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Sailmaking and Splicing

Thursday June 3, 2010

Today is our first full day back at sea after leaving Bonaire yesterday, and our first full day under sail since before Anguilla. True to the forecasts, the wind continues to blow consistently from the east between Force 5 and 6, and we’re sailing along between 5.5 and 8.5 knots. We’re currently about 35 nautical miles off the coast of Venezuela, having sailed past Aruba last night. It continues to be quite warm below decks or in little corners where there’s not much wind, but on deck the breeze is lovely, with just enough water coming through the scuppers on the main deck to cool your feet as you walk amidships. With the swell between 6 and 8 feet, the crew are finding their sea legs once again, moving about the deck with much more comfort with each passing day. But it is hot to be sure.

A return to sea also means a return to the routine of sea watches. Almost everyone is steering the ship on their own now, and I’ve heard more than one person talk about how much they love their one hour of lookout time, when you’re mostly alone on the foc’sle head and you’re required to not talk to anyone nor have anyone talk to you. Just watch the sea all around you and the ship holding you too.

Working on the mainsail for the Sloop Mermaid continues to be a big project that takes a few people from each watch, plus a few off-watch folks who have taken an interest and want to be involved. The corner patches, reef patches and tabling were all sewn on as of this morning, so we’re on to the next step which is sewing in grommets. A number of people were working on practice grommets this afternoon, sewing a grommet they had made into a scrap piece of dacron. While making and sewing grommets is new to most of the people doing it, making grommets of synthetic line and sewing it into unforgiving dacron is new to most of us who have worked on canvas sails before. Where a needle generally parts the threads of the canvas to make its way through, it pokes through the stiff fibres of the dacron. This going to be a good sail, but we don’t like unwieldy dacron sailmaking so much…

The fore royal was sent down this afternoon for two small repairs. Everyone was involved in bending sail on in Lunenburg, so it was interesting to see the process in reverse. Where the Mermaid mainsail is laid out on the quarterdeck, the royal was laid out on the hatch amidships for the couple of patches it required.

At 1630, the Captain led a workshop on splicing, the first in a series. With his sailmakers bench set up on the hatch, the Captain started with an introduction to rope, how it’s made and why it’s made the way it is. From there he demonstrated two kinds of whippings, an eye splice, an eye splice with a west coast taper and an eye splice with a sewn taper. There are plenty of other splices, which is why this was the first in a series of workshops, but we started with these. Everyone got a 4 fathom piece of practice line and spliced an eye in each end, using the two different tapers the Captain had demonstrated.

Donald continues to turn out great meals – we had poached eggs (which Donald makes by baking the eggs in muffin trays) with small round pieces of bread so you could turn it into an egg sandwich, along with fresh oranges and papaya for breakfast. Lunch was salami sandwiches on cranberry bread with fresh pineapple slices and supper was roast chicken with macaroni, cabbage salad and fried plantain with chocolate cake for dessert.

Julie, Paula and Siri sew on tabling
Lorraine, Dan, Julie and Jo work on splices
Splicing workshop

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