Jonty Pearce gets caught in an autumn downpour as he packs his boat up for the winter

Jonty Pearce:

While Gene Kelly might have been happy prancing around in the rain, I would prefer drier weather when it comes to removing Aurial’s sails. I do seem to have a particular genius for diarising fine weather tasks for periods of seriously inclement conditions. My days of being tethered to a work driven calendar are, gladly, limited – four months more and I’m free. After D-day on April Fool’s Day, I’m hoping retirement will give me the opportunity to complete yacht maintenance on days when the weather is suitable, rather than endure the example of poor timing that I endured last week. Both the weekend before and the one after my trip down to Neyland Yacht Haven were fine; I’d had to shuffle obligations around, only to end up with the horrible weekend in the middle.

Carol wisely said she couldn’t swap things around to accompany me, so it would be a solo decommissioning visit. The forecast was poor, but with clear spells; I hoped to take all three sails down and pack them away dry in calm periods between showers. All started well. The genoa slipped easily down the furler without doing its usual trick of dipping a corner into the water. I was just pulling the sheets through when, with impeccable timing, the heavens opened with the heaviest downpour of the day. Resigned to both a soaked sail as well as a soaked Jonty, I manhandled the dripping cloth onto the pontoon where I hastily gathered, folded, and rolled it into its bag. At least it wasn’t blowing half a gale like last year – I’d risked losing the whole sail into the water.

After drying out (me, not the sail) and a cuppa tea, it was time to head up top again for the more complicated job of packing away the mainsail. With three reefing lines, a sail pack with its lazyjacks, sundry sail slides and control lines, this was a slower task. Inevitably, the rain did not hold off. After using green and red insulating tape to mark and control the respective sides of the lazyjack lines I was able to slide the damp ensemble of main and stackpack off the boom, stuffing the soaking sail into its bag on the wet pontoon. It was time for more tea and warmth below while the stackpack and dripping sailbags gave the dehumidifier a hard time in the forepeak. I turned the dryer up to its laundry setting, and headed up to sort out the mizzen sail.

This was a faster and drier job – the sail stayed on the boom, and, once the lines were sorted, I manhandled the whole ensemble below to sit happily on a forepeak berth. This sail could stay on board, but the other two would have to come home to be spread out in the dining room to dry. Next came the spray dodgers, outboard, liferaft, and the horseshoe to join the mizzen in ‘the shed’ – AKA the forepeak.

Friends Norry and Hutch were a godsend this weekend. They invited me aboard Gwennol for both breakfasts and dinner. The least I could do was to make myself presentable with a good hot shower before wandering down with a bottle of wine and fired up Tilley lamp. Hutch had not had a good day; his planned afternoon watching rugby had been trashed when his new aerial amplifier was blown by a short circuit caused by its wire getting trapped by the hatch. We drowned our sorrows, hoping for a better next day.

It was not to be. Although the sun came out and the day was bright, my departure was delayed when I checked the stern gland only to find the bilges full of water. I discovered that not only had I left one of my automatic bilge pumps turned off, but that the other one was only working on manual. Further detective work revealed that when the previous pump had failed, burnt out, and blown its fuse it had also melted the automatic power supply wires. The damaged insulation had allowed corrosion and failure of the core, and subsequent malfunction of the unit. Full operation was restored after replacing the wire, and I tightened the stern gland nuts up for good measure.

My Sunday had ended as badly as Hutch’s Saturday, but at least all was fixed. Saturday’s horrendous weather meant that my journey home was a battle with steamed up windows from the damp sails. Never mind; next year, with an empty diary (ha ha, good joke), I’ll be able to pick a good weather window and get the sails off in the sun rather than ‘desailing in the rain…’

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