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Disa - Pole Dancing at Sea

You may remember that on the first leg of the voyage our port whisker pole developed a ninety degree bend and became unusable. Like all the old Amel boats, we have whisker poles on both port and starboard sides. Each pole is made up of two sections - a shorter, narrower pole against the mast, joined to a longer, wider pole by an elbow. Both port and starboard poles are set up together, making the boat look a bit like a crop spraying aircraft coming in to land. These poles, sticking out both sides of the boat, enable us to pole out the genoa sail for downwind sailing - creating large areas of sail to catch the wind coming from directly behind the boat. Since we are using the Trade Winds to cross the Atlantic, most of our sailing is downwind, so our whisker poles are very important.

In Cape Verde we were able to get the short part of the port whisker pole replaced, just in time for us to leave on the second leg with the rest of the fleet. Being one of a hundred boats departing together under sail, is quite a euphoric experience. Had we been more seasoned sailors, then despite our euphoria we would have been well reefed when rounding the island. Unfortunately a very strong gust of wind caught us unawares and snapped the short section of our starboard whisker pole like a matchstick, with an almighty boom.

Down to one pole in the first hours of the second leg, meant that our other pole was not as well balanced. It also meant that when we wanted to pole out our Genoa on the starboard side, we had to dismantle the port whisker pole and borrow the short section to use on the starboard side. During the first few days the sea, conditions were too rough to attempt this, but as the voyage has progressed, Darrol and K have become expert at their very own pole dance on deck as they swing poles side to side, up and down, in and out, with me at the helm and Andy handling all the nicely colour-coded lines. We have this manoeuvre down to twenty two minutes in total now - pretty good on a boat that is constantly rocking and rolling, with Darrol and K having to clip and unclip their safety lines as part of their dance moves. All that remains is for us to add the right piece of music next time.

Having only one, not-quite-balanced pole for the entire crossing from Cape Verde to Grenada, has made us somewhat cautious. We don’t want to put too much pressure on our last remaining pole. If we lose that, we’ll be down to using the mop handle!

What an incredible experience this is turning out to be - full of highs and lows! Darrol is an absolute wizard in his pointy birthday hat. Every time something breaks or chafes he pulls out a spare or a piece of tubing, or takes out his soldering iron to rejoin wires. Years and years of fixing things in his garage has prepared him well for life at sea.

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