Category Archives: projects

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Pry Bar

The hardest kind of boat project, in my opinion, is any involving getting stuck things out of the thing they’re stuck in. Seized bolts, corroded screws, prop shaft couplers, etc. You may recall 3 months ago I started the project of rebedding our Navtec U-Bolts that connect the rig to the tie rods and chainplates.

Three months later I had completed 5 out of 6 but still had one stubborn one remaining – the first one I had started on, the last one to finish, and by far the hardest. For whatever reason, the starboard aft U-Bolt was more stuck than all the others. It wouldn’t pull free despite trying all the methods I had used on the others – a 2’ long pry bar, heat, PB Blaster, mineral spirits, BoatLife Release, hammering. I even sailed on it with the nuts slightly loose, and tensioned the shroud to 1500-2000 pounds (this didn’t do anything at all).

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Tensioning the U-Bolt with the main halyard while simultaneously prying with the pry bar

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Choosing a Non-Skid Paint

Recently we passed the 2 year anniversary of owning our boat – two years since Feb 14 2015. It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in that time – with many major projects completed (a rerig, rudder removal + steering system repair, rebedding lots of deck hardware, etc), plus two major summer cruises (lower west coast of Vancouver Island, and Seattle to the Broughtons and Back), along with lots of weekend sails in between those.

Somehow that 2 years feels like much longer.

One project we still haven’t completed is redoing the nonskid on the deck. In some areas the old non-skid was literally worn away – it was so smooth behind the helm that when sailing upwind our feet would gradually slide down the floor until we wedged them against something. So before leaving for our 3-month sail last spring, we painted the cockpit with KiwiGrip. That was a great help – but there are still more areas to do.

It would seem that choosing the best non-skid paint would be simple, but it’s not. Any time there are 5 or more product choices available for one purpose in the boating world, it’s a good sign there’s no clear winner. If it were a simple answer with a clearly superior option, there would only be 1 or 2 products, not 5-10.

There were three things we wanted from a non-skid paint:

  • The non-skid part (not slip and slide around on it)
  • Look reasonably nice
  • Not hurt our butts or bare feet when we sit or stand on it.

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Rerig Completed! The Ups and Downs of a 3 Month Boat Project

Since I started the rerig planning three months ago, two of the suppliers I considered have gone out of business – Navtec (news broke on SailingAnarchy) and Hall Rigging USA (announced on SailingScuttlebutt), both in Rhode Island. Both still have foreign operations, but shuttered their US operations while I was waiting for our rigging to be produced by BSI. Despite significant delays from BSI, it could’ve been even worse if I had decided to go with Navtec or Hall – I could still be waiting!  

At the same time it’s sad news for their employees and the sailing community, because the US sailing industry has two fewer suppliers now. Navtec’s equipment and inventory is going up for auction (“by order of the secured creditor”), featuring an impressive array of very advanced machinery. Quite sad, but if anyone wanted to pick up where Navtec left off, all the equipment and more is there.

Completing the Rerig – Success!

As we hoisted the sails last Sunday, I quickly scurried about the deck checking the mast – is it leaning to port, to starboard? Is anything about to go horribly wrong?  Amazingly, everything was perfect – my at-dock tune was good enough that no tuning was needed under sail.

As we sailed out of the protection of West Point and Discovery Park into a 20 knot southerly, the boat heeled more and the mast still looked good – no fall off to leeward or bends at the lowers or intermediates. And the mast rake was good (some weather helm but not too much) and forestay tension was good (no sag).

It was a huge relief to have successfully finished a rerig. After nearly two months (plus one month of planning), it felt really good to be out sailing again.

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Heading out of the large Locks.

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The entire rod rig (not counting D2s which were replaced last year), coiled into a circle weighing about 40 lbs.

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Rerig Part 4: Stuck Navtec U-Bolt Chainplates

It’s been a long road to finishing our rerig. Going on 5 weeks now with the mast out, I’ve started to get very antsy to go sailing. Being patient is always the hardest part of any project that takes the boat out of commission (ex, haulouts). After 2 weeks, most projects had been finished and it was just a matter of waiting for BSI to produce the rod.

The downside to rod, as mentioned in Part 1, is it generally can’t be made locally / onsite and therefore takes longer to get. That downside is apparent now in the delays with BSI producing the rod – even though we gave them the end fittings order 5 weeks ago, and final measurements 3 weeks ago, they still haven’t started producing the rigging.

