PS Advisor July 15, 2003 Issue

PS Advisor: 07/15/03

Storm Jib Provenance
A barely used, but well constructed, Haarstick storm jib was included with our recently purchased Tartan 34. The clew grommet seems undersized— it's about1/2" diameter. Our regular sheets are 1/2", and are tied on to the jib with bowlines. This could not be done with the size of the clew on the storm jib. Smaller sheets would work, but that doesn't seem to make sense in heavy weather. Why is the clew grommet so small, and what is the proper way to rig the sheets? Thanks for your help.

-John Spangler
West Chester, PA

We referred Mr. Spangler's letter to Steve Haarstick of Haarstick Sails in Rochester, NY. In a tour de force of record-keeping, Mr. Haarstick responded with the following—in a matter of hours.

"Thanks for your e-mail regarding a storm jib we built in 1991 for a Mr. [ ___ ] 's Tartan 34. My records show that we used a Rutgerson SR20 ring in the clew. This has a 3/4" diameter hole, which is a little small for the 1/2" sheets Mr. Spangler is using. However, the break strength of this ring is 3,300 lbs. when pressed into a corner patch weight of 40 ounces. This load range provides plenty of safety factor for a 43-square foot sail, even in the strongest of winds. I guess we could have gone to a larger SR25 ring, but the sail is only 18.75' on the luff, 15.2' on the leech, with a LP of 4.5'. The larger ring looks huge in such a small sail.

"There are several solutions to sheets. The simplest, and safest, is to have a dedicated 1/2" sheet attached to the clew. You can either tie bowlines, or better yet, make a loop at the mid-point and feed both halves of the line through the ring and back through the loop. After pulling the lines tight, neither one will slip under load.

"Keeping the sail and sheets together in the bag will save fumbling around looking for sheets, and tying them on as the wind line rapidly approaches. I would avoid shackles, as they can flog loose in very heavy air, and you don't want to be clubbed in the head with a metal shackle.

"This sail also had a 30" tack pennant and an 8' head pendant. While the tack pendant keeps the foot clear of the lifelines and the wash of waves over the bow, it places a lot of load on the first hank up from the tack when the sail is sheeted in. It's a good idea to make up a webbing strap with Velcro to secure the tack ring to the forestay.

"The head pendant is necessary to bring the overall length of a sail with pendants close to the maximum hoist when loaded up. As most cruising halyards have a wire-to-rope splice, you want a full hoist to avoid loading up the splice. When the sail is hoisted, the rope splice should be below the halyard winch—only the wire should be wrapped on the winch.

"It's best to use hanks for a storm jib, rather than a luff foil, if possible. It's much easier and safer to raise or lower the sail in heavy air.

"I hopes this helps."

Which, when forwarded to John Spangler, prompted him to write back:

"Thanks very much! How did Steve Haarstick know that the sail was made for [ ___ ] ? He’s right, of course. Very impressive. I think we may be doing some business with Mr. Haarstick, who I will thank by separate e-mail."

Impressive indeed. We'd add a couple of remarks about storm sails, which fall close to emergency gear in order of importance. First, it often happens that they're not brought on deck and rigged until conditions are difficult, or getting difficult. Then, once they're on deck, it turns out that they haven't been flown in years. No one knows where the leads should go, and come to think of it, the foot is so short that you need to rig snatch blocks way up forward—and where are those big snatch blocks, anyway?

Truly, this is not an exercise you'll want to go through when the boat is knocked over on her ear, or about to be. Don't bury your storm sails at the bottom of the sail locker. Set them up early when bad weather is coming. Stow any necessary hardware with the sails. Write rigging notes to yourself right on the sailbags, and clearly mark lead positions on deck. And run those sails up and down once in a while.


Bilge Pump Wires Revisited
I was reading some back issues of Practical Sailor and came across in the November 1, 2000 issue a letter on bilge pump wires submitted to you from Bill Mulligan of the Attwood Corp.  The subject was the "caulk" that Mr. Mulligan said was used in the wires to keep water from wicking up the wires in case they became submerged.  Your comments, and those of EIS, who makes the wire, are more accurate in my opinion.

I have been a career test engineer for some 38 years, including 20 years as the Technical Director of the Naval Air Test Center at Patuxent, where all navy aircraft are tested and evaluated for shipboard marine use.  I also have owned and sailed a Cheoy Lee Offshore 40 sloop with a full keel and deep bilge.

For a series of years, my Attwood bilge pump burned out from water seeping into the motor housing each year.  Credit to Attwood—they graciously sent me a free replacement pump each year.  After the third burnout, my testing curiosity motivated me to find out why.  Note the conditions: The pump had to lift the bilge water some 7 feet to get it out of the boat, and the pump wires were connected to the power supply about 4 feet above the pump.  At no time did this connection ever get wet or in the water.

I called Attwood to discuss the problem with them.  I believe I talked to their chief engineer at the time. I asked their experience with the burnout problem, and they claimed it was not a problem.  I then suggested that my analysis was that the water was getting into the so-called sealed pump housing through the shaft seal, because when the pump was running, the water in the pump rose in pressure enough to lift the water those 7 feet, which was an increase of 4-5 psi and which forced the water through the shaft seal.  No way, said the chief engineer—the housing was sealed, and I must have done something to get water in the wires and into the pump.

At this point, I stated that it was obvious that the pump housing was not sealed if water could get into the pump via the wires, but that the trapped air in the housing was escaping out the wires, allowing the water to go in via the shaft seal. In effect they did not have a sealed housing. After a pause, the person I was talking to hung up.

I sealed the upper end of the pump wires with some liquid electrical tape mixture, and have had no more pump problems since.

I suggest you put out the word that boaters should consider sealing the upper ends of the bilge pump wires so the air can't escape from the sealed housing and let the water in. Nuf said.

-John Paradis
Saint Mary’s City, MD

Mr. Mulligan is no longer with Attwood, but we spoke with Steve Hovinga (technical customer service), who in turn consulted with his engineering department. He told us that Attwood bilge pump wires are now both tinned (to prevent corrosion) and caulked. The wire caulking, we learned last time around from EIS, is there to make the wire easier to strip, but Attwood says it also helps prevent water from wicking through the wire. Mr. Hovinga didn't disagree with Mr. Paradis' theory—that in a situation with such a high head, the increased pump pressure might displace air through the wires and allow water to make it past the pump seal. He also agreed that sealing the ends of the pump wire with liquid electrical tape mixture wouldn't hurt, and could help, as it did Mr. Paradis.

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