The Sea Wolf HTML version

Chapter 35
Next day, the mast-steps clear and everything in readiness, we started to get the two
topmasts aboard. The maintopmast was over thirty feet in length, the foretopmast nearly
thirty, and it was of these that I intended making the shears. It was puzzling work.
Fastening one end of a heavy tackle to the windlass, and with the other end fast to the
butt of the foretopmast, I began to heave. Maud held the turn on the windlass and coiled
down the slack.
We were astonished at the ease with which the spar was lifted. It was an improved crank
windlass, and the purchase it gave was enormous. Of course, what it gave us in power we
paid for in distance; as many times as it doubled my strength, that many times was
doubled the length of rope I heaved in. The tackle dragged heavily across the rail,
increasing its drag as the spar arose more and more out of the water, and the exertion on
the windlass grew severe.
But when the butt of the topmast was level with the rail, everything came to a standstill.
"I might have known it," I said impatiently. "Now we have to do it all over again."
"Why not fasten the tackle part way down the mast?" Maud suggested.
"It's what I should have done at first," I answered, hugely disgusted with myself.
Slipping off a turn, I lowered the mast back into the water and fastened the tackle a third
of the way down from the butt. In an hour, what of this and of rests between the heaving,
I had hoisted it to the point where I could hoist no more. Eight feet of the butt was above
the rail, and I was as far away as ever from getting the spar on board. I sat down and
pondered the problem. It did not take long. I sprang jubilantly to my feet.
"Now I have it!" I cried. "I ought to make the tackle fast at the point of balance. And
what we learn of this will serve us with everything else we have to hoist aboard."
Once again I undid all my work by lowering the mast into the water. But I miscalculated
the point of balance, so that when I heaved the top of the mast came up instead of the
butt. Maud looked despair, but I laughed and said it would do just as well.
Instructing her how to hold the turn and be ready to slack away at command, I laid hold
of the mast with my hands and tried to balance it inboard across the rail. When I thought I
had it I cried to her to slack away; but the spar righted, despite my efforts, and dropped
back toward the water. Again I heaved it up to its old position, for I had now another
idea. I remembered the watch- tackle - a small double and single block affair - and
fetched it.