. My hand couldn’t fit into the base to start removing the nest, so I undid a wire hanger and kept the hook on the end and scooped it out. When I cleared all I could with it, I had to tape a second one on to be able to reach in further. Eventually, it all came out, but it was in there about 5′!
Inside the mast after mucking it out. You’ll notice the jib halyard missing from its spot on the lower right. It is somewhere down that dark cavernous shaft… along with who knows what else!
Joe MacKenzie, one of the many great people I’ve met in our island’s many marinas, suggested standing the mast up against the house, putting some sort of weight on the end of a string and dropping it down. It seemed a better idea than anything I had in mind. Step one, find a weight that would fit in a tiny hole and would be heavy enough to pull the string down. I taped a small drill bit to a screw… to big.
I managed to find a furnace chain that sort-of fit. I had a 6′ long piece, yet only three feet of it would go in. I cut the chain tied on the string and onto step two.
For this we took the anchor rode (the rope that ties to the anchor), and tied it to the mast around the spreaders sockets. Erika went up to the baby’s room too out the window screen and started pulling. Once the mast was raised, she very slowly fed the string into the mast. The chain was just heavy enough to pull it down.
Friends in high places
I shudder to think about how difficult this would have been if the mast wasn’t coincidentally the exact perfect height to reach Charlie’s bedroom window.
The remaining nest material was easy to pull out once the mast was upright. Delicately Erika fed the string through until I heard the delicate jingle of the chain make its way down and peek out of the bottom. Bliss.
The string we used was just cotton butcher’s string which made me extremely nervous. We lowered the mast. Instead of using the cotton string to pull the halyard back through, I got a spool of masons line and easily pulled it through. Next was the halyard. I tied and taped it to the mason line. It was too blood big to fit in! I had to remove the tape so was really hoping it made it through, because if it slipped, the know came undone, or it broke, it would be back to square 1.
It was tough, but a good tug it came through, the whole thing. With the large hole at the base it was easy to get it through the bottom hole. about 3 hours after starting, the halyard was back in ready for a long summer of serious jib-hoisting!