A Plague of Mice! by Doug Pattison

We noticed that our Konsort’s steaming light was not working. The investigation started with the normal suspects – the plug and the deck socket – but all seemed good. The light fitting on the mast is just accessible by ladder from the foredeck, so up I went with screwdriver to swap the bulb. No joy, but I did manage to drop the plastic lens, which bounced twice on the deck… but came to rest against the toe rail. Phew! Up again with a multimeter, to find that 13 volts at the deck plug had become less than 4 volts at the top…? Check the wire itself at the base, not just the plug – still 13 volts. Something odd has happened to the cable in the mast, and the old cable has to come out. So, with a thin cord attached to the bottom of the cable, Gail pushing, and me pulling at the top, all is revealed. One of the thin mouse cords left so helpfully by the original Westerly rigger, had become twisted round and round the cable and the main halyard, binding them together. The halyard had worn almost
through one of the conductors in the cable. After cutting away the beastly mouse it was possible to draw the cable out, with its mouse as well. But we knew that the cable had been twisted around the halyard, so just sending a new cable up the same route did not bode well, and that mouse had to go.

So, how to get a new mouse down the mast which would not be tangled up with any of the ropes inside? Some time ago I bought a couple of small, but very strong, magnets about an inch long and 3/16 in diameter. I discovered that an eighth inch sheet of aluminium hardly affected the attraction between them, and one would faithfully follow the other. So up the mast again, with one magnet with attached mouse to go inside, and another outside the mast. We dragged the outer one down the mast, with a short detour round the spinnaker eye, and the inner one followed all the way. A short “tail” of mouse below the magnet was then hooked out through the grommet at the base, and another mouse was pulled up to the top, this time guaranteed to be free of any tangles. The rest was straightforward, a new cable was pulled through, and we have a
steaming light (this time with a deck light too)! Avid readers of PBO may have noticed a similar story in November’s issue, but that wasn’t a Westerly, and they had to take the mast down!