In Marcie's recent blog about our trip down the Wild Coast to East London, she mentioned we broke a few sail slides – 12, in fact. While it isn't all that unusual to break a few sail slides, this may be a new record for Nine of Cups.
One side of each sail slide is attached to the mainsail with webbing. The other side of the slide is t-shaped, and fits into a groove, or track, on the mast. As the name implies, the sail slides slide up and down inside the track, allowing the sail to be raised and lowered. I use mainly nylon sail slides, with the occasional stainless version at high stress points. The nylon sail slides can handle anything the mainsail is likely to encounter, unless the sail starts to flog. The stainless slides are indestructible, but have a tendency to jam-up when trying to reef or lower the sail off the wind, so I use them sparingly. I prefer replacing the occasional broken sail slide to being unable to lower the sail when it's time to reef down.
I keep an inventory of sail slides on hand. I had 20 spares when we left Tasmania a couple of years ago, but when I checked my parts bin, I found I was down to only nine, two of which were stainless. It is rare that we break more than a couple on a passage, so normally nine sail slides would have been more than enough, but obviously not this time. Unless we wanted to repair our Yamaha outboard, East London doesn't have much in the way of boat parts, so we weren't able to find anything locally, and having something shipped in could potentially cause us to miss the next weather window. Marcie reminded me, however, that the sail slides on the storm trysail were the same size – I could 'borrow' some from it. Since we weren't likely to need our storm sails between here and Cape Town, this seemed like a good plan.
It took an afternoon to make the repairs. The process is simple enough – cut the stitching that holds the webbing, remove the broken slide, then hand stitch the new one in place. We've done it enough times that we actually have a 'How-To' video on the subject. I also discovered two broken and one missing batten, which we will do without until Cape Town.
The other problems were easy to fix:
Malfunctioning vacuum gauge on the engine fuel system – swapped it out with the spare
Handheld autopilot remote was flaky – cleaned the contacts on the cockpit connectors
AIS info not being displayed on the Nav station chartplotter – corrected a baud rate setting that somehow changed since the last time it was used.
All in all, not a bad list of repairs for our passage down the Wild Coast.