Editorial February 1, 1998 Issue

Good Intentions

Each fall when our test boat Viva is hauled for winter storage, I make a list of things to do before the spring launch. Some items, like changing the engine oil, draining and winterizing the freshwater system, and removing sails are pressing. These I do religiously, preferably on a nice autumn day when the sun is warm and the grass dry.

Then there’s the rest of the list. Let’s see. It begins with drilling a couple of holes in the rudder to see if any water has entered around the rudderstock. This is a common problem; the telltale signs are rusty water weeping out of the rudder, seemingly from nowhere. Often the site is at the trailing edge, where the laminate is thin. If the webbing (metal plates welded to the rudderstock) is mild steel, it can rust in no time. And even if it’s stainless steel, saltwater can still attack the welds. What you don’t want is to be sailing along some day and finding the helm turning much too easily. When the light comes on in your brain, you realize to your horror that the rudderstock is spinning inside the rudder. This is precisely what happened to the owner of a Pearson 34 about seven years ago. He and a helper carried the rudder into the Practical Sailor offices so we could pop it open and see what happened.

This scenario is not something I want to experience, so last November I sanded a few spots on the rudder—one quite low, another where I figured the lowest web to be—drilled into the cavity and waited with baited breath. Nothing appeared, which puzzled me since I did have a bit of weeping higher up. Perhaps I had missed “the spot,” or maybe there was so little water it had already escaped. I’ll keep checking the holes. In the spring I’ll fill them with epoxy.

What’s next? Fit the new foredeck light bulb retaining ring and gasket. As I described in an article on upgrading Viva last December, a halyard had knocked off the plastic retaining ring on the new Aqua Signal Combination Masthead/Foredeck Light. I called Aqua Signal to order a replacement; voice mail said to fax your order, which I did, sans part number. A replacement soon arrived, no charge.

With the new part in hand, I climbed the ladder onto Viva’s deck, determined to go up the mast and replace it before the dangling halogen bulb fell. Oops. Too late. The bulb was shattered all over the deck. So I ordered a new bulb from the yard’s chandler. I discussed going halfway up the mast with my rigger, who happened to be in the store. He said he never goes up the stick of a boat on the hard. Why? On the water, he said, he at least has the fantasy of clearing the deck and landing in water. Then again, a friend of mine goes to the masthead of his Hans Christian 34 all the time, in the yard, on a ladder made of nylon webbing. Should I risk it? Maybe I’ll check with the yard regarding their regulations. Maybe I’ll just wait until the boat is in the water.

Next. Remove the stanchions, replace a couple of bent bases, then reinstall all stanchions with through-bolts instead of set screws. A nice little upgrade that adds a measure of security. Geez. It snowed last night. This job will have to wait for a warmer, sunny day.

Next. The new floorboards I made last spring, when I installed a new teak and holly cabin sole, need to be trimmed 1/16" on each side. I’ll take them to a wood shop and have them do it on a planer. That’s easy. Same for the new mainsail track gate I want to have made out of stainless (the aluminum one broke in mid-season). A small shop in Newport called Specialties Unlimited should be able to do it without much hassle. I’ll drop off the old one some day when I’m doing errands in his neighborhood.

Next. Caulk port prism. With snow on the deck?

Aw, heck. Better to just forget boat work until April. I did have good intentions. And a few things are getting done…in other people’s shops.

—Dan Spurr

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