Mia and I have been steadily chipping away at our long list of projects to prepare for the upcoming trans-Atlantic to Sweden. The Miami Boat Show starts next Thursday, so we've been focusing on getting the boat ready for that, primarily.
Unfortunately that's meant making the boat look pretty, which wasn't exactly one of my priorities for ocean sailing, but nonetheless I think the effort will pay off at the show. Mia has spent the past four or five days scraping old Cetol off all of the exterior wood. I bought her a heat gun the other day, which has made the process slightly more bearable. You don't realized how much wood the boat has until you start a refinishing project like this. The only saving grace is that Ben, the former owner, replaced the teak toerail with aluminum, saving hours of labor. Mia's about 3/4 of the way done scraping, which will be followed by three stages of sanding (60, 150, 220), and finally slapping on 8-10 coats of varnish. We'll be happy if we can get just three coast by the show, continuing to build it up after that as the weather permits.
I, on the other hand, have been up and down the mast re-doing the standing rigging one shroud at a time. The re-rig was our number one priority before the trip - the old stainless rigging was going on 25 years of service - nearly all the swage fittings were cracked, and I wanted to upsize the wire. Plus, the reason we're in the boat show in the first place is to display the new synthetic rigging we're using, thanks to John Franta at Colligo Marine for the sponsorship (www.colligomarine.com). He sent us a spool of both 7 and 9mm Dynex Dux synthetic rope (for the mizzen and main, respectively), and all the requisite fittings (deadeyes, thimbles, lashing line, etc.), plus new titanium mast tangs.
Yesterday I cycled almost 15 miles to Broward Bolt to pick up a new 1/2" stainless bolt to attach the new mast tangs with. I swung by Lowe's to pick up rubber washers for insulating the titanium against the aluminum mast. Surprisingly, the old bolt and tangs came off quite easily, even with the added difficulty of dis-assembling it from the bosun's chair. When it came apart, I found the bolt bent alarmingly, and the pin holes on the tangs severely deformed. The new titanium tangs are vastly stronger, lighter and thicker, and should prove a definite improvement. They went on without any trouble. (I would have had to replace the tangs regardless of the wear on the old ones - the thimbles that the Dux are spliced to are significantly wider than a swage or Sta-Lock wire end fitting, and would not fit next to each other on a typical double-lower-shroud tang).
I had previously measured and spliced the lower shrouds from the 9mm Dux. It rained much of the afternoon yesterday, and after having gotten soaked while up the mast, I sat in the cabin in my underwear getting dry and splicing line. The 12-strand Dux is very easy to splice - with practice, I am able to complete a perfect splice in about 10-15 minutes. The thimbles have deadeyes built into them where the lashing line is then rove through, attaching to another deadeye that gets pinned to the chainplate. This eliminates the need for turnbuckles and adds a very traditional look to the boat, which I rather like. Tuning is more laborious, but once set-up, it works very well.
Due to the lashing line, measuring the shrouds is not as imperative as with turnbuckles, because any length difference can be made up with the lashing line. I measured the lowers with each other, meaning both the aft and forward lowers are the same length, but they are not as long as the wire ones were. The lashings are about 24" long, making the lower thimble of each shroud come to about the top lifeline. It's important to measure the shrouds to matching lengths so it looks nice, but the actual length of them is less important.
I'd previously spliced and installed twin backstays in place of the original split backstay (due to the twin chainplates of the yawl configuration). A challenge remains of finding a way to efficiently attach both thimbles at the masthead, where only one wire was attached before. Currently there are several shackles and toggles doing the job, but we'll need a better solution before heading offshore, as there are simply too many links in the chain, so to speak, and I need to simplify and strengthen this. However, having twin backstays seems vastly superior to a split stay for ocean sailing.
I've also reconfigured the mizzen mast to do away with the triatic stay, thereby independently staying each mast. To do this, I consulted both Brion Toss' book 'The Rigger's Apprentice' and Donald Street's 'The Ocean Sailing Yacht.' Both books agree that to get a sufficient staying angle on a shroud, there must be at least one inch of 'drift' for each foot of height. I'll be installing intermediate shrouds on the mizzen mast to act as forestays - they will attached 16' off the deck (21' total mast height), and will 'drift' forward a full 25 inches, which is plenty of drift to support the mast when going to windward. This will eliminate the triatic. Similarly, I will be eliminating the spreaders, and moving the chainplates for both the uppers and lowers aft about 10 inches, to get a wider mast angle, and create enough 'drift' aft so as not to have to rely on running backstays except in heavy weather. I basically copied the proportions of Donald Street's yawl 'Iolaire' when doing the calculations. Since the mizzen is so small and the forces so little, I'll be able - using the synthetic shrouds - to lash the shrouds right to the toerail (whichis through-bolted), using shackles smooth enough to accept the lashing line, providing a myriad of options for placing each shroud, instead of having to move the chainplates.
When it's all said and done, I'll have what I believe to be the ideal ocean-sailing setup - a wire forestay that will accept a hank-on 100% jib; a synthetic inner forestay, with a hank-on storm staysail; a genoa furler, independent of the forestay for my 150% big sail, which can be lowered in rough weather without interfering with the forestay; an independently stayed and vastly stronger mizzen mast; and, finally, outboard chainplates, also of titanium (from Colligo), that will eliminate deck leaks and make for better shroud angles.
Photos and more on the final product next week.