15 April 2012 | Daytona Beach/New Smyrna, Fl
Rob the Rigger
The importance of spending time surveying your boat cannot be over-valued. It is what you do when you walk the deck, always conscious of soft spots, running rust from a clevis pin, oxidation of the mast at the partners, pooling of water on deck or worse - on the mast step.
Your boat and rig are always following the laws of physics, working together transferring the forces of water, wind, waves, into balance - moving the direction of forces into forward motion. You have to be on the look-out regularly. You may not think you know what to look for, but you probably do. What's more is that the more you look the more you will recognize your enemies. Your enemies are all things like:
oxidation, chafe, sun, improper leads, dissimilar metals, salt water, compression, sheer, elongation, under-sized blocks, sun damaged sheaves in blocks...we can go on a long time, right? So look at your standing rigging and running rigging as systems. In your mind imagine the forces at work and follow them through the tangs to the spreader tips, to the chainplates to the stringers, etc...
After a day of sailing, spend a little time talking and listening to your boat - figuratively speaking - or the dock neighbors might really start wondering.
Today's post-sailing investigation found compression in our mast step, a ring of safety wire around the cap shrouds (a hint that the spreader tips that were wired to the shrouds might not be anymore), corrosion on the mast at the partners - the worse of which is the mast step compression.
We were discussing the age of our standing rigging on a boat that is sailed well at least twice monthly..
We sail 3 boats with regularity: the E Scow, A Johnson 18 and the Evelyn 25.5. I crew aboard many other boats, but these are our boats we race consistently. We love a screeching spinnaker reach as much as - Okay, maybe more than the next guy sometimes. The second race of the season we were sailing in building breeze and seas, near shore in mid Florida. We set the big chute on a run and the helms-women (it was a family day of racing - gotta love it) did a good job, but the death roll came on and our big chute got the best of us. We recovered after two near-knock downs. The next spinnaker set, we set the small chute instead. We skidded to a victory after the finish line - hitting 10 knots. We had 8 hands aboard and so heavy weather was our friend. Two or so weeks prior, we went out with some newer, less-experienced crew (with a core of experience behind them after race committee called the race with conditions of 6-8 ft seas and gust to 32 knots. The boat did well. My point, and I assure you I have one, is that the boat was sailed 'hard' recently. Today's 'surveying' might have been the findings of the loads that we have been subjecting our boat to already this season. Mast steps can be monitored for condition, rebuilt, etc... The age of the standing rig now necessitates a rig replacement although the swages all are investigated regularly....that's what's good about having a rigger/sailmaker on the boat! But you probably don't.... So be the investigative, proactive type...and have a rigger survey your rigging, spars and running rigging. He can tell you if something is amiss or if something is questionable, BUT don't minimize the value of your eyes and ears. Survey your vessel all the time. When was the last time your crawled around in the nooks and crannies just looking for trouble?
As I walk the deck I always am running my hands over the standing rigging wire. I am feeling for raised stands in the rigging. Looking at the swages for discoloration, feeling for changes in the 'tightness' of the rigging, looking at the shape or straightness of the mast. Taking it all in... You do the same.
It's pretty serious stuff being the captain. Ultimately YOU are responsible for the lives aboard your vessel. Maintaining the condition of your boat is YOUR responsibility. Prudence demands that you keep your eyes peeled. ...and go sailing...and have fun.