After four months, Aurial has finally had her masts re-stepped and Jonty Pearce is now ready for the season

Aurial’s masts had been lifted out on the 20 February; first The Beast From The East, and then an inconvenient strong blow into the lifting bay just at the time of our booked re-stepping slot meant that, to my shame, the masts had lain in Dale Sailing’s yard for four months.

I had my excuses; a Scottish cruise, a week’s salmon fishing, and a month traversing the Atlantic had rather filled my diary, but I still regretted the long delay before I was able to arrange a convenient time for the masts to be lifted in again.

Not that I’d have been able to sail during March, April, and May – either the weather had been foul or my other activities too enjoyable.

The elongated timescale had meant that there had been plenty of time for Denzil to replace the standing rigging and roller reefing stay with nice shiny new kit.

The old rigging looked ok, but was getting on for 15 years old. Denzil pronounced the old Rotostay obsolete and, as the forestay passes up inside it, the only reason not to fit a nice new Furlex was the state of my wallet, but that was soon over-ruled. The running rigging was foul.

After pressure washing and rinsing with conditioner in the washing machine I hardly recognised it, though fraying of the mizzen halyard and topping lift meant replacement was in order.

Carol and I had also washed and polished the spars; a lot of the gold anodising had gone, but at least we got rid of the green colour.

Finally, I’d taken the opportunity to replace the masthead tricolour and anchor light wiring and fit a new VHF aerial atop the main mast – the old one on the mizzen had failed.

My great friend Hutch assisted on the day – just as well as Carol was unexpectedly called away to sit at her father’s hospital bedside in Merthyr Tydfil after he suddenly collapsed with pneumonia.

As a result, it was Hutch and I who motored from our berth across the upper basin cill to Dale Sailing’s lifting bay where Dale’s boys did a great job of craning first the mizzen and then the mainmast back onto their tabernacles and tensioning up the nice new stainless shrouds.

Hutch and I were left to puzzle over the tangle of lines tied to the spars; few hours later both booms, stackpack systems, vangs, halyards, and sheets were all in their proper places and Aurial looked ship-shape again.

Continues below…

I’d only made two mistakes – firstly, I’d re-moused the main halyard the wrong way round, but that was quickly remedied.

Secondly, so the spinnaker halyard was mis-routed beneath the genoa halyard, so I asked Denzil to arrange for it to be corrected when he tensioned the rigging.

Tidal constraints meant that Aurial could not return to her berth until dusk, so Norry and Hutch and treated me to a 60th birthday supper at the excellent Neyland Yacht Club – the restaurant has been refranchised as the ‘Alumchine’, specialising in Italian seafood.

We met friends there and had a very convivial evening with excellent food. We still had to return Aurial to her berth so while Norry walked Fender the beagle, Hutch and I turned the navigation lights on and motored gently back to the upper basin before retiring to Hutch’s boat for a nightcap.

Life somehow feels right now that Aurial is fully dressed; all I need to do is bend on the genoa and she’s good to go as a sailing vessel again.

Her lesser role as an unrigged bare motor yacht is over, and a plethora of lines, ropes, and wires once again run upwards.

Mind you, the jobs are never finished – there is still a leaking hydraulic keel ram to renovate before her full function as a lifting keel yacht is returned, and we do like our shoal water sailing…