Hooray for climbing – to the masthead. Today we have a gentle breeze but quite a bit of swell left over from the storm. It’s been sunny and warm, and may even be our last full sailing day before we drop anchor in South Africa. My ambition to reach the top of the mast was on for today!
I chose the foremast. It is slightly smaller than the main (only slightly) but being at the front of course gives the best view. Plus the bosun was busy with the highest sail (the sky) on the main mast. I’d not climbed the foremast at all before but the basics are exactly the same as on the main mast.
A friend came with me for confidence (and pictures, which I’ve not seen yet). He’s very good at this, including furling the royals (the highest sail underneath the sky sails) at the onset of this week’s storm, but was patient and happy to chat as I worked up to each stage.
First the fighting top, which has that unnerving long reach to get over the edge of the platform. Then the crosstrees, which on Europa is a trio of stainless steel one must wriggle, manoeuvering one’s beamiest parts as required. Let me say that the cross trees on the mainmast are a size 10, but on the foremast a more comfortable size 14.
Above the crosstrees I faced a narrow ladder which is increasingly tremblesome as the wind catches it. By now of course the swell was also rocking the mast top around. I reminded myself very firmly that my hands and core strength are stronger than I give myself credit for, and that I am *not* afraid of heights.
Last time, I got four rungs above the crosstrees. This time I got to the top of the ladder. I gazed around from over the top of the royal sail, just six feet from the skysail yards.
Sea everywhere! No other ships, no whales, a few albatross below me skimming the waves for food. The sails beneath me were bellied in the wind and the sun laid its golden path across waves which were trying very hard to turn from steel grey to blue.
I waved down at another friend taking photos on the foredeck. Yay me!
Down I clambered, still slow compared to the experts but a lot quicker than ever before. I even seem to have mastered that tricky moment getting down from the fighting top.
I wish we had had a few days like this at the beginning, just to fool around in the rigging and gain confidence. I bet I would be a lot more active on the yards by now if so. I’ll have to try for that next time I travel on a tall ship. For now though my third big ambition for this voyage – to climb to the top of the mast – had finally been realised.
PS: the storm blew at 50 knots (Force 10) for several hours. The strongest gust was 68 knots (Force 11). It was challenging but we all stayed active throughout, which was great after the decimation of the voyage crew during the storm in Drake’s Passage all those weeks ago.