Category Archives: projects

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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This Year’s Haul-out: Dropping the Rudder

The annual* haul-out is something I’ve come to dread. Haul-out projects are usually the toughest type of boat work there is. Especially mechanical jobs, where you’re trying to get 32-year-old salt water corroded parts apart.

This year’s haul-out was a roller-coaster of emotions. Despair, frustration, anger. And some bright moments of relief and happiness.

I’m jealous of all the boats hauling out just for painting (we don’t need it yet) – yes painting is also difficult, sweaty, dirty work – but painting is never as discouraging as being stuck hammering on the same part for 2 hours.

* (Haul-outs don’t necessarily need to be annual – but right now we have enough work that they are)

It was all the more trying because the three weekends we worked hauled out had phenomenal sailing conditions for Seattle – sunny, warm, and windy – a rare combo for the PNW.

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Project: Rebuilding Rotted Interior Walls

Project Time: 40+ hours
Project Cost: ~$150

In December I discovered there was some serious wood rot in two interior walls between the engine compartment + below-berth storage compartments. The wet wood was visible as peeling paint, but the worst of the rot was hidden behind the battery boxes, so my surveyor had missed this issue – and I myself had taken 10 months to find it!

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These were not bulkheads so the good news was there was nothing structural about them. But the wall behind the batteries did have the battery tie down straps screwed into mostly rotted wood, so that added some urgency to the project. If we were ever knocked down on a port tack or just hit a big wave the right way, the straps could pull out and the batteries could perhaps fall / spill.

Wood rot is an evil thing. You can ignore it for quite a while, but it will never go away, and might get worse. This deterioration had probably taken years of moisture or standing water from a leak. A prior owner had tried to patch the problem by epoxying over the rotted area. That didn’t work.

This project probably had me go a little loopy, because I started saying things like

I love gelcoat, and fiberglass is god’s gift to mankind.

Gelcoat is as hard as a rock and never rots. Fiberglass is stronger than the strongest wood you could ever find. The nostalgic attachment some boaters have for interior woodwork, or even exterior wood, makes no sense to me – modern production boats have gotten one thing right, and that is getting rid of most wood. The one good thing about wood is it’s easy to work with, and for mainly this reason I replaced the bad wood with – you guessed it – new wood!

This was an intimidating project because I knew going in it was a 40+ hour project and had several points where things could go wrong. There were 2 partially rotted walls to remove and a very rotted wood platform supporting the Vernalift lift muffler (part of the engine exhaust system). Cutting and painting wood sounds simple, until you realize all the steps it involves on a boat:

  1. Unscrew berth floorboard and 2 teak trim pieces.
  2. Figure out how to raise the floorboard and realize you’re not going to be able to get it out. Tie it suspended above your workspace instead and squeeze in under it.
  3. Remove or move various wiring runs that go through the wall being removed.
  4. Remove the battery platform which is blocking access to some screws securing the 2nd wall.
  5. Unscrew the tabs securing the 2 walls, and unscrew the rotted wood below the Vernalift muffler.
  6. Remove the walls and clean up the rotted wood dust / strips that got left behind.
  7. Buy a 4’x6’ sheet of marine plywood and get cut to approximate sizes.
  8. Cut 3 wood pieces using the old wood as templates with a Fein MultiMaster.
  9. Test fit the pieces and trim some more.
  10. Drill 2 holes for wiring runs.
  11. Drill and mount the edge trim that runs along the top of each wall for securing to the berth floor.
    Sealing/painting the new wood:
  12. Paint with Interlux 1026 wood sealer. (1 coat)
  13. Paint with Interlux Pre-Kote primer. (1 coat)
  14. Paint with Interlux Brightsides 1-part polyurethane. (2 coats)
    Reinstall:
  15. Do 2 more small cuts with the Fein for fit issues I messed up.
  16. Drill 4 holes for Vernalift platform mounting + 4 holes for the lift muffler itself, and install screws.
  17. Drill holes (8) for trim tabs on wall #1 and install.
  18. Drill holes (9) for trim tabs on wall #2 and install.
  19. Disconnect house power + battery charger and reinstall batteries. Accidentally short the starter battery when the positive cable gets bumped into the engine (which is the ground), creating sparks. Oops! 😦
  20. Drill and attach battery tie down clasps.
  21. Reinstall the berth floor and teak trim pieces.

