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Disaster struck while using my ParaSailor spinnaker for the first time

By March 25, 2020 2 Comments

Today I am publishing a video blog showing me raising, sailing, and dousing my new-to-me spinnaker sail. I bought a used ParaSailor at the end of last season and set it for the first time when I sailed downwind on a 55 mile run from Tobago to Trinidad. Having never used one before I had a few kinks to work out (and honestly, still do), but I was able to get the ParaSailor up and sailing without much issue.

The problem came when I approached the harbor and needed to bring it down. Using all my muscles I still could not bring the sock (a tube bag that the sail goes in) down over the sail when it was fully inflated. It is AMAZING how much power a sail has!!!!!! I finally got the sock pulled down only after I turned into the wind a little, which deflated the sail. Once the sock is down all the way there are clips you can attach to the bottom of the sail to keep the sock down. I guess wind got in the sock a bit, because it snapped those clips off so I was worried about the sock going back up. As I was lowering the entire sail/bag combo with the halyard it was light enough that it was blowing off the boat and then all of a sudden the line slipped and the sail was in the water……..and then under the boat!!!!

I quickly made sure the engines were in neutral, so as to not wrap the sail around the prop and being by myself I had no choice but to go into the water to get the sail out from under the boat. Long story short, it took me an hour of bouncing in the 5-6 foot waves next to the boat to get the sail under the prop and rudder, behind the boat, and then pulled up the sugar scoop into the cockpit (as you can imagine a sail full of water is HEAVY) so I could enter the harbor and moor up.

These thing can even happen to those of us with a decade of sailing experience, so do not worry if you make a mistake out there. Here are a few lessons I learned:

1) Crack off the wind to deflate the ParaSailor spinnaker before you try and bring the sock down over it.

2) Even though it is a downwind sail, don’t forget to head back upwind when lowering the whole rig to the deck so it gets blown onto the boat and not off it. (duh, I can’t believe I did this one!)

3) When disaster hits, do not panic!!!!! Think your actions through and go step by step. Eventually you will make progress.

4) Going into the water when out in the open is a very bad idea….especially when you are alone. With that said sometimes there is no other way, so make sure you are careful and always holding on to the boat.

The attached video is from my second attempt at using the ParaSailor and it will help you see how it should be raised and lowered. I wish I got video of my disaster, but I was just a little busy dealing with the sail to worry about it. 🙂


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