[Photo: Roz and the notorious cabin roof in calmer waters in La Gomera, Nov. 2005]
Today I scared myself half to death. But only half, and I’m sure that half will soon recover itself.
I had to go out over the roof of the forward cabin again. This is never an enjoyable experience – the roof is curved and smooth and offers nothing in the way of handholds or footholds – but I really had no choice. The main line to the sea anchor was chafing on the towing eye and I wasn’t sure it would last until the wind and waves calm down, so I had to get out there and do something about it.
I put on my harness and clipped it onto the safety line that I’ve set up across the cabin roof. I swung myself around the metal frame and sprawled across the roof in an effort to stay out of the water. But within a minute the large waves had knocked me off and I was dangling half in, half out of the water.
Now I’m here I might as well do the repair, I thought, and worked as quickly as I could, one handed, trying to lash a protective piece of rubber around the rope with duct tape, while the rope slackened and tightened with every passing wave. It was not a very elegant job, but I hoped it might do the trick.
Now the hard part – I had to get back on board.
This was not at all easy. There are grablines around the side of the boat – loose loops of rope suspended from eyes fixed into the hull – but they were at about hip height, so not easy to get my feet onto them. Even once I got a foothold, the waves crashing over my head and the tiredness in my arms made it impossible to get back onto the roof. I was hanging sideways alongside the smooth hull of the boat, getting colder by the moment, and unable to find the strength to pull myself back on board. I tried to stay calm. No point in panicking.
I took hold of the karabiner that linked my harness to the safety line, and managed to work it along the line towards the cockpit. I came a little more upright, but still couldn’t reach safety. I was really running out of options now, and was wondering just how this would end. I offered up a little prayer.
A large wave came along and I used its surge to lunge for the metalwork frame on the cabin roof. I didn’t manage to grab it, but I had a pair of scissors that I had lashed to my wrist to help in the repair job and these scissors caught in the frame. The cord tightened around my wrist. It hurt, but at least now I was closer to getting a proper handhold. I grabbed the frame and with a final effort managed to swing my leg around into the cockpit.
I was safe. Exhausted, but still in one piece and back on board. I stood there for several moments, spitting out seawater and thanking my lucky stars that I was still alive.
I was soaked to the skin, and it has taken me several hours to warm up, but apart from a few minor cuts and bruises I am fine. While I’m clipped on to the boat there’s no way that I can become detached and drown. But exhaustion and hypothermia are very real risks, and with nobody around to help me they are risks that I cannot afford to take.
So it will be a while, or much calmer weather, before I go out on that roof again. It’s just too dangerous a place to be.
A big thank you to all who continue to follow my blogs, podcasts, and text messages.
And an especially big THANK YOU to all who have donated, either as a one-off or as a recurring monthly donation. All donations of $20 or more will be acknowledged in the scrolling Thank Yous at the top of this blog. (This may not be visible on some browsers). In answer to one question on the podcast – no, I do not have a private income (or a public one, come to that!), so all donations really are very much appreciated, helping me to spread the environmental message.
The watermaker worked today. That makes twice in a row that it has worked on demand. At first it sounded a bit grudging, like an old man being woken up from a satisfying snooze, but went on to do what it was asked without any fuss. Looks like the “oomph” theory might be working.
At the time of writing, I haven’t yet received the latest batch of blog comments and email messages via my mother – presumably because yesterday there was a bit of a flap at mission HQ due to a lack of updates from my locator beacon. I’ll catch up on them tomorrow – along with the next part of the “Welcome to my World” series.