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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Ghost Boats: The Surprising Truth of Most Boats in Marinas

When you spend a lot of time around boats, you get to noticing some peculiar things about marinas. They’re like parking lots for boats – but imagine if the cars in the parking lot never moved!

Since I got my start in boating from the Seattle Sailing Club (SSC), I figured most boats get used every week – after all, all the SSC boats did (for the most part). Or if not weekly, at least monthly right?  No? Hmm. The surprising truth I eventually discovered is that most boats get used not at all, in the 8 months between September and June. And even in the 2-4 months of summer (the definition of summer depends on who you talk to), most get used weekly or monthly, but a few still don’t get used at all.

Sunset at Fisherman's Terminal.

So for a while now I’ve struggled to make sense of this. We’re so fortunate to live in an area where it’s possible to cruise year-round – we don’t have to haul out and winterize our boats like people do on the northern east coast and Great Lakes.

Weather

There are two big reasons people don’t sail much in the PNW winter:

  • Rain, cold, and challenging wind storms.
  • Short daylight hours. At its worst, it gets dark at about 4pm (before true sunset, due to the dark, heavy cloud cover we have much of the winter). This rules out weekday sails for people who work during the day.
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A NOAA marine forecast in December

These are big reasons, and I totally understand why it deters many people. Some years we have powerful weather systems moving through as frequently as every two days, and some of them you really don’t want to risk being out in – 40+ knot winds with short steep waves and cold sideways rain.

Last winter we had a 40 day period without a single rain-free day. Typical weather forecasts show a chance of rain every day of the next 10 days, every week. Yet, it usually doesn’t rain all day, and there are often short windows of nice weather in between each front.

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Summarizing 3 Months of Cruising – Part 2 of 2

In Part 1 of this post, we summarized our route, trip stats, and the wind and weather conditions we experienced. In this part we’ll describe the sailing a bit more, wildlife, and what went wrong (or didn’t) with our boat.

As inevitably happens on a 3 month trip, some equipment breaks or starts acting up – it’s Murphy’s Law of the sea. But while cruising we quickly learned to focus on only the things that actually matter. You get good at prioritizing really quickly. We had to conserve our energy because most of it went towards sailing the boat during the day.

Now back on shore, some of the problems we worry about in day-to-day life seem trivial in comparison. I heard a Clipper racer recently said:

I think I’m doing this because life has become too easy.”

That’s a good way of explaining the difference between shore life and life at sea. While cruising, the challenges are real, and have a direct connection with your safety, health, or comfort. Long-term sailing makes you realize how easy, cushy and soft our lives have become in modern times.

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Sailing Tactics

As the wind levels mentioned previously show, if we didn’t sail in 4-10 knot winds, we would’ve done very little sailing. We found our sailing became very tactical this year. It was like a constant chess match with the wind – trying to make sure we left anchor at the right time, were sailing with the wind if possible, didn’t sail ourselves into wind holes, and watched for puffs of better air on the water.

We used the spinnaker, our storm staysail, and nearly every reefing configuration we have for the main and genoa.

But what was more important than which sails we had was having patience and flexibility. The patience to wait for wind, and the flexibility to not sail to a schedule were the two key factors that enabled us to sail more.

We averaged 5 gallons of diesel per week. We have a 16 gallon diesel tank plus up to 10 gallons in jerry cans, so we had enough we could’ve gone a month without filling up in theory – but never risked going below 50%. About 2-3 times per week we sailed onto or off of anchor. It’s not often possible to do that, but when it was we liked to just for fun – it was good practice of a new sailing skill, and gave us confidence we’d still be okay if our engine failed going into an anchorage.

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Summarizing 3 Months of Cruising (Part 1 of 2)

How do you describe three months of sailing? The truth is you can’t – no words can really sum up that amount of time in a short blog post. We had such an amazing time that to say it was life changing wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration.

Some areas of remote BC were more beautiful than I could adequately put into words. We had surprise visits from humpback whales, seals and bears, reminding us we were not the only life out there. We encountered high winds and strong currents, situations that tested our boat’s strength, and our abilities as sailors.

