Rod Rig and Mast Inspection

If you are following along, we unstepped our mast in order to inspect all of the rod heads and fittings before we depart on our trip around the world. While we are at it, we ran new halyards and added spreader lights.

What seems like a short list has a funny way of growing…

After unstepping the mast I got to work over the course of a rainy, dreary PNW winter week. Unfortunately the clock is ticking, and we can’t leave all of our projects for the summer months. I’ll just keep looking at pictures of tropical islands and hope that keeps me warm…

Ah, much better.

Inspecting the Rod Heads

The first step to inspecting our rig was to remove all of the turnbuckles from the rod ends. The main point of failure on these rod rigs are tiny horizontal cracks that form on the rod heads from work hardening as the rig is loaded and unloaded over the course of its life. That is what we are primarily looking for.

To make disassembly challenging, early Navtec fittings were dimpled in place, this does not allow for removal like that of a cotter pin. Fortunately we didn’t have any of those on our rig. If you do, they have to be drilled out and cannot be reused.

I was sure to label each of the turnbuckles from where it came from as well as the rod, so that I can trace any issue I might find, as well as put everything back where it came from. (If I was thinking I would have marked the threads with tape so that it would be easy to put exactly back…)

There are two main ways to test the rod ends, one involves a magnifying glass and the other involves spraying a dye on the end and following that with a developer that highlights any cracks. I decided to use the second method. It’s a little more costly, but it will prevent any cracks from hiding from me. Plus who knows, the grey sky of Seattle might mask the grey cracks on the grey rod ends.

I started by taking everything apart and cleaning with simple green degreaser. A bag of rags worked well to scrub all of the old lubricant and grime away.

After the ends are clean, a red dye is sprayed onto each end. Be sure to hold the rod head down such that the excess dye runs off onto the ground and not back down the rod. After spraying the dye, the instructions say to “let stand for 1 – 30 minutes.” Hmmm. I let them stand overnight as it was getting cold and dark.

The following day I wiped the excess dye off the heads with a rag and sprayed on the developer. The idea here is that the dye would leach into the micro cracks and would not be wiped away by the rag. Once the developer is applied, the red dye stains the developer and the crack is highlighted. You can see remnants of the red dye below the developer in the picture below.

In our case I found one crack, but it was vertical, not the dreaded horizontal. This could have been from the original casting, but to be safe I will have a rigger take a look at it and give me their advice. For now, I labeled it and will reassemble as is.

In order to complete my full inspection, I needed to also take the rod out of the spreader ends and inspect the section of the rod that runs through the spreader.

Since ours were covered in deteriorating old leather caps, we had to remove them to see what was below.

It turned out to be lots of tape and stainless steel wire ties holding the rod in place. Well, we will have to replace all of that…

 

Cleaning the Hardware

Once home I washed each turnbuckle, pin, and bolt in degreaser and inspected each part by hand. I found some cracks in my forestay turnbuckle and my starboard lower turnbuckle. These appeared to be cracks in the plating, but I am going to replace them anyway, it’s cheap insurance.

After everything was taken apart and cleaned, it needed to be prepped to go back together.  I applied a thin film of lanocote grease to everything to ensure the threads would not gaul during reassembly. Lanocote also helps prevent corrosion if two dissimilar metals are in contact, it seemed like a good choice.

There are several lubricant options that can be used, I was told tef gel, or a Molybdenum Disulfide lubricant are also good choices. I had lanocote, so I used lanocote.

I then reconnected each turnbuckle to each rod end after lubricating the rod ends with lanocote. Each end got a new cotter pin, and I used some riggers tape to cover any sharp edges from the cotter pins.

Replacing Halyards

After the hardware, my attention was turned to halyards. I knew I needed all new halyards, Cinderella has 4 headsail halyards, one main halyard, and a storm sail halyard/ spinnaker pole lift halyard. We will also be adding checkstays to help support the mast in big seas and when flying the storm jib along with lazy jacks to help us handle the main short-handed.

