As you can imagine, after losing our lower shroud on passage from the Marquesas to the Tuamotus (about 500nm of clear beautiful ocean) we have been timid and untrusting of our old Navtec Rod Rigging.
It had to go.
But what will we put back up in it’s place?
Cinderella, of course, is a special girl. Her rig is far from stock. She was refitted with the mast out of an Express 34 back in the 90’s. Her new rig was built outside of Santa Cruz by Ballenger Spar Systems. It’s a high-tech, custom made, 150 lb aluminum noodle.
Back then, Navtec Rod was the cat’s meow! It was lighter than stainless steel cable and way thinner. It stretched less, created less windage, and was less prone to corrosion.
Sounds good, right?
The down side is that you rarely see signs of failure prior to a big, loud, BANG!!
It’s a terrible experience, let me tell you.
Trying to avoid this, we took everything apart twice to inspect it. Once before we left Seattle and again in Costa Rica before we crossed the Pacific.
It turns out, the open ocean is just hard on stuff. By the time we arrived in Tahiti, we knew of four separate boats that had a rigging failure of some sort since leaving Central America. Every instance was due to corrosion or metal fatigue. Two of the boats had even been re-rigged in the past 8 years!
(Thats the insurance accepted age range for boats crossing an ocean. )
Cinderella was way overdue. I could just hear it ringing in my ears “cruising is just boat maintenance in exotic locations.”
What rigging options exist for us now? How do we get them to Tahiti?
Two very big questions that make you feel very small and far from anything. So we did a little research.
We had options, replace the Rod, change the rig fittings to use stainless steel wire, or buy fittings to splice some new synthetic fiber onto.
I emailed around and got quotes. There were two riggers on the island, and I requested quotes from four riggers back in the USA. At the end of the day, we had three realistic options, all of which came in right around $4,000.
It had to be shipped, nobody on the island had the capability to make it. It was also the easiest option, no modifications to the rig were required. It did last a long time before it broke, but I don’t like that it’s nearly impossible to inspect. Navtec has also since gone out of business and there is no telling how long the current supply of rod would last.
It’s also not possible to carry backups due to the coiling limitation. The smallest the rod can be coiled is 48″. For the same reason, it’s expensive to ship to remote places.
You can find 1×19 stainless wire almost anywhere. It was adopted a long time ago because it’s a lot stronger than hemp line. It’s common and inexpensive to replace (you do need special compression fittings or a swaging tool) . A big perk is that it will usually show signs of failure prior to snapping. (One or two strands will start to break)
It does weigh the most, and weight up high works against you in a sailboat.
Unfortunately, going to wire, we would have to add custom fittings ($$$) to our mast, and take a loss in sailing performance.
This was the most intriguing solution to me. After being towed 70nm into the atoll by our dear friends on Blue Spirit. (Thanks so much guys!) We used Cinderella’s dyneema lifelines to replace the broken lower shroud. It is very easy to splice and stronger than wire (of the same size). We proceeded to sail on it the next 300 nm to Tahiti…
It turns out there are a bunch of options in the world of synthetic rigging. If you are interested, this article describes them in more detail. Carbon, kevlar, Vectran, PBO, Dyneema, a bunch of fancy sounding names for some very strong lightweight fibers.
The only option that came in at the $4000 ish price-point (like rod and wire quotes) was Dyneema. But not just any Dyneema, not the stuff you buy at the local marine supply. The particular type of dyneema used in standing rigging is called DynIce Dux. It is patented and manufactured in Iceland by Hampidjan. It is heat set, and that process makes it 30% stronger than standard Dyneema and removes all of the structural elongation.
Where does that leave us?
Before we were set to leave, I did some more digging on Dux rigging. I checked the forums. I read on boatbuilding websites. I asked around. Everywhere I looked, one name kept coming up.
I reached out to him and the crew at Colligo Marine.
John was a structural test engineer in a past life, and decided to apply that to his love of sailing. (I liked him already) He designed and manufactured a slew of fittings to utilize Dux on nearly any mast, and runs his shop out of Grover Beach, CA.
We made it a point to stop in and say hello when we made it back to the USA.
If you couldn’t tell, we decided to go with Colligo Dux. It’s just simpler.
It’s freakishly light. We can wear our whole rig as a necklace! It packs easily into a checked bag, and we can carry extra length to replace any shroud that we are worried about in the future. Less weight aloft also means a better sailing boat. (I am very, very excited about this)
The line itself does not corrode in saltwater! And Dux, like wire, will show signs of degradations prior to failure. Moving forward, routine inspections will prevent that blood curdling BANG!
We are very excited to get back to Cinderella and get her sailing again with fresh new Dyneema rigging from John and the folks at Colligo Marine!