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Yacht Rigging

Sailboat lifelines – plastic coated vs uncoated?

We significantly prefer uncoated 1×19 lifelines.
Here’s why:

Are your lifelines safe?

One of the principle means through which we ascertain the condition and safety of a sailboats standing rigging (spars, stays and shrouds) is through visual inspection. When performing a rigging inspection we look for signs of corrosion, cracks, broken wire strands, chafe, bent areas, or badly oxidized areas. This same inspection method applies when inspecting lifelines and when your lifelines are coated in a sheath of white PVC they are impossible to inspect safely. All we can do is to recommend replacement based on their apparent age and any visible defects close to the end terminals.

Note corrosion bleeding out through the plastic.

Note corrosion bleeding out through the plastic.

This is why the ISAF requires vessels longer than 28’ to have lifelines made of uncoated SS wire, or the equivalent HMPE (high molecular weight polyethylene) line , such as Dyneema or Spectra.

Besides being more resistant to corrosion, stainless steel 1×19 wire is stronger than the equivalent size stainless steel 7×7 construction plastic coated wire. Typical breaking strain differences are in the 30% range. So in addition to being easier to inspect, uncoated lifelines are significantly stronger.

We’ve heard proponents of plastic coated lifelines voicing concerns regarding the chafe of sails on coated vs uncoated lines, in our experience there is no measurable difference in wear and tear on sails from either product. We’ve been changing lifelines from plastic coated to bare for over a decade and never heard a complaint regarding this issue. If you have such significant damage to a lifeline that it results in “meathooks” on the wire it should be changed immediately anyway.

Another criticism of bare lifelines is that they are tough to hike out on for the crew sitting on the rail. In our experience neither bare nor plastic coated lifeline wire is comfortable to hike out on, we always recommend the installation of lifeline cushions for anyone who wants to provide any level of real comfort for their crew while racing.

Who knows what's going on underneath that pvc?

Who knows what’s going on underneath that pvc?

Have a look at the pictures in this article, which lifeline material would you rather place your trust in?

Stronger, easier to protect, and prettier too!

Stronger, easier to inspect, and prettier too!

We’d love to hear some feedback regarding this article.
If you are considering replacing your existing lifelines due to aging or damage, please CONTACT US with any questions regarding taking measurements, pricing estimates, or configuration of gates or lifeline cushions.

Rig Tuning Tips

Rig Tuning Tips

A rig tune is one of the most important aspects of the integrity of your mast. I cannot stress this enough. Incorrect shroud or stay tensions can result in catastrophic failures to your mast and endanger crew members.

Of course hiring a reputable rigger to do your tune is the best option, here are four areas to look at that will let you know at a glance whether or not your shroud and stay tensions are close to correct. Please keep in mind that these recommendations are in reference to the average cruising/leisure vessel with a sloop or cutter rig. The principles in general can be applied to most vessels though.

  • Lee side tension/slack. When you are sailing in up to 15kn of breeze, there shouldn’t be much slack in your lee shrouds. Any “rattle” or movement in the turnbuckle tangs (where the shroud attaches to the chainplates) is a problem.
  • Mast position and shape at the dock. Have a look up the back of the mast, everything should be in line, without and bends to either side. This is a very simple yet important inspection. Also stand on dock or side deck and look up the side of the mast. The masthead should be directly over the mast step, or in most cases, slightly behind the step, with a gentle bend forwards in the middle (a rig with an in-mast furler should be very straight fore and aft). There should NEVER be a bend in it that results in the middle of the mast bowing back towards the stern, and the mast head should NEVER be forwards of the step.
    Feel all matching shrouds (port vs starboard) to check for even tension. If there is a discrepancy between the port aft lower and stb aft lower for instance, this needs to be corrected.
  • Mast shape whilst sailing. When out sailing on a broad reach in wind above 10kn, go and look up the back of your mast. It should be in column, without any significant bends, especially around the spreader attachment points. If it is out of column you need to make adjustments to correct this. In all honesty this isn’t as simple as it sounds and I’d recommend getting in touch with an experienced rigger to do this.
    Do the same up the windward side of your mast, there should be very little “pump” fore and aft as you surge through waves. This is where adequate lower shroud and fore and backstay tension are important.
  • Interior. If you have interior doors or lockers that will not close, there is a possibility that your rig is overtensioned. Cap shrouds should be tightened to approximately 15-20% of breaking point. Going much beyond that can create weak points in the rig and risk a mast or rigging failure. Keep in mind that the interior inspection is not 100% reliable, as sometimes a correct tune will still cause misalignment inside.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Of course rig tuning is a very tricky subject to cover in a short blog post, but this should give you a good idea as to whether or not you need to have a pro come and look at your mast and rigging. Regardless, please make sure to have a rigging inspection performed at least once every two years, preferably at the beginning of every sailing season.

Please feel free to Contact Us with any questions or concerns regarding this, or leave a comment below.

