Date: 31 January 2014

Position: 14:44.411N 061:10.679W, St Pierre, Martinique

Whilst the drawn-out farce of the incompetent rigger was playing out, the DS was in the wings taking everything in. “I hadn’t realised that the incorrect fitting of such a tiny part could cause the whole mast to crash down”, she said during dinner on the eve of our eventual departure. “Are there any other bits in the rigging that could fail and result in a dismasting?”

Being rather preoccupied with the wine list and without thinking to engage my brain, I replied casually “Oh, dozens”. The DS was unusually quiet for the rest of the evening.

At 0630 the following morning, after eight unscheduled days in Rodney Bay and now well behind schedule, we cast off without a mainsail, and I prayed for a brisk wind on the beam to speed our way under yankee and staysail alone for the 40 mile passage to Martinique to our north. I wasn’t disappointed. As we cleared the north of St Lucia, the full force of the Caribbean trade winds filled in from the east, bringing with it legion after legion of boisterous 2-metre waves. Well heeled, we were bouncing along over the wave tops at 8 knots. It was brilliant.

The DS meanwhile clearly had some urgent business to attend to in her Downstairs domain as for the first couple of hours I found myself alone on deck. But nature called.

“Could you come on deck to keep watch for a few minutes whilst I pop down below?” I called.

“Can’t it wait six hours?”

“Er, not really”

“Oh, bloody hell, alright then”

I slipped below and, after answering the call, I eventually climbed up the companionway back into the cockpit and immediately tripped over something large. It was the DS. She was crouched in the pit of the cockpit, wearing a hardhat and muttering to herself.

“What the devil are you doing?” I asked solicitously.

“I don’t want to get killed when the mast comes down.”

After some sensitive questioning from me, it transpired that the DS considered a dismasting not just a high probability but an inevitability and she was simply taking basic precautions.

Miraculously, from her perspective, we made the entire passage without the inevitable dismasting taking place and anchored just off the beach of the small town of St Pierre at the north of Martinique.


Tim Barker is a sailor and occasional adventurer. Since 2004, Mina2, his Oyster 485 yacht, and he (with the Downstairs Skipper and a wonderful bunch of friends) have sailed from the Arctic to the Antarctic and many places in between. Come join their adventures and read Tim's award winning blogs and journals from the comfort of your own computer screen.

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