My relationship with wind changed – I can’t look at water now without seeing wind – the ripples and the tidal interactions. A flag blowing on a hill side, or a gentle breeze on your arm. So many signals we used to read wind; wind started to become a kind of three dimensional map on the water, or a 6th dimension to our senses.

Wind was our motive force, our fuel – for this reason it reached a greater importance than ever before. We had a lot of mileage to cover, and most of it was wind powered.

All the stress of packing up our condo, selling or donating excess possessions, finishing last minute boat projects, and moving onto the boat had long since been forgotten – erased by the single minded focus you get while cruising. The only thing that mattered was keeping the boat moving and keeping us safe. Fun was a secondary goal, and as long as we were safe, it usually came easily.

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Anchored in front of the waterfall in Princess Louisa Inlet.

Route

Our route took us over 1300 nautical miles, starting June 10 from Seattle at Elliot Bay Marina, and ending September 3 back in Seattle at Shilshole.

We first headed north to the San Juans, and spent a week or two there (meeting up with family), then traveled through the southern Gulf Islands before hopping over to the Sunshine Coast and visiting Princess Louisa Inlet.

From there we headed north for some sunshine and warm water in Desolation Sound. Next we traveled through the back route to the Broughtons, bypassing most of Johnstone Strait but still dealing with the high currents of the tidal passes and some high winds once we reached Johnstone.

After reprovisioning at Port McNeil, we skipped past the Broughtons because we had southerly wind, and explored Queen Charlotte Strait. Miles Inlet was our furthest point north, almost to Cape Caution, at which point we headed back south and spent over a week in the Broughtons. The highlight of that area was sailing into MacKenzie Sound and visiting Nimmo Bay Resort.

We were a little tired of all the powerboats in the Broughtons and the mostly overcast, chilly days, so we headed south back through Johnstone Strait (all the way this time) and returned to Desolation Sound. Desolation Sound was hot and sunny by this time (late July), but also very crowded – we found a wonderful, more secluded spot in Pendrell Sound.

As we continued south, we visited Lasqueti Island, and went across the Strait of Georgia to Nanaimo and the northern Gulfs. Later we went across the Strait again to visit Vancouver for several days, and then crossed the Strait back westward (encountering high winds this time), to visit the Gulf Islands some more. We enjoyed the Gulfs, but before long it was time to move on – back to the U.S. through the San Juans.

We stopped in Port Townsend and then sailed south, past Seattle, to southern Puget Sound. Despite a complete lack of wind most of the time, we had fun visiting Natalie’s family in Olympia. From there we headed back to anchorages around Seattle and Bainbridge for a few nights, before it was time to truly end our trip and return to work.

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Looking west, on the way to Desolation Sound.

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Windless in the South Sound, Except for the Midnight Gale!

A lot of cruising blogs seem to only have nice things to say about the places they visited. It gives the impression that everything is always sunshine and rainbows for them – which if true is great, but for us everything isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. We try not to be too cynical, but there are definitely a few places where if we had known what it was like, we probably wouldn’t have gone there. We’d rather know about the bad things along with the good, rather than be in the dark. Although everyone’s experience is different – what was bad for us might be great to someone else.

South Puget Sound – from the Tacoma Narrows to Olympia and adjacent inlets – is an area some guides and reports we’d read say is a wonderful cruising destination that is too often forgotten by the many boaters who primarily travel north (to the San Juans and BC). For us though, cruising means sailing, and in the South Sound we had the least sailing we’ve had all summer.

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No Wind Makes For Sad Sailors

We really enjoyed visiting the city of Olympia, but it would’ve been much easier and quicker to drive there. We did close to 30 miles of motoring each way, and south of Gig Harbor there was basically no wind for four out of the five days we were there. Completely flat water without a ripple in sight, and less than 2 knots registering on the wind meter – morning, afternoon, and evening. One day we got 4-5 knots for about 20 minutes, and raised sails, but it quickly died back to zero.

August often has little wind in Puget Sound – so perhaps the South Sound is a good destination only in the shoulder seasons (fall and spring). But even though Puget Sound was getting 10 knots, according to the West Point NOAA station and Washington State ferry readings, we were getting none. And as soon as we left the South Sound and got to Gig Harbor, we had wind again.

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Passing under the Tacoma Narrows bridge

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