Editorial November 1, 2003 Issue

Spars Ashore

Last month in a PS Advisor we discussed the merits and demerits of leaving masts up when boats are hauled. The trade-off is stress on the rig and chainplates when the mast is hit by wind with the hull immmovable (unheeling) in the stands, and the inability to inspect and maintain the spar and its rigging carefully, versus the convenience of not having to unhook electronics and the cleanliness of leaving the spar stowed upright in the sky, and, of course, the lower expense. We concluded by saying that, if there were a big danger in having boats blow off their stands in the winter winds, boatyard owners would be the first to insist they come down. Probably insurance companies, too.

As I write this, Hurricane Isabel has just come ashore and whirled inland in a swath from North Carolina through the Chesapeake, up through Virginia (how are things on Smith Mountain Lake?), Pennsylvania, and on north. I wonder how readers' boats fared, especially those that might have been hauled with their sticks up. Let us know.

We hauled the Beneteau 235, Viv, early this fall. Never mind hurricanes—we know from bitter experience how little time there is to sail after the kids are back in school, even though it's usually the best time of the year. There was precious little time to sail Viv anyway this summer. We had a few daysails, all in good air and good company. The boat performed excellently, especially on our first sail, a 13-mile beat into a steady 20+ knot wind with gusts over 30. We sailed with the working jib and two reefs, and found the boat stable, dry, and easy to steer when you found the groove. If you sawed at the tiller, she retaliated by spinning out. That comes of the narrow bow and wide, wide transom, even though the rudder is deep.

We spent a few nights aboard, and these were hellish, owing to the incessant slapping of wires—for VHF, masthead tricolor light, and wind instruments—inside the mast. In rolly weather they clanged, sometimes with a sound like a bell (if they all whapped together) and sometimes in a two-second-long rolling chatter. In calm weather it was worse by far—more like Chinese water torture, where you lay awake wondering, "Will the next one be the Tapping Tinkle? Ah, no, it was the Rippling Ring." Gads, how we hates wires on sailing boats. A necessary evil, but still evil.

Bill Clapp, the sailorman yard foreman at Dutch Wharf Boatyard in Branford, where we keep the boat, says they have good success in these cases by bundling the wires in heavy-duty plastic wire ties, leaving the tails long as offsets against the inside of the spar. The wires are tamed, and the internal halyards can still run without interference. On a small mast like this, where it's easy enough to remove the ends and the wires, this will likely be a better solution than PVC conduit. So that's what we're doing.

We took the spar down and I went over the standing rigging carefully (since I never got up there during the summer). The wire, terminals, stemball fittings, and spreaders all look fine, but there was a threaded bolt instead of a clevis pin holding the backstay to the top of the mast, and a jagged hole where the VHF antenna wire enters the mast. So we'll fair that hole and relieve the wire where it enters.

Now that the spars are ashore, they're going to get dirty. It's inevitable—dirt in the sailtrack and dirt in the sheaves. Gads, how we hates dirt in the sheaves. So out comes the plastic wrap and tape, to seal off the susceptible parts as best we can. In the spring, I'll clean the whole spar and hit it with track lube. Stand by for a review of such lubes in the November 15 issue.

-Doug Logan

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