Jonty Pearce carries out some serious mast maintenance to prepare Aurial for the season ahead

The grey and green bits of string disappearing skywards up Aurial’s masts were not always their current colour – I can still remember their original vibrant hues.

With the masts supported on trestles in Dale Sailing’s yard while Denzil readies the new standing rigging, I knew that the time had come for some for some serious mast maintenance.

We had planned to do this two weeks ago, but access was thwarted by ‘The Beast from the East’; only a madman would have waded through the snow to tinker with frost-stiffened lines on an ice-rimed mast.

So the 3 hour trip to Neyland was postponed, but then coincided with the weekend of ‘Son of The Beast from the East’. Again, Herefordshire was hit badly by drifting snow.

I managed to leave The Malverns before Saturday night’s heavy dump but Carol, who was to follow me to Pembrokeshire next morning, woke to 5” of snow – she managed to get to the M50 in the afternoon and enjoyed clear roads for the rest of the journey.

I spent Sunday installing the new aerial on the main mast, replacing the tricolour/anchor light wiring, and replacing all the running rigging with mousing lines.

If you write it quickly it sounds easy, but I was glad that I’d taken the precaution of doubling up the mousing lines when I fed the new lighting wire and VHF cable through the dedicated plastic channel down the mast; there was not quite enough room at one pinch point and the mousing parted from the VHF cable.

Fortunately a second attempt with the spare line was successful.

Meanwhile, flurries of snow swirled around me and gusts of wind slatted the tarpaulins covering the boats all around me – not nice conditions.

Continues below…

The job took longer than anticipated, but the kindly yard watchman let me stay on until the last halyard was removed. And a sorry lot of ropes they were.

Red fleck, yellow fleck, and white had become green and grey where the sea and sky had defiled them; previously white lazyjack stays, flag halyards, and three strand lines were a vile filthy shade of slate. They badly needed a wash.

The next day dawned sunny. The wind had dropped and the temperature was a near balmy 10-12. What a difference a bit of Spring weather makes!

The hedgerows bustled busily with sparrows, the buzzards soared mewing plaintively overhead, and the boatyard brethren went whistling about their tasks, adding the happy sound of hammering, scraping, and polishing to celebrate the coming of the equinox.

The day’s task was cleaning the masts and removing ten years of algal growth from the worn anodizing.

The pressure washer got the worst off, followed by a proprietary cleaner and a final application of metal polish.

It took most of the day, and the light was fading as we laid out our stained lines on the pontoon to pressure wash them before putting them in the washing machine inside a pillow-case with some fabric softener.

And that’s when the ‘new halyards for old’ moment happened. I know that pressure washing rope does it no good, but it was glorious to see all the dirt and grime blasted out of foul halyards that looked as if they had gone beyond to reveal pristine white and fleck braid.

I pressure washed the slate grey three strand, jackstays, and flag halyards in a plastic container, marvelling at the number of times I had to empty the black water out; they too, became closer to their original white.

We were too late to put them through a washing machine that night, and the next morning, I wanted to check the mast foot substructure and the shroud chainplates while the mast tension was off; all was well, and the hidden chain plate U-bolts free of crevice corrosion.

I resealed them, and departed for home; the cleaned halyards would have to be refitted next time. Aurial will just not know herself!