I combined visiting my mother with sailing related activities. Monday we were in Locmariaquer visiting with Xavier of Atelier Cables. They were the original riggers of CaB. We may be able to make things work and I may be able to bring the new cables back with me next week. After a very long day we sleep in Quiberon. The next morning I hiked along the Côte Sauvage (like I did two years ago). After that we had lunch with the team at Atelier Cables and discussed things more, in particular how the headstay lashing is being damaged. Originally the fitting was going to be something else but the builder decided against. We’re going back to the original design. It’s ugly and heavy but it should prevent the lashing from fraying. The fitting to the head chainplate is also original so we decided to replace with a new one.
New headstay setup!
On our way back to my mother’s we stopped in Nantes and I spent a couple of hours with François Lucas. The key takeaway was the chart below. In total there should be about 4 cubic meter of reserve buoyancy. It would be good to add more in the back to even out though.
A few months ago we decided to replace the headstay, the inner headstay, and the upper backstays. The plan is to replace them with equivalent NavTex and even re-use the end fittings of these sleeved Kevlar cables. Today we took them down. Alex first sent me up the mast to retrieve the inner headstay and the upper backstays. And then we released the turnbuckles for the D1 and the V1 so that we could remove the headstay lashing. All the while we kept the mast under forward tension using the jib and the spinnaker halyards. We reset the turnbuckles and loaded the inner backstays. I think the mast is well stabilized.
Yesterday with Alex, we had a good day working with the masthead code 0 and the gennaker. I was reminded that the gennaker is fractional and requires a swivel at the head; I rigged it masthead, without a swivel. And when I tried to furl it back in, I ended up putting twists in the halyard, which finished to destroy the cover in a couple of places.
On 10/28, I went out sailing solo. It was a long day as I got there around 10 and left at about 6. The wind was nice starting in the 5s and ending in the 15-18 kts. I did two A2 runs, one behind the solent and one naked. One thing to remember when dousing solo (naked) is that there can form an hourglass in the spinnaker and it’s best to not let that happen.
A bit of sailing this Saturday. This morning I had to help my child with her homework and it wasn’t until past 10 that I could leave the home. With horrendous traffic, I ended up at the boat past 11:30.
The forecast was for 10+ kts with a fair sea. My plan was to get out of the harbor and pop the A2 for a while. As we sailed out, the wind was getting closer to 20 kts. I kept the solent up and prepared for the A2 hoist. It was a bit wet but hoisting with the solent up worked just fine and we were powering at 10-12 kts. I didn’t drop the solent but as we were getting away from Pillar Point wind started dropping and I could have.
After dropping the A2 behind the solent, packing it back up, and sorting lines, I worked upwind going West, and then tacked to get back home. Once in port then I partially fixed the starboard bow netting. Unfortunately, I also broke something: the wooden board that sits on top of the ballast plumbing. One more thing for the list!
Again, heavy traffic to get back home, and after a quick shower, it was past 6:30.
What did I learn? It’s ok to hoist behind the solent! But drop it when the wind drops below 15kts, in favor of the staysail.
Lately, sailing out of Pillar Point has often meant sailing in 8-15 kts of wind in a fair swell. But today brought back the good old 20-25 kts in an 8-10 ft swell. I sailed out under jib and full main, keeping the AWA between 40-50. Some of the rollers were impressive. There were times when it felt like Changabang genuinely climbed up the waves. Of course, the sea state was a little confused and we were drenched several times. I did load the ballast and, a first in a long time, I wore my life jacket and used my tether. Moving about CaB as we were heeling and being rocked about was good sport!
When it came time to tack, I first went off the wind to store the inner headstay out of the way, to make tacking easier. Then I emptied the ballast to leeward, and tacked away, sailing back to port. I noticed that the jib sail bag was being dragged in the water as I didn’t secure it. So I went off the wind again to secure it properly. At this time Changabang was powering at 9-11 kts and the bow was being generously spread. I took a couple of showers, which I felt good about.
Although I’m back in running form and can run 5-6 miles again (slowly mind you), I find that my upper body strength is not what it used to be. I have lost weight (20+ lbs!) and feel that I need to re-strengthen my upper body. Grinding the winches and moving about proved somewhat difficult, which may be mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve sailed in these conditions. I had grand ideas to try the spinnaker or pole out the jib or even the jib top, but none of that took place. At a minimum, I probably should have reefed …
The tiller sometimes loads up and is very hard to turn. I’m not sure what’s causing this. I don’t think it’s weather helm that I’m fighting. It may be just the power of the waves loading the rudder. But what concerns me is that it maybe that the rudder bearings are damaged.
I saw a whale, a few mola molas, and another sailboat going up to San Francisco under mainsail alone, looking very slow.