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Decisions, Decisions

When I first discovered this rot I was really bummed out. I knew the project would displace 5 to 10 other smaller projects, and might interfere with sailing time (because the batteries wouldn’t be secured). But ignoring it wouldn’t make it go away.

The first thing to decide was how to fix it. There were a few options, a couple of which were shortcuts:

  1. Inject GitRot into the wood and epoxy or fiberglass over the rotted parts.
    I decided against this because the area of rot was too large and too far gone – GitRot wouldn’t fix wood this bad, and fiberglass patching would just be a bandaid – and might not stop the rot from eventually spreading.
  2. Cut out the rotted sections and scarf in new wood. (“scarf” is a woodworkers term for glueing in a patch basically). This would be pretty difficult because I’d be working in very tight quarters. Doing the woodwork in the boat would be quite messy, and the finished job might not be as strong as a solid piece of new wood.
  3. Replace the entire panel with new wood. C&C installed all their interior walls in a neat way, with screwed in edging strips, which would actually make it fairly easy to just remove each wall unit entirely.
  4. Replace the panels with Starboard or some other plastic composite. I decided against this because large sheets of Starboard (½” by 4’x8’) are expensive – and it’d be more difficult to work with than wood.

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Painting

The wood prep and painting part of this job was probably the hardest part. I wanted to select the right wood and treat it in a way that it would never rot, or at least not for a very long time, in the way that the original wood had.

I chose a good quality marine plywood from Dunn Lumber in Seattle (Home Depot doesn’t carry marine plywood in ½”, and Dunn Lumber is pretty awesome). I then decided on Interlux Brightsides marine paint. It’s typically used for hull topsides and decks, but is a very durable, waterproof paint. It might be overkill for interior walls, but I didn’t know any other recommendations, and wanted a good durable marine paint.

The painting was in some ways more challenging than expected. We live in an apartment, not a house, so we don’t have a garage or workshop. And this couldn’t be done outdoors at the marina because it’s raining every day, and wind would blow dust and stuff onto the paint. The painting would take up to a week because of how many coats are required, with drying time in between. Doing it inside the boat would’ve been very difficult and would mean making a trip to the marina nearly every night of the week. So we set up a painting station inside our apartment.

One other challenge was the 1-part polyurethane paint. It’s not the same as your average household paint. Don’t shake the can to mix it because that introduces bubbles. We had awful bubbles all over the painted surface when using a roller, but found either going very very slowly with the roller, or using a brush, worked.

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The *new* exhaust lift muffler platform

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The *old* exhaust lift muffler platform

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fein MultiMaster was a wonderful tool for cutting plywood quickly and with good precision. This was my first time using it for a big project, and I had bought it on recommendations from other cruising blogs and books. I could’ve used other tools like a jigsaw but the Fein is a more versatile tool that I can use for other things as well.

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In the end, this project sucked up a lot of time – potentially displacing other projects or actual sailing time. Lately I’ve been worried I’ve been worried our project time to sailing time ratio has gone out of whack. But, it was rainy and stormy for much of January and February while I was working on this. And I’m glad to have nice clean wood in there now and know there isn’t rot slowly eating it away.

Electrical Projects: A Trip Down the Rabbit Hole

This winter, as the rain poured down day after day, I found time to start some electrical projects. Since I’ve never done electrical work in my life, this was a bit intimidating initially. What if I electrocuted myself? What if I messed something up and set the boat on fire? I had read the electrical chapters in Nigel Calder’s book – twice – but some parts were pretty advanced, and I still didn’t feel like I understood it all. Getting started turned out to be the hardest part.

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Oh, our boat has a wind generator? Just kidding, it has a wire labeled wind gen connected to nothing!

Fortunately our boat had a pretty good electrical setup, so nothing major was required – but on a 32 year old boat there are always minor improvements to be made.

Detective Work

One thing I discovered I like about electrical work is it’s like being a detective – there are lots of little mysteries to work out. Electrical wiring is like the cardiac system of your boats – lots of arteries and veins leading everywhere and serving useful functions – or serving no function at all! One of the surprises was how many old wires had been left in place after boat hardware was removed.

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