In contrast, a couple weeks ago two new Selden masts arrived in the yard for brand new boats going to the Seattle Boat Show, with wire rigging ready to go, and those masts were fully rigged and stepped in a week.

I wouldn’t change my decision to go to rod – it’s worth it for keeping the mast tang system the same – but if we were buying a new boat someday, I would probably try to avoid rod or would consider it negative points for a boat being considered. It’s a wonderful material, but for a cruiser, availability and ease of access are more important.

Navtec U-Bolt Chainplates

The hardest part of the rerig however (other than the waiting) has definitely been pulling the chainplates for inspection. More specifically, pulling the Navtec U-Bolts above the chainplates.

C&C’s with rod have a somewhat uncommon chainplate system (O’Day’s and Ericsons also have a similar system). At the deck there are six big ½” U-Bolts (one for each shroud) that go through the deck to a thick aluminum backing block. That backing block has a recessed cup on the upper side which is used to capture the head of a stainless steel tie rod. The tie rod then goes down to connect with traditional chainplates inside the boat, attached to a fiberglass bulkhead inside some cabinetry.

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Totally inadequate lever arm for pulling 1/2″ U-Bolts

It’s actually a pretty great design, because the chainplates are completely dry and pristine – I have no concerns about those since they never see water. And the U-Bolts likely do a better job of sealing out water at the deck level than traditional chainplates do. This is because they have a cover plate which fits tightly with the deck, and then the legs of the U-Bolts are flanged (they have a “lip”) so that they are wider than the holes in the cover plate – they overlap it and fit quite snugly.

The downside is they’re really hard to get out. The SS U-Bolt legs interact galvanically with the aluminum backing block, producing pasty white powder which basically locked the U-Bolt into the aluminum block.

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Rerig Part 3: Now the Projects Really Begin

Warning: This post is pretty technical.  In the last week a lot has gotten done – assembled the wire forestay, a new Harken furler, removed the spreaders, cut out a seized clevis pin, got out a second seized clevis pin for a masthead sheave, ran new VHF coax cable through the mast, sanded and painted the mast collar, and did a whole bunch of cleaning.

Assembling a Hayn HiMod Swageless Fitting

I decided to use a Hayn HiMod swageless fitting for the forestay lower connection so that I could measure / cut the forestay to length, not have to get a wire swaged on site, and have a fitting that could be inspected or shortened in the future if needed.

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Hi-Mod components: threaded stud, cone, and crown ring. (The body, not shown, is already on the wire)

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Unlaying the compact strand wire around the core

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Hi-Mod cone installed on the core

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Cone and crown ring installed in the fitting

Project Time:

  • 1 hour – planning, reading and watching YouTube videos.
  • 1 hour – measuring, re-measuring and cutting forestay.
  • 1 hour – assembling Hi-Mod.

Tips:

  • The 7mm compact strand wire (distributed by Alps) was quite difficult to unlay. Since the strands are so tightly compacted together, it’s hard to pick them apart. Standard flat head screwdriver tips were too thick. A thin paint scraper works well, or perhaps my mini screwdriver set (like an eyeglass kit).
  • The big debate with HiMod’s is whether to use sealant or not. Hayn says not to, in their instructions. They’re saying it’s not necessary but you can use it if you want to (they say it’s ok to use in this PDF). I wish there were a more scientific analysis of this.
    I decided to use sealant for a couple reasons: Brion Toss, the rigger in Port Townsend, recommends using sealant in HiMods. And the HaveWindWillTravel sailors on YouTube had their HiMods show rust after just a few months in Florida. They believe it was from metal dust that got on their wire after cutting it with a grinder. That’s a plausible explanation, but perhaps sealant also would’ve helped prevent their issue.
  • Sealant is hard to inject into a Hi-Mod however. The body of the fitting is already on the wire. And the standard injection nozzle that comes with 3M adhesive tubes doesn’t fit in between the wire and the body. A typical syringe doesn’t fit either (the tip isn’t long enough to get past the threaded part of the body). I didn’t want to gunk up the threads, since those are supposed to be secured with Loctite, not 4200 goop. The best option was injecting sealant into the wire strands alongside the cone. I didn’t get sealant squeezing out the top at the end, so maybe didn’t use enough, but it should still be effective.

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Rerig Part 2: Pulling The Mast

As the Ballard Locks attendant checked our lines, he remarked “Where’s your mast?” I replied “Oh, I knew we forgot something! We’ll have to turn around.” This was actually all part of the plan – an hour ago we had passed under the Ballard Bridge – without raising it! We had left our mast at Canal Boatyard for the next phase of the rerig.

