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Spinnaker spaghetti

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Edited by Barbara Clough, Saturday, 21 Aug 2021, 23:05

I stare at the tangle of sheets, guys, lines, pieces of rope, topping lift, and things on the boat I don't even know the technical name for. And it's a boat. There are technical names for everything! The problem before me in the tangle of red guys, green guys, and striped ropes is that I can't figure out how the spinnaker guys got wound around my jib sheets, and more to the point, I can't figure out how to get them untangled. In the meantime, the spinnaker flaps, forlorn and useless, wrapped around the jib, also forlorn and useless.

It doesn't help that my skipper is in the background saying, "Should we take the spinnaker down?"

"No, I don't think that's going to solve the problem." 

What I'm really thinking is no because then it's just going to be tangled in the turtle, and I'm still going to have to untangle it. At least when it's up, even if it's not flying, I can see where the tangles are. 

It doesn't help that my brain doesn't really work well spatially. So I stare at the tangle of what are really a bunch of ropes of different colors with funny names. I probably only stare at them for 20-30 seconds but it feels like 20 or 30 minutes. The boat ahead of us gains boat lengths, and I watch its stern receding into the sunset. When you're racing a small boat in a big bay, 20 seconds is a long time to lose.

What could have caused this tangle of lines is a question I can't contemplate, nor would it solve the current problem. Sometimes knowing the cause helps, and in retrospect, it's good to go through that exercise when you're on dry land and the race is over. However, the immediate problem at hand is I need the spinnaker and the jib to be flying and filled with air and both are now deflated and useless.

In a lightning bolt, it comes to me that I have somehow wrapped the spinnaker around the jib. If I just unwrap the spinnaker from the jib, it should be okay (should being the operative word). Or I might be completely wrong, but standing here staring at it as the competition pulls further and further away isn't helping matters. Sometimes doing anything is better than doing nothing. 

I'm still not sure how I untangled it, but I took the spinnaker pole down, got the sail out in front of the jib where it should be, put the pole back up on right side of the boat, made sure all the lines were clear, and it filled with air like a giant hot air balloon, beautiful in it's red, white and blue glory.  

On the launch back into the dock after the races (neither of which we did very well in), I listened to another sailor, who has literally been sailing longer than I have been alive, talk about how he also fouled his spinnaker and relief flooded through me. I don't feel better that he fouled his spinnaker, but I feel better knowing that even the most experienced sailors foul the spinnaker and life doesn't end. You try and untangle it. You try and figure it out. And worst case scenario is, you fly without the spinnaker. 

Sailing is such a great metaphor for life. I have to remember when the unexpected happens, my thought process is simple: Don't panic. Study the problem for a minute. Try a solution.

If that solution doesn't work, there's usually more than one.  

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Hi Barbara,

Your post is very interesting and seems to have a whole new vocabulary all of its own!  With jibs, guys and spinacres. These are all new words for me.

My only experience of being at sea was in a fishing boat that sailed around the coast.  I remember tthat I could hear the timbers creaking, I could smell the sea and there was an old sailor who was playing an accordion and singing sea shanties. This set the mood for the occasion and I thought about the past when people risked their lives to catch fish for a living. The seagulls were flying overhead and I could feel the rising and falling of the sea. There was also a great sense of adventure to this like you are not sure what will happen next. 

I liked your analogy to trying to solve a problem, it is like trying to work out how to steer the boat. Lots of things can go wrong but you have to look at the problem again from a different angle.

Best wishes 



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Sorry about that spelling mistake I should have said  'Spinnaker'