A rigged sailing-invitation: replacing fore & backstays

By Remi Wyszynski April 16, 2024

Spell-check, word-selection, syntax, punctuation, extra-barbs aimed at Evan:

By Timothy Langley April 17, 2024

Beware anyone saying, “hey, you want to go sailing this weekend?”  I spent Sunday helping a couple guys switch-out some rigging… a great experience but, jeeze, what taskmasters!  Anyway, it was a wonderfully different kind of day and, in fact, we did actually get out onto Tokyo Bay for a sail in the end.  But I think I paid my way. Here is my story:

Intrepid author, Remi Wysznski

To get to my appointed destination out on the Chiba coast required four separate train-changes interspersed with a highway bus ride. Destination is a backwater called Kyonan, a collection of tiny fishing ports next to a famous Hota Harbor (I had never heard of before!).

It is here where Captain Evan’s vintage 33’ Peterson is berthed; my first time out there. It is indeed a beautiful, rugged, rural area. 

Recently renovated deep-blue 33′ Peterson “Garuda”; 45 years old but doesn’t look it!

To arrive at 10 a.m., though, required a grueling three-hour odyssey. Arriving in the sticks of southern Chiba, there wasn’t even a coffee ready to welcome groggy-me but, instead and amazingly, a glitzy old chauffeured Rolls-Royce materialized in the junky parking lot to pick me up! What a surprise, but just the first sign of the zany kind of day I was in for.

Five minutes later, “Oh, hi Remi,” said Captain Evan, already on the quay and eyeing my jogging shoes: it looked like he had been drinking all night. I immediately regretted not getting those discounted Docksiders at the boat show last month. Massive sea hawks circle ominously overhead.

Captain Evan Burkowsky, Captain Tony Hardy, me.

“We are getting ready to launch so your timing is perfect! All we have to do,” Captain Evan said off-handedly as if shooing away a pesky mosquito, “is replace the fore and back stays, including the rollerfurler… and of course in the process make sure the mast doesn’t fall down.”  The last part of his sentence made my throat tighten involuntarily. I thought, “okay… this is ‘sailing’… right?!?”  Little did I know that, yes, sailing with Captain Evan is sort of like that.

“See… it just goes in here!”

Then, with great authority, Evan jerked me back from this revery: “Hey, pay attention! … all you have to do is just slide this pin into that hole,” pointing at some contraption on the pavement, “easy-peasy.”  I turn to look at Tony, suddenly feeling something cold and heavy being surreptitiously slid into my palm. I look down to see I am now clasping a wrench. My mind flashed to a scene of some old jungle-prison movie with Dustin Hoffman.

To get started, we needed to hoist Evan (in a bosun’s chair) so that he could complete the arduous task of detaching the old, and then attaching a brand new, shiny wiring to the top of mast, then re-attach the wiring to the bow of Garuda: 48 feet of 7 mm stainless-steel marine wire, I learned.

With Evan dangling 40 feet up, and once his part of that cakewalk of a job was finished, the truly difficult part of aligning the bottom of the forestay was left to those of us on deck: Timothy and me, with oversight valiantly provided by master-craftsman, Tony, of course relaxing in the shade.

After hours of struggling away in the blistering 22-degree heat with nary a breeze while Evan enjoyed the refreshing zephyrs at the top of the mast and yelling down at us, we were frustrated in completing the task at-hand: it was just very difficult, in tight quarters, with equipment that did not want to cooperate.

Down came Evan, mumbling underbreath like some Scotsman, “if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself.” So, still-hung-over Evan took over the chore, dropped a tool into the water, and had to go in to retrieve it. This was developing into a truly lovely sailing day, I thought quietly to myself. Admittedly, some glee was gained by now seeing Evan in the water. But it was shortlived.

Eventually, through unfortunately undocumented in photos (the search took 20 minutes), the dropped-parts were retrieved and the forestay properly installed: but no ‘victory’ yet.

I forgot to mention that The Captain had earlier announced (with great magnanimity) that beers would be distributed after both forestay and backstay were secured. Now reminding us that the backstay remained, and teasingly mentioning the waiting beers again… well this conjured an image of that scene on the prison-rooftop in “Shawshank Redemption”. I eyed Evan with suspicion. And thirst.

Back up went Evan, Timothy and me laboriously cranking the winch to get him up 40 feet again. This time we were able to, “get the pin in the hole, easy peasy” ever so fearful of enticing the The Dangling Captain to come down again. Finally, with all stays installed and tightened, the two-beer-reward consumed, we pushed off the moorings in elation for a quick sail (also undocumented). While not far enough out to quite challenge the tankers crisscrossing the narrow channel, Evan gave a great lesson on how to set-up and manage a preventer line and how to heave-to. It was great fun and a beautiful day. Finally.

Sailing a very responsive Garuda in open waters confirmed that the mast would not fall on top of me. As we returned to port. I learned that the reason everything looked so ramshackled on shore (from a much better vantage-point on the water) was because a rare tornado-packed typhoon hit dead-on 5 years ago and the hamlet was still recovering. But in any event, after tidying-up the boat and securing the moorings, we headed to the famous bathhouse in the Hota harbor. An event (again, thankfully) undocumented.

At the end of the day Timothy graciously gave me a ride back into civilization in what may have been the most comfortable car with the best sound system I have ever had the pleasure to experience. But he did try to charge me a taxi fare.

Anyway, sailing opportunities are not always evident in Tokyo nor elsewhere in Japan. I mean, for foreigners, things are limited in any event. The point is you have to chase them down. Joining TSPS helped me greatly and allowed me to meet some new, significant people and somehow finagle a day of sailing… okay, a half-day. But it opened doors and vistas I could not envision the day before I made this trek. And re-rigging a sailing yacht: THAT was pretty awesome, too! I learned a lot. Now I have to get some proper deckshoes.

Thank you for reading.


TSPS Members who provide sailing-related or TSPS-related stories for Skuttlebutt publication drink for free at the nearest Keelhaul. Posters of relevant, engaging Comments receive slaps on backs and “atta-boy!” recognition at the Keelhaul. Please consider submitting a description of your experience for others to enjoy or add a pithy Comment. Submit stories to any Bridge Member for uploading.

About Timothy Langley

I have only been sailing for the last 4 years or so, drawn to TSPS and the suggestion of sailing (I wasn't really looking) when a friend invited me to a Keelhaul. Several friends and old-timers who I never imagined were connected to the sea were active Members. After a few pints I thought, "why not...". I stopped hitting the sauna on weekends and working on old cars and, in no time, was sailing regularly. I soon stumbled on a decrepit yacht that needed some attention. So I purchased it, fixed it up and sailed the heck out of it. It is now a very proper and reliable sailing vessel. And, as a consequence, I have become somewhat competent as a solo sailor. I long for something bigger (Santana is a 40 year old Yamaha 26' possessing a proper enclosed head, a good galley, two berths, dry, comfy, reliable: sleeps 4) but in the meantime I am out on the Pacific almost weekly. Completely smitten.

8 thoughts on “A rigged sailing-invitation: replacing fore & backstays

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Always great stories!!
    Reminded me of rigging the forestay with a recalcitrant-pin-in-a-hole issue as well,
    just while the sun was setting before a night sail…

  2. Unbelievable. Glad to know I’m not the only one who has been pressed into service getting this hulk into sailable condition!

  3. This is a great write up! But I want to specify that the beers were in fact provided by Timothy. I don’t want to set any unrealistic expectations about crew getting refreshments on my boat… 😉

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