5 Minutes to 5 Weeks.

Only one thing missing.

5th November 2023

RAM Boatyard, Rio Dulce, Guatemala – Shell Bay, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

We’re used to having 5 minute jobs turning into long winded science projects. What we are not used to is a job that should take 5 hours taking 5 weeks. After weeks at Ram we finally get our rigging changed and bring to a close one of the most painful cruising experience we’ve ever had the misfortune to experience.

All the stars seemed to be aligning to allow us to escape Ram. Carlos arrived with our refurbished chain-plates and new stem-head fitting that were so shiny they looked that the belonged in a jewellery box rather than the deck of a boat . It felt like a crime to cover them in Sika flex, bond them to the deck and leave them out in the elements.

The right parts were also arriving at Ram and as quickly as they arrived they were unboxed, bolted onto the mast and made ready. We really now only needed the weather to play ball so that the heavy plant required to lift and step the mast could be safely used. Unfortunately we’d entered the rainy season and all it seemed to do was rain.

While in the boat yard we had the lucky experience of meeting some fellow cruisers who were selling off their most trusty crewman; their trusty Windpilot. The Windpilot is the only wind vane steering system that would be ideal for Ruffian there was however a challenge. Where would Peter the Pilot live when he wasn’t attached to the stern.

We unloaded lockers and checked for fit, we searched for space that wasn’t completely used and slowly came to the conclusion that Fiona would have to downsize her already limited wardrobe. Out with her clothes, in the with steering mast. We gingerly modified the locker as Iain has a serious aversion to making holes in the boat and Peter slipped into his new home perfectly. Fiona’s wardrobe wouldn’t have to be downsized too much and there was the added benefit that we’d reduce our starboard list.

As the weather forecast developed we started to see a short break in the weather. There was going to be a 4 hour window where the rain would stop and plant could be used. If we missed this window, or if it closed we could be stuck ashore once again miss a tide and incur yet more delays. But would 4 hours be enough.

Using the time to our best advantage Ruffian was lifted from her chocks without a mast and took a long magical mystery tour around the yard to the water. We felt like nervous parents as we followed her around and it felt like a crime to put her smooth newly painted bottom into slimy river water.

With Ruffian floating and watertight it was now time for the mast to be put in. We hoped beyond hope that the stepping of the mast would be less dramatic than the un-stepping and that Ram would finally do something right? Low loaders, cranes and JCB’s were all employed in the simple task and swarms of people crowded around as the mast slowly gained height, became vertical and was slowly transferred to Ruffian.

Bit by bit the rigging was attached and forestays were let off so that backstays could be attached. Slowly tension was built in all the stays so that it remained upright and straight. With every passing moment our nerves, which had been at unprecedentedly high levels, started to drop and our heart-rates stabilise. Finally our 5 hour job had been completed, it had only taken 5 weeks and rain held off for a critical 5 hours.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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