We had been considering chafe and age of the jib and spinnaker halyards. We explored options but ultimately the cost of new line was not attractive so I decided to use the leftover of my Robline Admiral 10,000 Plus spool, which cost me about $2.7/foot a few years ago. So Sunday I went to work: I got to the boat at 10:30 and left at 19:30, not taking time for much of a break. I’m so slow!
My first observation is that I think that the chafe on the jib halyard was inside the mast, about 117 inches below the sheave. It seemed to coincide with the exit point of the staysail sheave. I think what was happening was these two halyards were chafing on each other inside the mast. I’m not sure though, so additional monitoring will be required.
My second observation was that with the leftover from the spool, I didn’t have enough to cut both a jib and a spinnaker halyard. The good thing is that when I cut the staysail halyard from the spool I made it just long enough to work as a jib halyard. So I swapped the staysail halyard for the jib. Then I cut a spinnaker halyard, and the leftover was used for the staysail. I had to do splices, reeving ends, and stitched whippings, which added to the time used.
I’m very much considering reeving lines for the staysail, jib, and spinnaker halyards to reduce UV exposure. It’d be additional work to prep and put away the boat, but maybe the cost savings are worth it. All right, to the calculator! Say these 3 halyards cost me about half of the spool so $900. I’m thinking this would add about 20 minutes before and after a sail, so 40 minutes. Say we go out about 30 times a year, that would be 20 hours of work per year. Say the lines would need to be replaced every 3 years otherwise and we can add 3 years to the line by doing this, we would be saving $450 on the lifetime of the halyards. Since we added 3 years * 30 outings * 40 minutes = 60 hours of labor, the labor cost is about $450 / 60 = $7.5. Right, I can make more money by using this time in other places, so I think I’m going to skip on this.
I’d like to put my thoughts in writing to gain a better understanding of what I’d like to do with Changabang. Let’s focus for now on standing rigging.
Since 2018 (see below for why this year matters), I think we can consider the following:
Preparation for the Route Du Rhum 2018: 1,500 miles.
RdR itself: 3,500 miles.
My preparation for the RTW: 1,000 miles.
My first attempt: 5,000 miles.
That’s 11,000 miles. For planning purposes we need to take the following into consideration:
The 2024 Pacific Cup will probably amount to 2,200 miles one way, followed by a 3,000 miles return trip.
Practice leading to the PacCup may amount to another 800 miles.
A full second attempt at the RTW adventure would be about 30,000 miles.
This amounts to about 36,000 miles. 1 and 2 added together: 47,000 miles.
For perspective, the rigging may be taking the worst of the trip when going around Cape Horn and up the West Coast of South America (or getting there), 20,000 miles into the RTW. In other words, the rigging will already have about 37,000 miles.
The carbon mast was fully inspected in February 2018. Including replacing the shrouds and a few splices/ropes, the cost for that in France was a little over 5,000 Euro. Here in the Bay Area, it would be prohibitive as an operation. At this point, I am going to trust that the mast itself is sound. This includes spreaders, the sheave boxes, tangs, fittings, etc.
As a reference, the labor to replace the standing rigging on Double Espresso was over $5,000 in 2015. This difference right there may explain why France leads the world in short-handed sailing. Also, for reference, when I discussed the mast construction with the builder, he said it was built for durability/safety. It’s not a flimsy, very light mast.
When visually inspecting the mast in situ nothing shows signs of concern. In addition, I think that visual inspection only goes so far. Demasting and inspection in the shop would only go so far too. True non-destructive testing would be required.
In conclusion, trust and keep inspecting the mast. If anyone knows a place where dismasting and inspection can be done for a reasonable cost, let me know (and yes, I know that nobody reads this 😉 ).
I’ll say in passing that the same applies to the carbon bowsprit. I’m just going to trust that it won’t break.
There are no chainplates per se on Changabang. All rigging anchor points are built in the same way:
A large stainless pin is where the standing rigging attaches.
It’s held in place by a fiberglass pocket.
That pocket is attached to the boat using unidirectional fiberglass cloth that distributes the load in the hull.
The picture below may show what this looks like in practice. What could go wrong here? To be honest, I’m not sure. Maybe the stainless steel pin would corrode so much that it would … disintegrate under the load. Or the fiberglass would break. All that is hard to imagine happening in the near future. So again, I’ll trust the chainplates and all anchor points for the standing rigging (shrouds, forestay, backstays).
All the lateral rigging was replaced in 2018. This includes everything in between the horizontal pin seen above in the picture to the top of the mast as seen in the below picture: turnbuckles, articulations, dyform/monotoron cables.
NavTec’s guide seems to recommend a full inspection after 6 years or 40,000 miles. We’re hitting the 6-year mark in 2024. Depending on the conditions, NavTec says the cables can last between 5 and 20 years!
At the end of my RTW, the standing rigging would be 7.5 years old and have accumulated 47,000 miles. It’s a bit of a stretch compared to guidelines, but then the whole rigging seems oversized. Hence, here again, I think I’m going to trust that the shrouds will last.
