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Our ex­perts have the an­swers on rig­ging queries, elec­tri­cal ground­ing, main­sail de­sign and VHF quirks

SAIL - - January 2019 Vol 50, Issue 1 -

STATE OF STAND­ING RIG­GING

Q: I have a 1974 Aquarius 23 that I am fix­ing up. I am won­der­ing if I should re­place the stand­ing rig­ging no mat­ter what, or if I can just check it over. I think that it is orig­i­nal, but I am not sure. It seems from what I have read that I should at least re­place the wire, but I am won­der­ing about the turn­buck­les, tangs, chain­plates, etc. I will be sail­ing on small lakes for the most part. — Peter Ellis, Tap­pan Lake, OH

DON CASEY REPLIES

Where you will be sail­ing should not in­flu­ence your de­ci­sion. A sud­den rig­ging fail­ure can bring down the mast in a heart­beat with the real risk of se­ri­ous phys­i­cal in­jury or worse no mat­ter where the boat is. Even if the crew es­capes un­scathed, re­pair is likely to be more costly than preven­tion would have been. Fi­nally, aside from this “pay me now or pay me more later” as­pect, a nig­gling con­cern that the rig might not be se­cure will surely com­pro­mise the men­tal tran­quil­ity that sail­ing, par­tic­u­lar the kind of sail­ing you an­tic­i­pate, can oth­er­wise de­liver.

It is just good sea­man­ship to in­spect ev­ery com­po­nent of the stand­ing rig­ging of a new-to-you boat. That means fas­ten­ers, tangs, end fit­tings, wire, turn­buck­les, tog­gles, cle­vis pins, chain­plates and even at­tach­ment points. If the wire shows no­tice­able rust, par­tic­u­larly a spi­ral line, re­place it. If it is bright, grip a cot­ton ball tightly around it and slide the ball the full length in both di­rec­tions. A broken strand will snag the cot­ton, typi- cally flag­ging the break with a bit of cot­ton fiber. A sin­gle break condemns all of the rig­ging wire, not just the shroud or stay with the break.

The most com­mon rig­ging fail­ure hap­pens at swaged end fit­tings, but rarely with­out hav­ing clearly ex­hib­ited im­pend­ing fail­ure for some time. Care­ful in­spec­tion with a $10 il­lu­mi­nated jeweler’s loupe can pro­vide re­as­sur­ance or re­veal cracks that will con­demn the rig. The same brightly lit and mag­ni­fied in­spec­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate for all of the other stain­less steel rig­ging com­po­nents. Pol­ish­ing the steel be­fore in­spect­ing it will de­liver a more re­li­able re­sult.

Stain­less steel suf­fers from en­vi­ron­ment, not age, so there is lit­tle rea­son to re­place rig­ging com­po­nents that do not exhibit cor­ro­sion, crack­ing or dis­tor­tion. That said, the only down­side to re­plac­ing a rig­ging com­po­nent that does not need re­plac­ing is spend­ing money you do not need to spend. By con­trast, the re­sult of not re­plac­ing some­thing can be ex­tremely un­pleas­ant, made worse by your knowl­edge that it was avoid­able. If in doubt, err on the side of cau­tion.

WHAT’S WITH THAT LUG?

Q: I have a boat with a “nor­mal” shore-power con­nec­tion pro­tected by the usual AC break­ers that runs only the on-board 120-volt out­lets and the bat­tery charger. I’m now adding a small (400w) in­verter at the nav sta­tion for the two items that need charg­ing while we are cruis­ing: my lap­top ( less than 100 watts) and the cord­less drill (also less than 100 watts). The DC wiring for the in­verter is straight­for­ward, and there will be no ad­di­tional out­lets, just the ones on the body of the in­verter; how­ever, the in­verter has a sep­a­rate “ground” stud. I as­sume that this pro­vides AC ground­ing for the three-wire re­cep­ta­cles. My ques­tion is: where do I at­tach the wire from this ground stud? To the DC neg­a­tive? To the ground wire on one of the shore power out­lets? Di­rect to the bus bar ad­ja­cent to the en­gine block? — Dan Raw­son, Bridge­port, CT

