In 2004 a good sailing friend, Mickey Schwartz, bought the local yacht rigging company Bay Rigging. Mickey knew my passion was sailing, I was at a loose end, so he took me on as trainee yacht rigger. Bay Rigging trades from Dartside Quay on the river Dart in Galmpton and services all the local marina’s including Noss, Dartmouth, Brixham and Torquay.
Mickey, a South African, grew up working with boats. His first business at the age 15 was called ‘Barnacle Busters’. There, in the warm waters of Durban, he would dive under boats and scrape the barnacles of the bottom. To date Mickey has over 250,000 sea miles under his belt, most of which were racing miles. His knowledge of yachts and yacht racing is extensive.
During my time at Bay Rigging we worked on all types of sailing boats from 14 foot dinghies, to 65 foot yachts. I enjoyed the delivery and collection bit the most. We would regularly take yachts to and from our local marinas to Dartside Quay for repairs, or winter servicing. The trips normally involved a great sail across Tor Bay, around Berry Head and up the River Dart, and a night on the visitors pontoon in Dartmouth. However, with all this bliss, the trips inevitably came with some negatives; a raging hangover, gale force winds and the obligatory early rise at the ‘crack of sparrows’, to catch the high tide up river, to name but a few. In mid winter you can imagine how cold that was, frozen ropes, ice all over the decks and, of course, There was always Mickey to contend with!
My main job was to manage Mickey climbing and descending rigs. This was often very stressful as on older boats the standing rigging and running gear was untrustworthy and Mickey was always a bit too gung ho for my liking. I remember once we were working a 26 footer on a trot on the River Dart, the halyards were on the rig so I had no winch to work with. I helped Mickey climb with only half a turn on a plastic cleat on the rig. The cleat worked fine as once he was up I could cleat him off. Getting him down was the problem! Just half a turn didn’t give me enough friction to slow his decent, and the smell of burning plastic became quite alarming. In my inexperience, to slow his fall, all I could do was to run the halyard over my forearm. This worked fine, but alas it also came with a significant rope burn! After that, to avoid a death, burning plastic and action man type scars, I used a turn around the rig, which worked just fine.
Along with learning all about standing rigging, taking the rigs out and putting them back in again, working with running rigging was also a steep learning curve. Splicing rope is a true art form and takes hours of practice to perfect. With all the different types of materials in ropes today, when it comes to slicing them every one behaves differently. Changing all the running rigging on a 40 footer could take me the best part of a day. On the plus side though, I got to trick out my 400 with high-tech Kingfisher Dyneema® sheets and halyards, which transformed the boat's handling.
I spent two years at Bay Rigging, and today I still help Mickey out when he needs an extra pair of hands. The experience I gained working with him has been invaluable. Cheers Mickey!
more stories to follow...
My Story (part 4)