Déjà vu

Its funny how one gets that feeling called déjà vu sometimes? Literally meaning seen before, the psychological definition of the phrase is the illusion of having previously experienced something actually being encountered for the first time and the more colloquial definition is disagreeable familiarity or sameness.

In my recent case, it was more of the latter.

Thirty-three years ago I sailed my first transocean passage, the South Atlantic Race from Cape Town to Punta del Este in Uruguay. This was a successor to the original Cape to Rio Race after Brasil decided that it would discontinue to host the event for political reasons. Uruguay was more accommodating and several races finished in Punta del Este. In 1985 I raced as crew aboard the Lavranos designed Charger 33, a 3/4 ton IOR design from 1983/4. Owner and Skipper was the doyen of ocean racing at Algoa Bay Yacht Club, Rod Van Der Weele and the rest of the crew was made up of the late Arthur Clayton, then Port Elizabeths City Engineer and Frans Loots doing his second South Atlantic Race and third crossing of the South Atlantic after a single handed return on a Petersen 33 in 1982. I was by far the youngest, smallest and lightest of the crew so when our cap shroud connector broke near Isla Trinidade leaving the top half of our mast waving around unsupported, I was unanimously elected to spend the next two days performing aerial repairs sufficient to get us to the finish line!

Frans and I opted to sail Wings back to South Africa but had to wait for new rigging to be shipped in from the USA. The manufacturer executed the order promptly but the Uruguayan Customs officials had a different approach. They decided to play the waiting game and see who would fold first. We could see the roll of rod rigging in their office and pointed it out as ours but they steadfastly claimed that it had not yet arrived in the country. They did not count on the tenacity of two penniless mariners who were simply unable to sweeten the deal for them. Eventually they conceded and handed over the rigging. Then came the rush to fit it and leave the country as it was getting late in the season for crossing to South Africa.

Which brings me to the current scenario. I am helping a friend get his Dix 38 from Piriapolis in Uruguay to Puerto Williams in Chile. The season is marching on, winter approaches and with it the window for sensible passage making in this region of Patagonia. When performing a final rig inspection just before preparing to clear out with immigration and the multitude of officials, Barry discovered a few broken strands of wire at one of the terminals on an aft lower shroud. Sailing with the rig in this condition would be unthinkable as this piece of standing rigging is critical to the integrity of the rig. A solution had to be arrived at.

Our options appeared to be either that Barry would board a flight to Miami and persuade a rigger to make up a replacement shroud over Easter or that we would use the emergency kit kept on board for this type of scenario. We opted for the latter and hauled out the rigging kit put together by Colligo, one of the leading companies in synthetic rigging. It comprised of a length of Dux dyneema cord, a t-fitting for the mast end, a chainplate fitting for the deck end and a set of lashing blocks for tensioning the line. After measuring up the length required, splicing in the t-fitting and the lashing block, we were ready to fit the replacement shroud within an hour. Installing the shroud was a simple affair and the tensioning was time consuming but simple enough. We both sat back after re-rigging the shroud and concluded that the days of rigging sailboats with stainless steel wire must be nearing an end. The finished product was lighter, stronger and way easier to work with than wire. Lets hope I still feel the same in 1600 miles?

So once again, I depart from Uruguay on a beautiful autumn day, only this time, heading south for Tierra del Fuego and not east for home. Rigging issues overcome!