Thursday, October 6, 2016

Rigging Issues

The 30 knot winds and 12 foot seas we encountered off the Guajira Peninsula were a bit of a wake-up call in terms of the regular abuse we expect Tortuga to endure on our behalf. Upon arrival in Santa Marta I was intent on giving Tortuga a careful rig inspection after our first two months of voyaging. I wasn't expecting to find anything but I figured that a periodic look-over is just part of being a responsible off-shore sailor. We had barely tied off to the dock when I had already found the first issue. Crevice corrosion had invaded the tangs where our back stays attach.

Stern Pulpit and Back Stay Attachment
Close Up of Tangs Notice Crevice Corrosion
Bottom Left and Top Right 
 Crevice corrosion takes the form of small hairline cracks within the metal. These cracks trap moisture, salt and dirt promoting more corrosion which grows the crack further. Before you know it, the strong shinny attachment point holding your mast up is as brittle as glass ready to burst into a million pieces. The inspection just jumped up a few rows on the priority list and we hadn't even had our first drink in Colombia yet. By the next morning I had found two other issues. The lower toggle assembly of our roller furler was beginning to bend threatening to release the pin holding it in place, and there was more crevice corrosion at the swagged running back stay fittings half way up the mast.
Roller Furler Lower Toggle Assembly

Crevice Corrosion at Running Back Stay Fitting
Not sure how I missed that prior to leaving NY.

 I was happy I found the issues, worried about how to address them, and relieved I didn't know about them during our last passage. The next day was spend conference calling with friends, family, and professionals within the industry. My father was supposed to meet us in Panama a month later, so I was focused on figuring out what parts I needed, ordering them, and getting them to my father as soon as possible. Now a month and a half later, all the issues have been addressed, although it was my sister Anna who ended up delivering the critical parts.  Here are the individual stories for each issue.

Back stay Tang Solution
Get two additional tangs cut out of 1/4" stainless steel. Thru-bolt the new tangs over the old welded tangs with 3/8" bolts. The U-bracket at the end of the back-stays are wide enough to accommodate the 1/4" of material. Bud Taplin from Westsail helped come up with the fix. He built the stern pulpit assembly including the tangs 7 years ago. We discussed removing and re-welding new tangs but he advised that heat from welding metal previously exposed to salt water would only promote new corrosion. I completed the fix in Shelter Bay Marina the morning prior to our canal transit. I drilled two 3/8" holes thru almost a full half inch of stainless steel using a 14 volt cordless drill. I dulled 5 brand new drill bits and my hands were numb for the rest of the day.

Furler Lower Toggle Assembly Solution
I contacted Bam Miller, a Harken dealer based out of Oyster Bay. He was very helpful and proved more knowledgeable then the technical staff from Harken. He quoted me the required part at $315, which hurt but it came with a detailed email on how to install it correctly as well as how to avoid the issue in the future. See a copy of the email he sent within this blog post if you interested in the details. I performed the fix at anchor in Las Perlas. I started by loosening the back stays and rigging a temporary for-stay on a calm windless morning. I removed the clevis pin at the base of the roller furler, tied the furler loosely to the stay sail for-stay to prevent the furler track from kinking, and got to work unscrewing the toggle assembly. The operation went smooth enough although by now the wind had piped up and it was time to re-installed the clevis pin that connects furler to bowsprit. Doing this has given me trouble back in Kingston with a crane, my father, and the marina staff at my disposal. I was really nervous that Laura and I along with a nice head wind would not be able to pull it off. Laura must have been feeling strong that morning because one tug of hers in unison with the anticipated wave action and the clevis pin slipped right into place. Mission accomplished and we hadn't even eaten breakfast yet.

Furler Removed and Secured to Stay Sail For-stay

Old vs New Part

New Part Installed
Email from Bam Describing Installation

Running Back Stay Fittings Solution
I hoisted myself up the mast at anchor in Las Perlas. I removed the running back stays and tossed the ends into the ocean on either side of the boat. This gave Laura a scare as she thought I had fallen from the mast while she was cleaning the galley. I assured her everything was ok as I lowered myself down. Luckily I have everything I need to swage stainless cable on board although I was missing the swages and thimbles I needed for 1/4" cable, which Anna had brought. I pulled out the bolt cutters and the corroded ends came flying off with a pop. I then went to work removing the insulation covering the cable the same way a boy scout sharpens the end of a wooden spear. This was pretty difficult given that the insulation was old and brittle but eventually I got it all off. I slipped on the swage fitting and inserted the thimble within the resulting noose. I then crimped each swage three times using one of those cheap yet effective thru-bolt swaging tools. They came out pretty good and all that was left to do was go back up the mast and reattach them.