Rig check

Your mast is back in the boat—or it may have been there all winter—the shrouds are tuned, the engine is checked, and all the battens are in the sails. You are ready for your first sail of the season. Without doubt, many boatowners follow this path, but if you’re one of them, be ready to act quickly if a piece of gear holding the mast suddenly fails and the rig begins to
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Your mast is back in the boat—or it may have been there all winter—the shrouds are tuned, the engine is checked, and all the battens are in the sails. You are ready for your first sail of the season. Without doubt, many boatowners follow this path, but if you’re one of them, be ready to act quickly if a piece of gear holding the mast suddenly fails and the rig begins to wobble.

Avoiding this surprise involves one more routine: inspecting every component that plays a role in keeping the mast in place. These include all the shrouds and fittings, the rigging termination points on the mast and chainplates, the spreaders, and all the sheaves and blocks that manage the boat’s running rigging.

Even if you’ve taken the mast out of the boat and checked it, it’s a smart idea to break out the bosun’s chair (check its condition, too) and go aloft again. Always attach two halyards, a primary and a secondary safety halyard to the chair’s holding ring. Lead both halyards to winches, and be sure that whoever is helping you on deck can tend the halyards as you move up and down. Start at the top of the mast and work down.

What to look for

Check all the masthead fittings and be sure the sheaves turn freely. A penetrant, such as Corrosion X, will loosen a fitting, but any that are damaged or worn should be replaced. Use a lubricant, such as McLube, to keep sheaves moving smoothly. All fittings and clevis pins must fit snugly; replace any that are cracked or damaged. All threaded items must rotate freely and be given a coat of waterproof grease. Make sure that mast tangs or T-ball fittings supporting the upper shrouds are not cracked or deformed. Confirm that spreaders are straight and properly aligned, and that their bases are not compressed or deformed. Cracked or crazed paint around a mast fitting is an early warning that corrosion or electrolysis may be occurring because of dissimilar materials.

Put a small digital camera in with the tools you take aloft. A photograph of a corroded area can help a rigger make an informed decision. Photographing all the items creates a history of all installed gear.

As you descend, check each wire shroud by sliding a cloth along the surface; if the cloth catches on a broken strand of wire, replace replace that wire immediately.

Deck level

There’s a very good chance, especially if the mast has not been removed, that the turnbuckles may be frozen. Free them up with penetrant, and use freshwater to flush out salt and other grit. Then, coat the threads with waterproof grease. Check that the bearing surfaces of the chainplates and turnbuckle clevis pins are not showing signs of uneven wear. If the two bearing surfaces are mismatched, this can happen quite quickly.

Look for cracks and corrosion in the lower end of a wire shroud or its end fitting. Even if there is rust at the lower end of a shroud, the offending component could well be higher up in the system.

This routine will keep you off the water for another day. But that’s a lot less than the time you’ll have to spend tied up to the dock waiting for your new rig to arrive.

Related

Radome

Ask SAIL: Some Random TLC

Q: I recently removed my radar’s white radome, which covers the internal rotating antenna. I gave the radome a light sandblasting to clear it of years of grime and discoloring. Should I paint it, too? — B. Anderson, Aberdeen, MD GORDON WEST REPLIES Stop! First, make sure the ...read more

L42-Sea-Trails-3728

Boat Review: Leopard 42

Sticking with its proven design formula, but also cherry-picking popular features from its recent models, Leopard Catamarans has launched a “best of” package with this new boat that sold nearly 30 units before hull #1 even touched water. Like a greatest hits album, the Leopard ...read more

01-LEAD-Cut8

Know how: Reinforcing Engine Stringers

If I were to ask, “What are the top five parts of the engine you want to be able to easily access?” How would you respond? Would it be the dipstick? The overflow coolant? I’d wager the raw water pump and its impeller would also make the list. Am I right? The reason we want to be ...read more

Sail-VOE-4-a

Experience: Under the Eyes of the Bar Bunch

Sitting quietly at the bar of a local yacht club, I gaze out over a rambunctious Lake Michigan on a sunny but blustery spring afternoon. I am enjoying watching a small sloop approaching the marina and recognize it as belonging to one of our newest members. “Pretty little thing. ...read more

01-LEAD-Bocas_Marina2

Cruising: Hurricane Heaven

As I write this, another hurricane season has passed. In hundreds of harbors and marinas, sailors are breathing a sigh of relief. I know the feeling since I rode out eight spinners aboard my sturdy 30-footer. I can recall the precise moment when I said, “No more!” It was in ...read more

J45-Podcast-vert-600x-02

Point of SAIL: J/Boats Inc. President Jeff Johnstone

In this episode of Point of SAIL, sponsored by West System Epoxy, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with Jeff Johnstone, president of J/Boats Inc., the company that has brought the world such iconic designs as the J/24, the J/105 and the J/22, to name a few. In their ...read more

100719BTSC-9304

Boat Review: Catalina 545

Catalina has long been the largest All-American family cruiser company, building what sailors might call “standard” boats. Moving up from the popular 30ft to 45ft sizes puts the company into “yacht” territory, and the new Catalina 545, winner of the SAIL magazine 2020 Best Boats ...read more

01-LEAD-Rosie-G-under-bag

Portrait of a Boatbuilder

A couple of winters ago, I set a new course for my life by following my passions and interests. This in turn led me to boatbuilding. The reason why is I simply needed a change after working in a retail kayak shop a number of years. It was a great job that allowed me to develop ...read more