Seeing the mast come out of the boat was a bit unnerving – but it all went really well. It took only 30 minutes to pull the mast, thanks to two days worth of prep work – but that work had actually been pretty fun. We were lucky that nothing was seized or really difficult to get apart. It was mostly a matter of unscrewing bolts, straightening cotter pins, removing the sails and boom, and doing one last climb up the mast to attach the crane’s sling.

Our least favorite part actually was going through the Ballard Locks – that’s pretty much always nerve racking. The small locks got filled by a 70’ motorboat, so we had to wait an hour for the big locks, maintaining position in strong currents between the locks and the lowered railroad bridge. Then on the way back west, the Argosy cruise came up behind us and got priority on the small locks, adding another long wait.

Passing under the Ballard Bridge with no mast

Passing under the Ballard Bridge with no mast

Prep Work

Most of the work of pulling a mast is in the prep work. For us this took about two days (only two 5-6 hour days though). For our boat the steps included:

  • Drop genoa and fold. Remove main sail and fold.
  • Remove the boom – including disconnecting the rigid boom vang, reefing lines, lazy jacks and main sheet.
  • Stow halyards on mast.
  • Remove cabin table that is sandwiched around the mast.
  • Loosen and raise the mast boot.
  • Disconnect mast partners (stainless steel bolt attaching the mast to the deck).
  • Disconnect mast wiring.
  • Attach tag lines to the mast base and furler. (this proved to be unnecessary).
  • Straighten all cotter pins in clevis pins at deck level of stays that you’ll need to release.
  • Mark (tape) the turnbuckle positions so we know the tuned length if we need to remeasure in the yard.
  • Loosen turnbuckles until the rig is moderately slack.

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How to Rerig a C&C with Rod Rigging – Part 1

The time has come to replace the standing rigging on our 33-year-old C&C. C&C’s like ours have Navtec rod rigging – which lasts much longer than wire rigging, but it doesn’t always give clues when it’s about to fail. While we could probably push it a few years longer (and know many sailors doing exactly that), the type of sailing we do (lots of upwind, and fairly remote areas like the west coast of Vancouver Island), plus some issues noticed in my rig inspections motivated the decision to do it now.

We’d rather do it now than wait and regret it later (when the mast comes down, and I don’t mean with a crane!). A dismasting can be dangerous (even lethal if someone gets hit in the head by the mast), so it’s not a risk worth taking. Racers do it (push their boats to smaller margins of safety, which is why racing boats have more dismasting than cruising boats) – but they’re in a very different situation. A dismasting with a crew of 6, in a populated area, is pretty different from a dismasting with a crew of 2 in a remote area.

So better safe than sorry. But a rerig is a pretty expensive and time consuming project. So it’s no wonder people delay it as long as possible.

First it’s important to note I’m not doing this completely on my own. I got advice from a number of riggers and other sailors (to whom I’m very grateful), and am working with a local rigger for a few of the key parts (ordering and inspection).

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Rod vs Wire

Most C&C’s have Navtec rod rigging instead of the more common stranded wire rigging. Rod rigging is awesome when you don’t need to replace any of it. It’s strong, long lasting, highly corrosion resistant, lightweight (less weight aloft improves boat handling) and has low stretch (which makes the boat sail a bit better, and you don’t have to tune it very often).

But rod is a huge pain if you need to replace it, or want to switch to wire. It’s expensive (especially in the fittings – tangs, stemballs, and turnbuckles), can’t be sized and swaged onsite (with wire you can cut it to length and use swageless fittings, right at the boat), and there are only a small number of rigging shops in the US that can even make rod rigging (it requires expensive rod heading machines and dies).

So switching to wire could make some sense, especially since our boat is more of a cruiser than a racer. But there would still be some tricky parts to work out – how to change the mast tangs for wire, and how to rework the spreader tips for wire. All this extra work, plus the risk the boat might not handle as well, or might have reduced resale value, steered me towards choosing to stay with rod.

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The original C&C rig plans I have, thanks to a prior owner’s forethought.

Which Kind of Rod?

With the decision to stick to rod, I assumed Navtec would be the manufacturer. Later, I was surprised to discover there’s a big competitor to Navtec making just as much rod or more: BSI, based out of Denmark (with a US factory in Rhode Island).

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