And her owner encounters an ex-Nasa scientist and the joys of electric clothing

Adrian Flanagan reports from Nome, Alaska, where he recently docked to make vital repairs:

‘On Thursday evening (10th August) a crane belonging to and operated by Crowley Marine Services swung its boom over Barrabas. This was likely to be a precarious operation and a “first” for everyone involved. With a spreader bar attached to the crane’s hook by 8-foot cables, we figured there should be sufficient lateral distance to hold the cables and straps suspended from the spreader bar off the rigging…(yes, we were attempting to crane the boat out of the water with the mast and rigging in situ!).

I had previously rigged two lines, running beneath the hull, fore and aft of the keel. With 50 feet of steel cable hanging down and guy lines attached to hold them off the rigging, the boom of the crane swung out to position the spreader bar directly above the mast. With the 40-foot straps attached to the cables on one side, we tied my under-hull lines to the free ends of the straps and guided them under the hull and up the other side, attaching their ends to the suspended cables on that side by means of giant shackles.

The hoist was slow and even and as Barrabas cleared the dockside we turned her through 90 degrees using fore and aft lines rigged to the deck. With the gentlest of motions, she was lowered onto wooded blocks just sufficient to ‘ground’ her, without undue loading on the keel. The crane’s boom was then locked and Barrabas was held, securely suspended. It was a perfect lift thanks to the skill of Danny Shield, the crane operator who had flown in from another settlement up the coast specifically for the job.

Unfortunately, the cutless bearings sent out from the UK are too large in their external diameter to fit the stern tube. This is my ‘fault’ because I was uncertain of the dimension and had to guess at it. I was out by 1/16 of an inch.

Whilst Barrabas was hanging, another yacht entered the small harbour. Safely moored alongside in the spot Barrabas had just vacated, her owner and sole crew member came ashore to spectate proceedings. With Barrabas settled, I then had the opportunity of meeting Jerry, a retired ex-NASA scientist (fluid dynamics) and sometime cinematographer from San Francisco. Later he showed me round his boat.

During the tour, I noticed quite a number of heating outlets and Jerry then expanded on his various warmth generating systems. I should point out before continuing, that the one part (or two, depending on how you look at it) of my anatomy that stubbornly refuse to get warm when the temperature drops much below 8 degrees are my feet. After Cape Horn, I was lying in my bunk (with cold feet) fantasising about electrically heated socks…

So, back to Jerry. With the barely controlled hand and arm gesticulations, bobbing head movements and rapid-fire speech reminiscent of a too-clever and slightly dotty professor, Jerry proceeded to show me his diesel stove with various, strategically sited fans to blow the heat around the cabin, the duct from the engine compartment funnelling warm air to the foot-well of the navigation station and the diesel heater in the heads, creating a ‘drying cupboard’ of the small space. Then rummaging in an eye-level locker, Jerry fairly ripped out items of clothing, tossing them over his shoulder and leaving them to settle like giant, multi-coloured snowflakes before, with an exclamation of delight he turned holding what looked to be an innocuous, fleeced lined jacket. What set it apart from the rest of the blizzard was the electrical cable issuing thin and snake-like from its innards.

“This is what I do,” Jerry said, his excitement hampering his efforts to don the jacket. Then, finding the end of the cable, he shoved it into a near-by 12volt socket. “In 20 minutes, I’m toast!”

I was delighted at the display, but didn’t mention that in English, being toast was not a desirable state to be in.

With tongue part way into cheek, I asked, “You don’t happen to have heated socks?”

“Oh, sure!” Jerry cried, arms spreading as if he was embracing a crowd of thousands. “And pants (trousers) and gloves too!”

I was speechless. Here was my fantasy come true. The end of cold feet. If I could get hold of heated socks, a few minutes every now and then plugged into my battery bank and the days of my feet performing very real imitations of ice blocks would be at an end.

I related my Cape Horn/cold feet story to Jerry, who being something of a technophile then fired up his laptop, hooked into the local WiFi network and found the website for the magical manufacturer of heated clothing –

My one big anxiety about going into the ice, aside from the obvious physical dangers is the prospect of numb feet for three weeks. Perhaps Mr Gerbing can put my mind (and feet) to rest.’