10 August 2012

"Creo que tengo un brazo roto." (Primera Parte)

Taxi fare to Clinica El Prada:    4000 pesos ($2.50)
Urgent care consultation:       51,000 pesos ($30)
Medical supplies/equipment:  44,800 pesos ($26)
X-ray:                                   57,100 pesos ($34)
Orthopedic specialist:           370,900 pesos ($218)

Lessons learned during the Haiti-Colombia leg of the Big Joy Sailing School: well, priceless, of course.

I've been asked: What the hell happened?  Words to that effect.  So here are explanations for the non-sailor (1) and the sailor (2).

(1)  For the non-sailor: While I was trying to make JOY sail a little better, I pulled on the rope that was attached to one of our sails.  I've pulled on this rope many times, with good results, but this time there was too much wind in the sail, and instead of me pulling the rope, the rope pulled me.  It twisted my arm until my ulna cracked.

(2)  For the sailor: I was trying to ease the jib sheet, since we had fallen off the wind a bit.  Ean and I, like many other cruising couples, have agreed that one will never leave the "safety" of the cockpit (irony alert) while the other is sleeping.  Ean was taking his post-dawn nap.  In order to ease the sheet from inside the cockpit, I have to pop the sheet out of the self-tailer, which faces outboard, and flip a turn off the winch.  Claro?  I have performed this little twisty maneuver many times in the past, and I can't swear that I'll never do it again.  But this time, the wind was Just. A. Bit. Too. Strong.  What was meant to be a quick flip of the sheet (with two turns still on the winch) became a quick twist of my arm... and, crack.

My teacher
Much to be learned here....  Re-evaluating whether our "safe in the cockpit" rule makes us less safe.  Wondering if the self-tailing mechanism on the winch could be re-oriented to allow flip-free easing of the jib sheet from the cockpit.  Reminding ourselves that if one of us has to wake the other for a bit of line-handling, it's not a tragedy.  And more.  We're still processing.  Still reflecting and learning and deciding.

But here's my big takeaway from this mishap.  Ready?  Words of import for those who would use the power of the wind to move boats across oceans.  In that split-second instant between the twist and the crack, I came to understand in a meaningful and indelible way, that the relationship between wind speed and wind force is not linear.  Doubling the speed of the wind multiplies its force on my sails by a factor of four.  Double the speed, quadruple the power. You already knew this, didn't you?  But bear with me.  Most of our sailing - remember, we're beginners! - has been in 15 or 20 knots of wind.  Last week, before the twist and the crack, I had the feeling that 25 knots was just, you know, five knots more - and five knots of wind?  Well, it's barely enough to make a flag flutter.  Sigh.  Now, post twist and crack, I know that the five knots between 20 and 25 packs a serious wallop.  I have been Told, and now I Feel, deep down in my broken and whole bones, the difference between wind speed and wind force.

Yes, this is Sailing School.  We do our best to keep out of trouble, but we make mistakes.  And we learn, and then we learn some more.

(Click here for La Segunda Parte.)


  1. Changing the direction of the feeder arm on the winch is done in less than 2 minutes. Unscrew the cap, pick up the arm and point it any direction you like!


  2. Thank you! We suspected it was possible because our main halyard winch was mysteriously "reoriented" after Ean took it apart to clean it.... So we'll let you know how it goes.