Isbjorn Blog: The Real Deal

Isbjorn is the yellow icon there in the middle of the fleet, highlighted. Taken from

There is nothing like yesterday's sail repair to authenticate this experience as a real introduction to ocean sailing. It was blowing 25+ knots but at least the sun had not yet set when Papa Bear (as at least one cruising woman calls him) noticed the middle batten was shaking out of the mainsail. It is a full batten so it was not imminently at risk, but the process of lowering the sail could shake it out to be lost forever. Our captain, Paul Exner, decided I should drop down to a broad reach while everyone else coaxed the sail down gently. Paul chose not to rig a preventer because, to the best of my understanding, he did not want to risk not being able to get the boom in quickly if the batten started to go and we did not have enough hands to have someone on the preventer. I was well aware that a jibe could make my earlier mistake with the spinnaker seem trivial. Given that it would be a whole different story if I had, you have probably figured out that we did not jibe.

We found that the Velcro flap holding in the batten had torn, but we had a needle and thread. Papa Bear took the helm and Rik proceeded to feed the fish so Paul and I enacted the repair. Standing on the aft cabin top with the rolling accentuated by my height off the water, I gotta couple below-the-belt punches from the dodger. Paul held the sail tight and we tried to secure the boom by tightening the main sheet. I would push the needle with the palm followed by pulling with the vise grips and at one point heard them sliding across the dodger-mounted solar panel but with all the sails I could not see it, but Paul did. The first row of stitches were pretty Frankensteinesque, but the second row looks ok. The repair held through last night's cold front passing, with gusts to 40 knots and bits of hail during which we reduced the Genoa to the size of postage stamp. And I got a piece of the real deal of ocean sailing.

-Walter Rush