Halyard Wrap, Diagnosis, Prevention and Repair.

Halyard wrap, diagnosis, prevention and repair.

DISCLAIMER: Although we will try to cover most aspects regarding halyard wraps, remember this is a BLOG and it is impossible to address every possible nuance and potential cause of these issues. It is always best to contact your local friendly yacht rigging service if you have any doubts as to how to deal with halyard wraps

In this post we will discuss some of the common causes of halyard wrap, how to spot them, and how to make sure they don’t happen again!

By far the most common cause (in our experience) of halyard wraps is a combination of poor halyard lead angle (the angle that the halyard makes when it exits the sheave box and runs to the top furler swivel) and lack of halyard tension.

To try and make this very simply. WHEN THE FURLER SPINS, THE HALYARD SHOULD NOT ALSO SPIN WITH IT. What is supposed to occur when furling and unfurling is that the halyard swivel allows the foil to spin while at the same time allowing the halyard attachment point, or top half of the swivel, to remain static. Most roller furling manufacturers recommend that there is a lead angle of greater than 7˚. If the manufacturer does not require this angle they install some kind of wrap preventer that is fixed to the forestay wire directly above the foil that (in theory) prevents the halyard from passing around the forestay wire. With poor halyard tension or condition, wraps can still occur to these systems.

To create the 7˚ lead angle one usually has to install a halyard restrainer of some kind. Harken makes one and so does Selden. The Harken restrainer is good for all rope halyards, while the Selden restrainer can accommodate both wire and rope halyards. The restrainer is mounted directly to the mast a few inches (depending on the situation) below the halyard exit point and the halyard is routed through it before attaching the halyard to the top furling swivel. The restrainer deflects the halyard downwards and then outwards towards the foil at an angle that makes it almost impossible for a wrap to occur, provided enough halyard tension is applied to prevent slack in the jib halyard up top. Even with the halyard undertensioned a good lead angle is usually sufficient to prevent wraps occurring

Another potentially cheaper way to create this 7˚ angle is to install a strop between the head of the sail and the swivel, this works if your sail is very short and leaves a lot of halyard running parallel to the foil. By installing a strop that allows the swivel to reach close to the top of the foil (minus a couple inches) you can potentially create enough of an angle to prevent wraps from occurring.

Furlers that have a “wrap preventer” attached to the forestay wire require that the preventer be tightly clamped to the wire so that it does not simply spin around when the halyard (or arm of the swivel) comes up against it. There are written instructions with these parts, follow them closely or they will not clamp tightly enough to the wire to be effective. Once they are worn out, replace them.

On halyard tension: When hoisting your headsail make sure to put good tension on the headsail, as if you were sailing in a good stiff breeze. Feel the luff to make sure it’s nice and snug. Sometimes a tight fitting boltrope can make a sail appear as if it is fully tensioned when in fact there is actually some slack up at the masthead. Feel that luff by hand before furling! If you are adjusting halyard tension whilst sailing, make sure to only slack the halyard once the sail is unfurled, and re-tension it before furling again.

An occasional cause of halyard wrap is a sail luff that is simply too long for the furler, thereby making it impossible to get adequate halyard tension and most likely pulling the top swivel over the top of the foil. This is bad. You should be able to see at least 1″ of foil sticking up above the top swivel with the sail fully hoisted. If you can’t, you need to shorten your sail.

How to diagnose the problem: This one is simple. If your furler is “jamming” or requires you to release a little and then furl some more in order to free it up, you most likely have a halyard wrap occurring. How to be sure? Break out the binocs or cast your eyes aloft whilst this jamming is occurring and watch the halyard. You will see it wrap around the top of the foil or forestay while someone is attempting to furl or unfurl it.

DO NOT PUT THE FURLING LINE ON THE WINCH. EVER! This is a wonderful way to break your forestay and potentially bring your rig down. If you are stuck out in a blow and can’t seem to get the sail to furl, depower it, let it flap, and keep trying. If it will completely unfurl but not furl up, unfurl it and drop the sail on the halyard. Winching it while a wrap is occurring is not going to help. At all.
Worst case, if a bad wrap has jammed everything and the sail is partly furled, obviously you can’t drop the sail, so remove the sheets and manually pass the sail around and around the foil to get it as under control as possible. WORST WORST case. Send someone aloft to try and free the wrap. If they can’t. Cut the sail off. Rather lose the sail than the mast.

A final word of warning: If you have been experiencing halyard wraps, and know that someone has attempted to winch the furling line to get it to furl, or that 250lb monster buddy of yours has heaved on it with all his might. Have a rigger go aloft (or you go aloft) and inspect the forestay at the masthead. There is a strong chance that the twisting tension on the forestay has damaged it. Look for wires that appear to be unraveled or even broken. This is VERY SERIOUS. You need a new forestay. Do not sail until one has been installed.

If you have any questions or comments we’d love to hear them. Please feel free to share this post with your friends through email or on Facebook, or Contact Us with any questions…