To continue my thoughts on what's important in a cruising boat, I'll talk about rig options – sloop vs. cutter vs. ketch – all of which we've had at least a little experience with. I won't talk much about schooner, yawl, junk, gaff or catboat rigs; while they have their own loyal followers and offer their own unique advantages and disadvantages, I have no first hand knowledge, and can only repeat what I've read or been told about them.Read More
The replacement of the standing rigging was completed just a couple of days before our aborted departure from Cape Town. Then the remaining days were busy with last minute provisioning, to-dos, and checking out, and I didn't do another pre-departure rigging check. After all, the new rigging was just installed by experts, right?
Now that we are staying here in Cape Town for another couple of weeks while the new sail is being made, I've begun a few things on the B-List of to-dos – those things that need doing, but not necessarily mission critical things. One of these B-List items was the replacement of the HF radio antenna. Ours is a single wire that runs from near the top of our dual backstays to just above the “goal post” that supports the wind generator. I last replaced this about ten years ago in Ecuador. All I could find at the time was galvanized wire, and it was now looking a bit weathered. I found some 1/8” stainless wire here, which I cut to size and then spliced a stainless thimble on each end. When I ascended the mast to remove the old antenna and replace it with the new, I checked out the new rigging on my way up.
I was quite dismayed to discover a number of problems with our new, professionally installed rigging. Some of the issues were minor: the spreader boots were secured in place with plastic electrical tape – in a few months when the tape deteriorated from the sun, we may have lost them; the top of the HF antenna was attached to the backstays with small lines tied with clove hitches – not the most secure way of doing it, and the antenna may have worked loose over time; some of the cotter pins were bent far more than necessary – more of a nuisance than anything.
Some of the issues were quite a bit more serious, however, and after noticing them, I did a full rigging check. These are the problems I found:
Improperly installed cotter pin. I have no idea how the rigger didn't notice this.
The nut that locks the furler in place and prevents it from rotating was only finger tight.
Several of the cotter pins in the turnbuckles for the shrouds and stays were undersized. I don't think they were large enough to prevent the turnbuckles from rotating.
Missing pins in the furler foil. The original tear in our headsail was due to a missing pin in the furler foil, which allowed two sections of the foil to separate. The head sail either got pinched or chafed on the foil edge, tearing it. The rigger repaired the foil by installing set screws in the foil. He should have looked at the rest of the furler – there were several other missing pins. This may have been the reason the newly repaired sail tore again so quickly.
Most of the problems, like those related to the cotter pins, were easy to fix, but the furler foil took more time. Marcie and I removed the forestay and furler, then, while it was lying on the dock, I drilled and tapped holes for and installed nine additional set screws. Lastly, we re-installed it and tensioned the rig. I had to go up the mast four or five times in total, and we spent just about a day getting everything done. Another ibuprofen night for us old farts.
I was definitely remiss in not doing a check after the riggers finished. A lesson I continually seem to need to relearn is that nobody cares as much about Nine of Cups as we do.
We last replaced our standing rigging – all those wires that hold up the mast – in Colombia and Panama in 2002 and 2003. That time, I bought two big coils of wire and a box full of Sta-lok connectors and replaced each shroud and stay over a period of a couple of months. I remember doing the backstays and cap shrouds while at anchor in Cartagena. The intermediates and lowers were replaced in the San Blas Islands, with Kuna Indians watching from their dugout canoes. The forestay, with our Harken furler, was too long and difficult to manage on-deck, so we found an old dilapidated jetty up the Chagres River in the midst of a thick, dense jungle in Panama. We dropped a stern anchor and nosed up to the jetty, which was just long enough to stretch out the forestay. Instead of Indians, it was howler monkeys who watched and offered advice as I worked on it.
Now, that the rigging is reaching the end of its life and since all the rigging has to be moved from the old chainplates to the new ones, it seemed like a good time to replace it. I had planned to do it myself once again, which would have required a week or so, but with our visas running out, it would have been very tight time-wise. (Of course, there is also the fact that not only is the wire thirteen years older, so am I, and the thought of going up and down the mast 10-20 times doesn't seem that attractive anymore). We decided to splurge a bit and hire out the hard parts. The riggers would do the backstays, cap shrouds and furlers, and I would do the lower and intermediate shrouds. We should be able to complete everything in a day or two.
That was the plan, anyway. The rigger and two apprentices showed up a couple days ago, and other than two lower shrouds, they did pretty much everything. I kept busy polishing toggles and moving them from the old chainplates to the new ones. Four guys working on the rigging is a lot like the road construction sites we often drive by – three of us spend most of our time standing around watching the fourth guy do some work up the mast. Once a wire is removed, there is a short flurry of activity while the other three cut the new wire and move the connectors, then we all stand around watching the fourth guy reattach it and remove the next wire.
It took the four of us two and a half days to complete the job. Not the most efficient use of manpower, but labor in South Africa is inexpensive, and as they say, “everyone needs a job”. It was a lot faster than me doing it myself, plus I like to think the savings in the ibuprofen I would have needed every night went a long ways towards the cost difference.