Getting a reasonably sized boat down from the hard and back into the wet stuff is challenging at the best of times – add a typical Wellington gale into the mix and its even more so.
Complicate it further by having to reattach the forestays (wires at the front of the boat that hold the mast up) while you are bouncing around in the water and you have a recipe for an interesting Sunday afternoon.
I have immense respect for the people who operate the travel lifts that move these fish out of water. Sven, our driver, was a master – essentially reversing 18 tonnes of ship with a giant tractor while Paddy paced behind like a broody chook.
I, who at the best of times struggle to reverse a Mitsubishi Mirage, could only look on in awe.
Watching Wildflower being slowly edged backwards towards the water was nerve-wracking enough but that wasn’t the end of it. The travel lift has a belt that goes across the front of the ship exactly where the forestays sit, so they have to be removed in order to move the boat.
This is a teensy bit unnerving because it means, for a short amount of time, there isn’t really a whole lot holding the mast up. The rear wires (backstays) are still up but there’s always the nightmare that the mast might fall backwards. Since it was only for about 15 minutes and we weren’t actually sailing this was pretty unlikely, but Paddy wanted to get the everything fully attached quick smart.
This was no mean feat – there is a huge amount of weight on the wires (it’s a pretty big mast they’re holding up) so it takes a fair bit of brute force to get them reattached. The cavalry, in the form of Sven, arrived to help, while Wellington did it’s best to be as unhelpful as possible – in the form of 35 knot gusts. Wildflower is stroppy in reverse at the best of times (she has a big bum which tends to go where it wants to) and it was only the ropes lashing her to the dock that kept her from making a break for freedom.
I stopped taking photos pretty much as soon as I got onboard as I kind of had to hold on while she jerked about. Some grunting, heaving and a few cheers later though and the mast was well secured. We hurriedly let go of the ropes holding her to the wharf and glamourously ploughed backwards into the harbour, finally on our way home.
After a slightly bumpy ride across the harbour – with the lovely Grace, a resident boatie, as an extra set of hands – and a slighty bumpier landing we were back in our berth at Chaffers Marina.
While it was great spending time with the awesome folk at the Evans Bay Yacht Club , after 103 days on the hard both boat and skipper were glad to be home. Even in rotten Wellington weather, she just feels happier in the water.