High Wire Act

“Can you do it without taking the mast down?” That was the first question I asked our rigger when we discussed replacing our 18 year old standing rigging.

“Yes, we should be able to,” he replied.

“How long will it take?” I next asked. Since we live onboard, I was envisioning the logistics of moving our vehicles to the shipyard so that Rhonda could make it to work each day and I’d have a way to get around besides walking.

“If we start early, we should be able to do it in a day.”

“Fine, let’s do it, then,” I said. For peace of mind, we wanted to replace our original wire before we head south in the spring. But I really, really, really didn’t want to have to drop the spar. After wrestling that huge radar cable down through the mast, we finally have all the mast wiring installed, and using almost a whole tube of caulk has stopped the persistent rain leak that would dribble water on our salon table. I hated the idea of having to take it all apart again.

We waited for weather. Our rigger finally called and said “You’re scheduled for next Wednesday at 0900. Try to be here early.”

So naturally, it got cold. We hate cold weather. Don’t like anything about it. But every single winter, it seems there’s always a reason why we have to be out on the bay moving the boat in near-freezing temperatures. As we departed on our dawn patrol, the temp was 39° (4° C) with a strong east wind pushing steep rollers across the bay. We just can’t understand how some people call boating in these conditions fun. It was not a comfortable trip.


Is This The Face Of A Happy Camper?


The Sun Finally Coming Up As We Arrive

The Sun Finally Coming Up As We Arrive

We were tied up to seawall by 0730, and then Eagle Too and I waited while Rhonda headed off to work.


While killing time wandering around waiting for the riggers to arrive, I encountered this scene. It made me wonder why in the world someone would want to do something like this.


Is this something that’s being repaired and will one day float again? Is it a donated organ being prepared for a stern transplant in a desperate attempt to save another boat’s life?  Is someone collecting discarded boat bits in the hope of someday constructing a Frankenboat out of the parts? My mind reeled. Because if you’re having to tear down things to this degree to fix something, I really think it’s time to buy another boat.

As promised, our riggers appeared promptly at 0900 and got straight to work. After securing the mast with lines forward, they loosened the shrouds and removed the forestay. There are a lot of wires on  a B&R rig like ours, and while the forestay was on the workbench having the jib furler overhauled, the crew worked their way through rest one at a time, replacing old with new.

Working1 Working2 Working3

We did make one change to make the boat better than new. Usually when you tune the mast on a B&R rig, you put four to six inches of prebend in the mast to keep it stable. But we have a mainsail that furls into the mast, and furling masts like to be kept straight for best operation. So it’s a compromise, trying to put in enough prebend to support the mast properly, but not too much to interfere with the operation of the furler. I thought we had too much bend, which was making the mainsail a bit more difficult to furl than it should be. But there was no way to adjust the upper diagonal shrouds to pull the bend back out after the lower shrouds were properly tensioned. So at our rigger’s suggestion, we added a set of turnbuckles to the upper diagonals to give more adjustment.


New Turnbuckles Circled


Closeup Of The Starboard Turnbuckle

This appeared to work exactly as predicted. Once the rig was properly tensioned, they were able to use these new upper turnbuckles to reduce the mast prebend from its usual 5 – 6 inches down to a more reasonable 2 – 3 inches. I can’t wait to get the sails back on and see how this affects the operation of the mainsail furler.

As promised, the job wrapped up at 4PM, and by 4:30 our riggers were helping push us off the seawall to start the 30 minute trip back to our slip downtown. We motored out of Bayou Chico and out onto the bay in conditions so different from those of that morning that it was almost hard to believe it was the same day. While it was still somewhat chilly, the wind had died and the water was glassy, making it almost pleasant. We left just in time to see the sunset, accompanied by several pods of dolphins.

HomeAgain HomeAgain2

And so another major job is behind us and we’re another step closer to departure. One thing we noticed while motoring back was that as a result of installing the new rigging, the annoying vibration our rig had always displayed while under power was completely gone. So I finished the day a very contented man. 🙂

3 thoughts on “High Wire Act

    1. Robert Post author

      The company is Zern Rigging of Pensacola, Florida. http://www.zernrigging.com The owner Rick Zern is a true professional who does quality work. He’s a lifelong sailor and offshore racer and he and his crew know their stuff. I should probably add them to the Things That Don’t Suck tab on our blog. Rick is also a broker for Murray Yacht Sales, he sold us our first boat Eagle and then we used him to sell her when we bought Eagle Too. I’d recommend him to anyone looking for rigging services or a trustworthy broker.


    Thanks for posting……our 356 with original rigging has these “additional” turnbuckles already fitted.


Care To Share Your Thoughts?