Wind finally tickles the sea surface on the dawn of day five and a few hours later the southeast trade winds sing across our ears. Mom helps me set the spinnaker pole, and once we get the sail in place, Swell begins to skip across the iridescent blue. We’ve carved out our roles and rhythm a bit: Mom helps with cooking, while I handle all the sailing and watch duties. She fell asleep on watch our first evening out succumbing to the new moon darkness so I have decided that since I wanted to try to do this passage alone, I will handle the sailing responsibilities as if I were by myself. Mom will be here to provide her loving company and lend a hand if I need it.

Gaspar Photo Gallery

As we gaze proudly up at our full sails for the first time on the passage, the jib halyard suddenly parts. We watch in horror as the headsail slides smoothly down the furler track and into the sea. I bolt up on deck in a panic, tripping over my harness tether. I try not to leave the cockpit area without wearing my harness attached to the jackline (especially while Mom is here!). When I reach the bow I tug at the massive, dragging sail ballooned full of seawater. I can’t let it break free we have no spare! But my forces are puny against its great weight. So instead, I rush to pull down the mainsail and slow the boat before the submerged genoa breaks away.

With the mainsail down, I run a halyard to the head of the sail, but discover that the spinnaker pole must come back down because the two halyards are tangled. I can feel Mom’s worried eyes on my every move as the bow bounces and rolls under my feet. “Hang on tight, honey,” she repeats.

Once the pole is secured on deck, I crank hard on the winch, relieved to see the sail inching out from under the hull. A minute later I’m able to yank the bulk of it onto the foredeck. After two hours of tedious line untangling and sail wrestling, the genoa rises back into place on a spare halyard, the pole goes back up, and Swell takes off like a racehorse again, surfing steadily into the troughs of the following seas. Amazingly, the sail is not damaged, but a large blue tattoo of bottom paint smears across it as a reminder to inspect for halyard chafe before a long passage, as Gaspar urged.

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