My Way, “mine own” 23-foot sailboat, has been in the water for almost two months. But due to travel and other commitments, today is just the second time I was able to join my crew to race. The boat’s crisp new sails were about to take their maiden voyage.

I hoisted the main, which glided up the mast smoothly and easily. What a difference from the old, tired rags we had been using. Next, Janet released us from the mooring and I hoisted the jib. But alas, the sail remained on the deck, and its halyard–which should have been attached to it–got yanked to the top of the mast. Big, big problem!

There was only one feasible solution: return to the mooring and get someone all the way up — some 35  feet above the bobbing deck.

Luckily, Janet had a bosun’s seat on her boat, which she fetched for us. Wayne, who runs the weekly races for our ladies’ sailor group, heeded our plea for help, and tied up his motorized tender boat to My Way.

So it was decision time. Who would clamber halfway up the mast and be hauled up top to retrieve the halyard? Wayne said the lightest woman should probably go. “That rules me out,” laughed Laura, who is taller than the rest of us and naturally heavier, and always dieting whether she needs to or not. “I’ll go,” I said, until remembering that I am truly afraid of heights and had spent the entire time on top of the Arc de Triomphe on hands and knees, petrified to stand up and take in a full view of the Parisian skyline. Janet was uncharacteristically quiet and had done enough already. “I can do it,” said Dee Jae, who is beautifully slim, with sculpted biceps and the personal trainer to prove it.

So up she went, first standing on the mast rings and then climbing up the pole using her hands and the soles of her feet, monkey-style, until she reached the spreader — a horizontal bar. Then strong-old Wayne hoisted her up in three-foot increments to the apex, where she grabbed the halyard, then slowly down she came. Crisis averted.

Moral of the story: Skinny girls don’t have all the fun — unless that’s what you call having your buns hauled to high heaven. Now that’s a real butt lift!

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  • Kathleen Myler Drummond August 29, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Hellow gorgeous. Beautiful lines and I love those crisp sails. You look fantastic, too, MKL. Let me know when you need crew! I single-handed a skanky 20 ft Santana and cranked for some wicked J-24s, J-27s and up for many years. I’ll monkey climb your mast and bunny your bilge!

  • Liz Tutton July 16, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Great story Mary as are all in your post! This one reminds me of the time I was hoisted up the mast to fix the jib 24 years ago during a boat party, being at the time the smallest willing suspect! When I got to the top, I made the mistake of looking down and clung so fiercly to the mast they could not lower me….it took much coaxing to finally get me to let go! I ended up marrying the boat owner, however, and we are still sailing the same boat!

  • Susan B. Johnson July 2, 2009 at 10:15 am

    On a trans-Atlantic voyage aboard our 40-foot ketch, I (the lightest crew member) had to be cranked up the mast by the only other crew member (my husband) in mid-ocean. My assignment was to cut down a wayward Genneker, which had developed a figure-of-eight wrap, entangling the jib halyard. A storm was looming, and we were without a functioning headsail. The only way to hoist me was to use the main halyard, which meant the mainsail had to come down. Without any sails up to steady the boat, as I ascended I became a human metronome, causing the top of the mast to describe an ever widening arc from port to starboard. Hanging on for dear life, I glanced down from the top of the mast, and saw a shark circling the bow. It was an afternoon I’ll never forget.

  • Elizabeth W. July 2, 2009 at 9:05 am

    I’m also utterly petrified of heights, MaryKelly. But hoping for good sailing weather this weekend. You’ve whetted my appetite for sure!