Alexandra de Steiguer Photography

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Underway - Headrig
alex de steiguer

The bow and bowsprit of this old ship have seen some wear and tear throughout its long career. On my voyages with her, I have seen her bury her nose in the seething swells over and over again. The bowsprit goes underwater and the crashing waves sweep the foredeck. If you happen to be out on the headrig furling sail when this happens, it is a most unusual and disconcerting feeling to be heaved upward and then suddenly submerged up to your chest in frenzied water; your feet still standing upon the footrope and your fingers grasping the gasket rails. All you can do is to keep on working and wait until the bowsprit comes free of the sucking power of the water and lifts you out in a rush of falling sea. If you are unlucky enough to lose your hold, then you will (hopefully) get caught by the black mesh hanging beneath - known as the "widows web" - and get strained out of the water as the bow rises up for its next plunge.