Saturday, May 17, 2014

New sails and standing rigging

I’ve been quiet for many months.  Between travels, lots of work pressure and a winter that will enter the history books for its horribleness, progress on the new rig had been slow.  Given what the spring has been like for far too long (last I checked Lake Erie still had some ice!), there was no real hurry.  In a brief interval between blizzards and polar temperatures (in my unheated garage epoxy will not cure in very cold weather), I managed to put two coats of epoxy on the new mast and bowsprit, and shaped and glued/screwed oak pad eyes at the mast top to anchor the shrouds and forestay.  

Then I made the new sails.  The methods of construction are the same as he ones I used for the sails of the original rig, and include luff and head tape plus reinforcing multi-layer patches and/or tapes in a total of thirteen places (7 corners and 6 reefing cunninghams).  Of course the sails are different.  The mainsail is about 85 square feet (7.9 m2), and that’s much larger than anything I have ever made before.  It’s a trapezoid roughly 8 feet (head) by 8 feet (luff) by 11 feet (foot) by 15 feet (leech).  It has two rows of reefing points (made with grommets this time, since buttonhole sewing is really tiresome), and several grommets along the luff to attach it to the mast with line and dowel toggles.  Curvature was built in with a dart starting at the tack, and with broadseaming (variable overlaps in the seams).

The jib is roughly 12.5 feet (luff) by 6.5 feet (foot) by 10.5 feet (leech), which works out to about 35 square feet (3.25 m2).  It has one set of reef points and a small dart starting at the tack.  It will be attached to the forestay with plastic jib hanks.  I will show photos when the sails are up.

The next step was to finish the new spars with two coats of varnish.  Then came the standing rigging, something the original masts did not have—simple but weak, as I found out to my regret.   I first attached anchor plates to the gunwales, gluing squares of oak just below the rubrails and driving heavy duty steel screws through to the frames.  Turnbuckles for tightening the standing rigging were added to the anchor plates.  Two steel pad eyes were bolted through the tip of the bowsprit as well.  Then I ventured into the totally uncharted territory of making the shrouds and forestay out of Amsteel Blue rope.  To secure them to the mast, hull (shrouds) and bowsprit (forestay) I had to make eye splice loops; large ones to go around the mast top at the top end, small ones to go around thimbles at the lower end.  There was a line that anchors the bowsprit tip to the bow as well, and it needed two more eye splices around thimbles.  I thought it would be fun to learn a different way of splicing, the so-called “long bury” type: it involves tapering the working end of the rope (by unraveling and cutting of half the strands), then pulling it down the inside of the standing part.  The rule of thumb is that the buried tail needs to be 72 times the diameter of the rope, or 9 inches for 1/8 inch rope.  This makes an eye loop as strong as the rope itself.  

The eight eye splices took many hours, mostly of self-training with trial and error.  I finally settled on a method that uses a length of thin wire folded double to pull the tail end of the line through the middle.  Once I got that to work on the first splice, the rest were much easier.  The top loops that go around the mast have hollow rope sleeves around them to protect from chafing.  All eye splices are strengthened (serviced) with heavy-duty waxed thread.   Advice for would-be splicers: make sure you leave extra rope, since the buried tail thickens and shortens the rope where the splice is.  I didn’t leave quite enough and had to work hard to make sure the shrouds were not too short.  
The first photo shows the shrouds  and forestay loops through their pad eyes with the white rope sleeves.  It also shows the throat halyard block on its spliced line loop and the peak halyard block on a steel eye strap bolted through the mast top. The second shows the hardware at the tip of the bowsprit and the line that goes to the bow, with its two thimbles and eye splices.

The next post will be about the running rigging.


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