NIGEL CALDER REPLIES

This is a ground­ing lug for the case of the in­verter. All marine bat­tery charg­ers and in­vert­ers with metal cases should have a ground­ing lug like this. It is de­signed to pro­vide a path back to bat­tery neg­a­tive if there is an internal short to the case. In theory it may have to carry up to the full pos­si­ble DC in­put am­per­age to the in­verter, which means the ground­ing ca­ble should be the same size as the DC neg­a­tive ca­ble to the in­verter (although boat­build­ing stan­dards do al­low the ground­ing ca­ble to be one size smaller than the DC neg­a­tive ca­ble). On pow­er­ful in­vert­ers, the ground­ing ca­ble ends up be­ing a large ca­ble that in prac­tice is fre­quently omit­ted. The in­verter will func­tion fine with­out it, but the in­stal­la­tion will be a lit­tle less safe (and also non-com­pli­ant with boat­build­ing stan­dards) if the ca­ble is omit­ted.

WHY A LOOSE-FOOTED MAIN?

Q: I guess these are a couple of es­o­teric ques­tions, but here goes. Given that many of to­day’s rac­ing sail­boats are car­ry­ing loose-footed main­sails, why do many cruis­ing boat still carry mains con­nected along the length to boom, and how and why did sail­mak­ers ever start at­tach­ing sails along the en­tire length of the boom in the first place? — Con­ner Jenk­ins, Seat­tle, WA

BRIAN HAN­COCK REPLIES

At­tach­ing the foot of the main­sail to the boom goes all the way back to the early days of sail­ing when it seemed to make sense to at­tach it to the boom just as the luff was at­tached to the mast—a time when there was also very lit­tle ad­just­ing done to the out­haul. More re­cently, how­ever, sailors have de­manded some way to add shape to the main­sail when the con­di­tions got lighter or they turned to sail down­wind, and sail­mak­ers came up with what they called a lens-foot, which was a lens-shaped piece of light sail­cloth that at­tached the foot of the sail to the boom. When the out­haul was tight the lens col­lapsed and the foot of the sail was tight; when the out­haul was eased the lens allowed the foot of the sail to ease away from the boom thereby adding some shape to the bot­tom of the sail (while the sail was still at­tached to the boom). Back in the day, many rac­ing rules called for the foot to be at­tached. But over time, and with bet­ter equip­ment, it be­came clear that keep­ing the foot at­tached was a waste of time and loose-footed main­sails be­came in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar. It’s much eas­ier to ad­just the sail for a bet­ter shape and less to snag or go wrong. As a re­sult, these days more and more boats, both rac­ing and cruis­ing, are opt­ing for loose-footed sails.

STRANGE CHAN­NEL NUM­BERS

Q: I just in­stalled my new Icom M-330 marine VHF ra­dio down at the nav sta­tion, and it works great with my mast­head VHF an­tenna. How­ever, the Coast Guard, on chan­nel 16, re­cently asked all sailors to switch to Coast Guard chan­nel 22A for an ur­gent storm warn­ing, and my 22A came up as “1022” although I could hear them loud and clear. What’s with the strange num­bers? — Bob Hink­ley, Panama City, FL

GOR­DON WEST REPLIES

Coast Guard chan­nel 22A is an ex­am­ple of an old USA sim­plex use of an In­ter­na­tional du­plex chan­nel for shore sta­tions. That is what the “A” means, same as with chan­nel 79A, a pop­u­lar chan­nel for sail­ing events. Here in the United States, your ra­dio has 15 of these “A” des­ig­na­tors. How­ever, new VHF ra­dios, like your Icom M-330, also have a menu item to tog­gle be­tween ei­ther the old A in­di­ca­tor or the new in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized “10” be­fore the chan­nel num­ber, such as 1022, and 1079. Re­gard­less of how you switch be­tween the two read­outs, your ra­dio will be trans­mit­ting and re­ceiv­ing on the same cor­rect chan­nel. s

Keep­ing a close eye on your stand­ing rig­ging is part of good sea­man­ship

DON CASEY HAS WRIT­TEN MANY BOOKS AND AR­TI­CLES ON MARINE MAIN­TE­NANCE AND RE­PAIRS

NIGEL CALDER IS AN AU­THOR AND EX­PERT ON BOAT SYS­TEMS AND DIESEL EN­GINES

BRIAN HAN­COCK IS A SAILMAKER, WHIT­BREAD RACE VET­ERAN AND CRE­ATOR OF GREATCIRCLESAILS.COM

GOR­DON WEST IS AN ELEC­TRON­ICS EX­PERT WHO SPE­CIAL­IZES IN RA­DIO COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS

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