the bamboo whisker pole
Monday, February 24, 2014 at 17:30
Eric in mexico, pacific crossing, rigging

I try not to run dead down wind, but instead take it a bit on the quarter, enough that the staysail fills and isn't blanketed by the main. If we must sail dead down wind we will, and especially in calmer sea states that's just fine. 

When waves start breaking and seas start heaping up, the ride is a lot more comfortable if you're broad reaching and in my personal experience the risk of broaching is much lower. Less end-of-the-world-ish, broad reaching tends to heel the boat a bit instead of just letting her roll around on her longitudinal axis. 

Regardless though, the 3,000 mile / 4 week Pacific crossing will be primarily a down wind affair, and if the trades don't beef up here very soon the wind will be in the 10-15 knot range. With conditions like those we have a drifter for a jib (thanks to my unpopular move of trashing the roller furling) and I really wanted to get a pole.

A whisker pole, basically, is a pole that lets you "push" the clew (bottom/back corner of the sail) out over the water and hold it there. In light airs when the sail might otherwise collapse and flog itself to death, the pole forces the sail to keep its shape, sort of. 

The problem with whisker poles is that we don't have one and the "right" ones cost a lot of money, but fundamentally it's a pole, right? I mean, it's a friggen pole. Yes it has to perform under load, yes it needs to be corrosion resistant, and yes it needs some fittings on the end. But other than that, it's a pole. 

Images danced in my head of two long 2x4's with some overlap, thru-bolting them together. Then someone mentioned a long piece of thick-walled PVC. 

But then I saw the geniuses over on SV Lilo that were using bamboo for a dinghy mast and I got excited. 

We got the scoop that some bamboo stalks were growing next to the wall near the primary school in La Cruz, so off Cora and I started on our hike.

Protip: if you do this, make sure you realize you'll need to cut the bottom and the top. The canopy at the top is way to intertwined to just haul down a stalk you chop at the bottom. Worse for me, there was a power line running through it all and I didn't want to be the guy who started a fire at the school or knocked out someone's power. 

Fast forward thirty minutes of hiking back with it and then sawing off all the little nodules along the stalk and I'm the proud owner of a new soon-to-have-fittings whisker pole. 

Yes, boat nazis, I know it isn't as good as aluminium (or carbon). But you know what? It's free. I got a nice little walk out of it. I got a chance to cut down a bamboo stalk and make a whisker pole out of it. 

And when we roll into French Polynesia with our balling-out-of-control bamboo pole you know everyone will be jealous. 

Article originally appeared on Rebel Heart (http://www.therebelheart.com/).
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