Finding Those Hidden Rigging Problems

Standing rigging is slowly decaying. Like dental decay. Regular checkups and frequent inspection will save you from DIY root canal surgery mid Atlantic!

When Frank was out of the water at St Croix Marine in St Croix, USVI, I noticed a potential problem with one of the shrouds. A strand appeared to be kinked where the cable went into the turnbuckle.

strand to left is kinked – broken inside the swage

 Jerry The Rigger was my “local” rigger in Gosport, England, as well as for the ARC, which I had intended to join, so I knew where to check. I sent this pic to him, and he advised me to get a knife or screwdriver in between that kink and check the strand. It was broken.

I shimmied up the mast using my Aloft Alone kit to check the upper rigging. All looked fine, but I had a nagging doubt and went back up to take a second look.

Sure enough, on closer inspection, the head or baby stay had a broken strand at the swage up top. 

Problem: Selden do not have an agent in St Croix, and the swages are unique to Selden.

The marina rigger did not have the right size wire, as Frank has both 7mm and 8mm shrouds. Bear in mind that the US does not do mm, and I had to translate this into Imperial. The nearest source was in St Barts (I think – will check). So I ordered swages and wire, which was flown in via Antigua after a lot of delay.

Unfortunately, the rigger had a mishap and mangled a swage at the turnbuckle. This meant that the “T-Hook” swage for the mast end of the stay, which he had already attached, was wasted. I only had one 8mm T Hook, so had to order more. 

The old T Hook Swages

The mangled new Swage

These ended up spending two weeks going from St Barts to Antigua to St Kitts to Antigua to, eventually and many calls later, to St Croix. I ordered extra!
Finally, the turnbuckle at the forestay did not fit the deck mounting. So I had to buy a new turnbuckle from the store, which they had. 

Always do a close, visual and physical check of your standing rigging, especially at the swage – the damage will be worse just inside the swage, where you can’t see it. And carry spares!

Jerry Henwood aka the aforementioned Jerry The Rigger sold me a A great emergency repair kit from Sta-Lok for use when a shroud breaks at sea, which I did not have to use, but always carry. One set for each size.

For emergencies, by the way, rather than bolt cutters to remove shrouds in case of a dismasting or other problem, I recommend an angle grinder. It can be used one-handed, so you can cling to the boat or the shroud with one hand: you might be in heavy weather. Besides, bolt cutters are very hard to use in the best of conditions – don’t believe what you see in the movies. Bouncing around in a F10 on deck with both hands gripping a bolt cutter is not going to cut it.

Onboard tools should be rechargeable, with spare cutting wheels and spare, interchangeable batteries. I have standardised on DeWalt, so that I know I will have power for cutting sawing and drilling at sea.

For more info on ARC and crossing the Atlantic : Practical Boat Owner ran this article in March 2016.

Belated Update

I completely lost track of doing the blog!
Quick update – missed the ARC due to persistent engine issues, caused by shorts in the wiring. Four dead shorts resulted in lots of melted wiring.
I had to park Frank in Camarinas, NW Spain, November through January, so that I could go take care of business, once I decided that ARC was not achievable.
I returned late January to more burned out wiring – the engine had been running with the starter motor on, due to another short. Fortunately, only the (brand new) starter motor was burned out, not the boat. Even better, I had brought with me a new wiring loom.
Anyway, I departed Camarinas Feb 5 2015, stopped briefly in Porto Santos off Madeira on 12th to retrieve the halyard, and landed St Croix, USVI, sunrise on March 8th 2015.

Updates to come.


Technology Corner

I bought a lipstick video camera (the size of a lipstick, silly!), plus a recording deck and a deck to connect it. And 50 feet of wire.
The grand plan is to install the camera at the top of the mast, run the cable down to the cabin, and then hook up the recording deck. The camera is weatherproof. We shall soon find out just what sort of weather it is proof against!
The gear arrived a couple of weeks ago, I had a quick look at it, and put it aside. But I did note that the recording deck is a Philips unit, small, 30gb drive. And it runs on Windows mobile. Compatible with XP. Yes, it is old.
HP recorder

That is why I put it back in its box. But now I have found my old Sony Vaio Xtreme, bought in 2004 in Japan. Carbon fiber, thinner than a MacBook Air. But long since relegated to the “it might come in useful” box.

It was under the two Psion 5s, and by the two Apple Newtons.

My, how life has evolved. It is soooo slow. I am trying to get the Sony up to date, and also downloading the latest firmware to update the HP thingy.

I expect I will just cut to the chase and either download the latest Parallels to my Mac, and run XP from there – or look for something better to capture video from the camera.

But I love the idea of getting video from the top of the mast, as well as having a monitor in the cockpit with live video feed, to see ahead without having to be in the crow’s nest!