PS Advisor March 2000 Issue

PS Advisor

My boat has a hard dodger and I insist upon having the jacklines run down the centerline of the boat, interference with hatches (does discourage opening hatches at sea), Dorades, coachroof winches, etc., be damned. The whole point is to keep oneself INSIDE the lifelines, correct? A singlehander who goes dangling over the leeward topsides has about zero chance of avoiding a shark bait fate.

My only solution to get around the dodger is to have a longish cockpit tether which I exchange with a short one on the jackline. A cumbersome method that is challenging in a seaway in the dark. Any other thoughts?

Steven Hannon
via e-mail

The jackline question is difficult. One thing that has come out of the Sydney-Hobart race disaster (see PS January 1, 2000) is that webbing is too stretchy, despite being less likely to roll underfoot than rope. And John Neal (author, expedition sailor aboard his Mahina Tiare) recently wrote to say he likes chest/head-high jacklines strung port and starboard, secured amidships to the shrouds. We like your idea, but it seems you’ll need “branches” port and starboard in front of the dodger leading to the sides of the cockpit. And you’re probably committed to twin tethers when moving past the common attachment point in front of the dodger.

Another possibility would be to extend the centerline jackline over the top of the dodger to an attachment point aft, even perhaps the backstay. Mainsheet and tackle would present problems, however.

Another point we’ve discussed a lot, that is consistent with your feelings, is to terminate the aft end of the jackline sufficiently forward of the transom so that you can’t go over the transom either. We were reminded of this last year when a J/29 dumped its crew in the Farrallones Race. One got back aboard, but couldn’t slow the boat. The other was dragged at 7 knots and drowned.

Rod Rigging
Trinity is a 1981 CS 36T with rod rigging and I was recently told that at 20 years rod rigging should be replaced, especially if one is going offshore, which I am. I have not budgeted for new rigging and am loathe to take it on. So I need to know how do I judge? I hear that rod does not reveal its weakness until it breaks, so that is most likely metal fatigue. How many times can you tack? Does a northern boat have a longer life than one sailed in the tropics? Is it really 20 years or is it maybe 25? Is there a formula?

Ross Hill
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The lifespan of standing rigging—wire or rod—is not an exact science. There is no formula. We recall that one of the original engineers at Navtec kept his for around 25 years, sailing north to Labrador with it. No problems. It does appear to be true that rigging in northern climates is less susceptible to crevice corrosion than stainless in the tropics.

We’re not sure it’s true that rod gives less warning prior to failure than wire, which tends to fail inside the terminals. If you elect to keep your present rod rigging, at least pull the stick and go over all the critical areas, such as the cold-formed heads, with Magnaflux, which will show up any hairline cracks. If one is found, replace it, and probably the rest, too. Also inspect the rod where it passes over spreader tips. If you have continuous rod, the bends at the spreader tips are critical. Fully articulated discontinuous rod (terminates and starts again at spreader tips) is less likely to have a fatigue problem, except that you have more connections which are in themselves potential problem areas. Other than that, there’s nothing you can really do other than keep your fingers crossed. Due to its large coiled size, carrying spares isn’t very practical.

Personally, we’d try to replace any rigging more than about 10 to 15 years old if planning long ocean passages. The rig, rudder and keel are three things you don’t want to lose.

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