What does this mean? Why it means lots of new shiny rope! Or should I say lots of expensive, new shiny rope.

I fished a length of paracord through the mast so that we could take a halyard to the local marine store and get our halyard length. Since all of my halyards terminate at the same location, taking one for size should work just fine.

It turns out, each halyard is 105′. The cruiser oriented double braid came in at $0.81 – $0.91 per foot, and I needed over 600′ of it. Ouch. Oddly, this seemed cheap compared to the more race oriented halyards, which were between $2 and $4 per foot! What does BOAT mean again… Break Out Another Thousand.

Ava picked out the new colors for our halyards (though we didn’t have that many colors to choose from). At least we had some choices, and for a few bucks more we can now yell to our non-sailor friends PULL THE GREEN ROPE!! instead of PULL THE PORT GENOA HALYARD!

I also purchased two fids so that I could splice my new shiny rope around my old hardware. A good reference for how to splice double braid was done by the late Andy Hall, and can be found here.

Once all of the halyards were spliced, back into the mast they went. One by one I taped the ends of the new halyards to the old halyards and fished them through.

While I was at it, I removed and replaced the line that was used to raise and lower the tail end of the spinnaker pole, another splice and Ava and I now have fresh lines on the mast!

 

What’s Left?

Now that the the rods were cleaned and inspected and the lines were replaced, we had five more minor projects to finish while the mast was out of the boat.

1) Install flag halyards for raising the flags of all those countries we will visit
2) Install spreader lights to help see the deck at night/draw the bugs away from us.
3) Replace the anchor light and tricolor lights with LEDs
4) Lubricate and reattach the windvane and anemometer
5) Sew new leather pieces around our cap shrouds to prevent sail chafe

Installing Flag Halyards

Fortunately, I had blocks for the flag halyards in a spare parts bag, I just needed to rivet them in place. I used stainless steel rivets and  some lanocote to attach them to the bottom spreaders.

Since my bottom spreaders are about 16′ off the deck, I bought 60′ of pre stretched poly line and hung them from the blocks. Done.

Install Spreader Lights

Spreader lights are expensive! As with anything labeled “marine,” so I hopped on amazon and bought a set of Jeep flood lights. If the 4×4 guys can beat them up in the mud, they should be able to handle a bit of salty air. The best part, they are LED and draw just over an amp. We will see how they look after the mast is back in.

Replace Anchor and Masthead Lights

Again, anything labeled marine grade is expensive. Add in the fact that these lights have to be seen from 2 nm according to USGC regulations, and you have yourself a $200 purchase.

Fortunately, my masthead light fixture comes apart and you can replace just the bulbs. I found two LED bulbs that fit and WALA, LED anchor lights at a fraction of the price.

Lubricate and install Windvane and Anemometer

Ever since I purchased Cinderella, that windvane/anemometer combo looked sad. It hung sideways so you couldn’t really tell wind direction even though I had the electronics for it, and the cups never spun.

It turned out that the vane was zip tied to the masthead… crooked. I cut the zip ties and bolted the vane to the masthead. After a bit of lubrication, the cups spun again with ease and the vane was pointing into the wind. I just love it when the fix is nearly free!

Sew New Leather Shroud Caps

Since the old leather caps were in rough shape, they were getting pitched and we had to start fresh.

Fortunately, my crafty lady had some scrap leather laying around and Ava went to work making templates from the old crunchy leather.

After a quick stop at the leather shop and some hole punching, we were able to sew new leather end caps on our spreaders on a dark, cold, rainy night.

For the record, Ava’s sew job turned out much better than mine. Don’t those stitches look nice!

How fast the week flew by! Of course it wasn’t all work, we did take advantage of a few bands being in town to dance some of the stress away.

Almost done!! Follow along on the next step as we put the mast back in the boat!

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