Kevlar cables rigging
In addition to the shrouds, the following standing rigging contribute to the mast stability:
The forestay on which the solent is hoisted.
The inner forestay on which the staysail is hoisted.
The upper running backstays.
The lower running backstays.
All of these are NavTec sleeved Kevlar cables, of different ages. It should be noted that for all upwind work, only the forestay, the shrouds, and the mainsheet are actively keeping the mast upright. The backstays come into play when we start to crack off the wind. Note in the first picture above that the lower backstays meet with the inner forestay and the upper with the forestay. What this means is that the spinnaker halyard is not counterbalanced by anything. In other words, it seems like the most likely failure would be to lose the masthead, which in and of itself is not that bad (to be fair, preparing this would be several days of work at sea, up the mast, so no simple feat) as long as we carry fractional spinnakers.
For the Kevlar cables NavTec seems to be much less optimistic and recommends changing the cables every 30,000 miles or 6 years (these are the upper limits). Considering that the forestay cable is damaged and is always loaded, we will certainly invest in replacing that. All the others look just fine when inspected visually. I truly struggle to understand what could go wrong with these cables, considering that neither the running backs nor the inner forestay get loaded much/often. In particular, I don’t feel it is necessary to replace the lower running backs, which are barely loaded when loaded!
Similarly, the inner forestay is only loaded hand-tight (using a purchase system). It’s really there to hoist the staysail (and then it’s loaded on the winch) and safety in case the forestay were to snap. If for some ungodly reason it was to break when in use, it would certainly not be good. The conditions warranting a staysail (or storm sail) would likely mean trouble once the cable breaks and the staysail falls overboard. But the mast would still be up and I would have to fly the staysail from the forestay. This doesn’t feel like a major loss. Is it worth saving $1,000 though?
The upper running backs are only loaded when big headsails (gennaker, code O, spinnaker) are flown. But still, they are not cranked on really hard.
In the final analysis, replacing the upper running backs and the staysail forestay feels more like purchasing peace of mind insurance. The total cost to replace the forestay, inner forestay, upper running backstays, re-using the existing cable fittings, is about $5,000.
I replaced the gooseneck and re-surfaced the carbon fitting where it attaches to the mast. So I think that’s good to go. The boom, of course, was repaired. I’m going to trust what I am being told, which is that it is now stronger (even though it’s not 100% straight). I am also going to trust that all the boom fittings are good to go. The parts that I have doubts about are the boom-end sheaves, which are showing their age, after almost 20 years under the sun. But I’ve struggled getting them out so that’s a future project. The cost here is going to be less than $500, hopefully.
Lashings & blocks
There is a fair amount of ofter components, which are structural and help keep the mast up, mainly lashings and blocks (for the purchase systems used for the running backs and the inner forestay). We replaced all of the lashings that were structural. I keep an eye on the blocks and they seem to hold up. It’s somewhat funny to think that we invest so much in standing rigging but when considering the full system it could all come down because a small pin in a block gives up. See this story (second picture).
I hope the above makes sense. When the budget is tight difficult choices need to be made. I know I’m in part kicking the can down the road as eventually some of the above will need to be done. I’m hoping that the boat will be back in France where things are more affordable.
Today, I spent 90+ minutes hanging off the mast finishing the installation of the masthead light. I’m not excited about having a crimp-on splice out in the element; let’s hope it will be sufficiently watertight. We also have a temporary solution to the anchor light, which is battery-powered and can be hoisted on a halyard.
After that and saying goodbye to Alex, I went out for some sailing. The wind hovered around 10 kts. I am always amazed at how much this boat loves power-reaching. Even with just the main and jib up we were powering at 9+ kts. I tightened up the wind angle and sailed out for 4-5 miles. Then I flipped around and hoisted the Flying Fish spinnaker. The more I use this sail the more I like it. It was again really happy as a reaching spinnaker and we were able to hit speeds greater than 9 kts. The key concern with this sail is that it’s 0.75 oz density cloth and I need to not push it or it will lose its shape.
Plans don’t turn out as they are supposed to. One finding of the rigging inspection was that the electrical wiring to the masthead light (used when motoring) was chafed through. I wanted to replace the wire and get the light to work again. Unfortunately, that wire was so corroded that it snapped and fell back into the mast.
From there, a new adventure in boat projects started. The wire was coming out of the mast through a hole used by the thick radar cable. I didn’t think another wire would go through so I decided to drill another hole. After that, it was a long uphill battle to try to get the wire through. After many attempts, I finally got a reeving line (Dyneema twine with a bit of weight) through.
Next, I wiggled a new electrical wire through and used the reeving line to get it to come down to the mast foot. I went up the mast countless times in this process but finally got to a good place, where we can now install a new line and power it up, which is a project for next weekend. Boat projects never stop to amaze me how they take unexpected turns. This all started with “Let’s just check the bulb”. The insides of the lamp were so corroded that the wires just came off with a gentle pull.