of clear weather, rigging and the bosun’s chair

In a couple of previous posts I have mentioned that we are going to change the rigging on this boat before we leave. For those of you reading this that are yachtsmen or have sailed the job will be familiar but I suspect that there are a few out there who are wondering what the palaver is all about.

So, a brief explanation then: there are essentially two types of rigging on a yacht – running and standing (…don’t laugh!) Running rigging is the term given to all the ‘soft’ lines on a yacht, those that are used to haul the sails up the mast and to control those sails once they are set. Standing rigging on the other hand is the ‘hard’ or wire rigging that is used to keep the mast upright.

Anyone reading books or articles on sailing will often come across references made about forestay’s, backstay’s, upper or lower shrouds and so on. A look at paintings or old photographs of the tall ships of yesteryear give the impression of a absolute cat’s cradle comprising an immense number of ropes and lines running from the decks to various points on the masts. Fortunately modern technology and design has managed to reduce those requirements down to just a handful of stainless steel cables – in our particular case there are just 12 pieces of standing rigging.

The reason we are changing the rigging is that prior to purchasing the boat Jean Yves had it surveyed by a professional surveyor. That worthy gentleman picked up a number of issues that needed to be attended to and in the section of his final report that dealt with the rigging he stated that if the vessel was to remain in the Mediterranean the rigging would suffice, however if an extended ocean voyage was to be undertaken then he strongly recommended that it be replaced.

A number of options were looked at, the easiest being to get the work done by a Spanish based company.  At the same time Jean Yves was contacting various suppliers here in Spain I got hold of Warren Fraser from Associated Rigging back in Cape Town. Long story short is that his quote was just over a third of what the locals wanted to charge – and they said they would only be able to start with the work on the 5th of September… It was a no brainer; we had the rigging made up back home. (The fun getting it here was described in an earlier post).

There was one minor flaw in this plot and that was when rigging is made up you need to have very precise measurements so that the new rigging will fit – an inch too long or too short and you sit with a useless piece of very expensive stainless steel cable. Warren suggested a solution – instead of making up the individual pieces with fittings hydraulically swaged onto both ends, he would make them up with the one end factory swaged and leave the other end blank, as well as supplying the wire about 500mm longer than needed.

The idea being he would also supply us with the requisite number of terminal fittings and we could then remove the rigging one piece at a time, get the precise length to cut and then fit the end terminal. These are called STA-LOK and are exceptional pieces of engineering. I spent about an hour in his office when I collected the rigging before we left South Africa and he ran me through the procedure. It looked and sounded simple enough so I was reasonably happy that we who have never done this before would not make a complete pig’s ear of the job.

After a couple of days of incessant rain the weather cleared yesterday and we collectively sucked in a big breath and said ‘right, today we start…’ First up was to separate all the individual pieces of wire and end fitting’s which was simple enough. Then it was a case of getting the first piece down. Of course Mr Warren had given instruction that we start with the jump stays – which just happen to be a pair of diamond stays right at the top of the mast. I looked at Avi, he looked at me and we both looked at Hugh who in turn offered up a resigned look of long suffering and went to look for the Bosun’s chair – you gotta love democracy. We spent a good hour customising this to his rather robust physique – the kid is only 18 years old but he is built like a brick shithouse – as the last thing we need is for him to try and disprove the laws of gravity. We eventually got it rigged up with enough secondary safety lines to keep even the Australian health and safety mob quiet, and with a five minute demonstration on some deck level fittings to give him a vague idea of what he was being asked to do we sent him on his way.

In short time he had the first stay loose, we used that to obtain the correct measurement and then cut both stays to equal length and sent him and the new stay back up the mast. Easy as pie he got the first one in and in no time we had the second one done as well. By this time he had been exposed to the sun for long enough in my opinion despite being liberally oiled up with sun block. I called time on the fun yesterday and told the guys to pack it up and go take a walk into the village to ogle the girls and have a beer. We will continue today.

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