WABI”‘ real time blog : it’s all but the end of August, WABI”’ is still ashore although iv’e broken the back of the nasty work on the underside : today i scraped and sanded the last really difficult sections where the boat’s bilge runners are sitting on the cross rails of the trolley and the stern tunnel. By the time this blog is scheduled to go public i should have the primer on underneath and if all goes to plan might even be tarting-up the topsides.
In the workshop iv’e done several separate repairs on each component of the rudder cheeks, blade and tiller and i’m just waiting on a custom bronze bush to be machined up and then i can put the whole thing back together….i’ll do that as a separate post.
The blog news is that my good friends from NZ have been and gone, Alan showed me why the pesky outboard has been chewing holes in the leading edge of the rudder blade and given me some good ideas on how to stop it doing that…..string seems to be the answer. Obviously we all went down to the boat because i wanted to kick some ideas around with both of them. It looks as though my main winter project will be a new stainless steel rail on the cabin roof to make moving around a lot more secure : iv’e also just spent hours thinking about another of their suggestions which is to improve the interior space by extending the cabin roof….spent far too long pondering how exactly to do that when i should have been on my back under the boat today.
For the main part of this week’s post i’m just going to talk about the first iteration of my rig modifications and what i need to do next : this isn’t going to be a long post so….
For those visitors that don’t know the boat and it’s rig the boat is a Hunter Liberty and mine is the cat ketch version. In the original design the unstayed main mast is all the way forward and it sits in a pivot at the forward cabin edge and it’s heel is bolted through from a slot in the deck moulding. The normal mizzen position is right in the boat’s companionway which is offset to starboard. Both rigs are tapered round section alloy tube and unstayed….the original booms are conventional alloy tubes with a fairly conventional vang and sheet arrangement.
Although i have always liked the lightly loaded, unstayed rigs iv’e always perceived some problems with it, mainly that the mizzen boom is mounted at about my chest height in the cockpit, the mizzen mast was always in the way in the companionway and with the mainsail i always thought that the boom was way too high and it’s stowed sail was always a PITA for windage forward.
In the spring of this year i made the first round of modifications :
1.Moved the mizzen mast aft, out of the companionway , into the cockpit slightly further aft and slightly offset to one side.
2.Stripped the stack-pack sail stowage system off completely as it was far more nuisance than it was effective.
3.Removed both conventional booms and converted both rigs to sprit booms.
So basically then this post is a report about how those modifications have worked out and what repairs and changes need to be made next. I’ll do this as a series of points that cover the changes as i set them out as above.
Sailing with sprit booms.
The first thing to say is that i’m very happy with the sprit booms purely from the sailing aspect and i am definitely going to continue using and developing them.
1. Rig and boat ergonomics. It is much easier to work in the cockpit now that the conventional mizzen boom has gone. In it’s stowed and rigged positions it’s well clear of my head height at the companionway and is easily topped up out of the way when i am manouevering under power. Although only a first rough version it also makes a very good support for my sun and rain awning.
2. Windage forward. One problem i always had with the Liberty is that she sheers around at anchor like a mad thing….that tendency has been reduced by stowing the sail in it’s long bag on the coachroof at anchor. All i do to stow the sail is unclip the clew from the sprit-boom and use the old stack-pack bag as a normal sailbag but without it’s battens. The thin end of the bag actually tucks under the cross rail. The bare sprit seems to have very little windage : the only time i have dropped it completely was during the storm i sat out in Benodet, in normal conditions it is ‘pas de probleme’.
3.Sail handling. Isn’t quite right yet, i had to add a short section of a different slide track at the foot of the conventional mainsail track and it doesn’t match the original one exactly, it’s only sika-bogged on so it’s removeable in case i ever find a piece of track of the right shape and size. The primary sail hoisting problem are the 2 ‘ears’ on each mast ,these are the old fittings that hold the blocks which act as the hoist point for the old stack-pack system. The halyard, especially the main halyard always manages to to flick around the mast and catch one and then jam. I have got to get rid of the little tangs and fill the holes…. a small job once i get the rigs down.
4.The sprit booms. I did have some doubts about the sprit booms as they are quite small section and made from relatively poor quality timber : just a piece of CLS whitewood from the builders merchant. When they were here Al asked me if there was any risk of shock loading the sprit, especially at it’s point of maximum leverage against the mast and say the whole spar during a crash gybe….well i tested that a few times by crash-gybing and it just doesn’t seem to be a problem so far. The main sprit did used to flex and bend a bit especially when the belly of the sail sat against it but it seems to have hardened up in use.
I still think that the mainsail sprit boom is too light a section so i’m going to make a new sprit out of 2 pieces of CLS glued back to back and then shaped to an 8 sided spar. That will be about 50 % heavier and a lot stronger than version one and will also allow fine tuning of the the position of the snotter tackle and the reef points (below).
The second problem with the sprits is that the combination of the clew attachment eye and the snotter tackle attachment tend to cock the sprit over and on one tack (offwind) the wooden sprit does bear on the sail track and the top edge has got chewed up a bit. That should be reduced with the new 8 sided section plus a much longer anti-chafe sleeve which i didn’t get right on mark one.
In normal sailing the clew of each sail is just clipped into the head of an eyebolt that runs through the outboard end of the sprit, that’s the fixed end in the system and both outhaul and vang effects are created by heaving on the snotter tackle. When i reef either sail what i do is to lower the whole sail until it is completely depowered and clip the reef clew into the same eyebolt using a wichard clip on a short strop which is cow-hitched through the reef point. On the mainsail the sail is then hoisted again to a pre-set mark on the halyard and then tensioned with a tack downhaul which runs back to the cockpit.
At the moment the 6mm eyebolt isn’t quite big enough for both the clew clip and the wichard hook….they will clip in but with difficulty.
I did set up a jiffy reefing system for the mainsail but it needs cheek blocks at the outboard end on the sprit, which is ok but then the system needs cheek blocks on the mast so that the sprit can ‘float’ and on my boat i couldn’t make that work. I actually reef the mainsail hove-to with the mizzen strapped in and do all the work from the cockpit/ companionway with the sail mostly down.
There are some niggling details to correct on the next iteration of the sprit booms : mainly in that the eyebolts need to be larger to take the clew clip and the reef clip or i need a separate eye for the reef clip. I’m going to experiment with a much simpler short reef pennant at the clew end which will just get tied around the boom aft of a short wooden stop-thumb on the outboard side to stop the pennant riding forward.
The other detail will be to change the fixed cleat i use for adjusting the snotter tackle to a high end jamming cleat…Harken most likely as it’s the one control i alter frequently.
The main job now is for me to measure up again and then order the new mainsail as i can definitely get more sail area and a better shape, i have had a reasonable quote from one sailmaker and an insane one from another !. The new sail will have a longer luff and if i can i will get some more roach at the head by going for a slightly Merlin Rocket style shape with a long top batten.
Rig Jobs., autumn.
Drop both rigs and remove old lazy jack fittings.
Reeve new main halyard.
Re-measure for new sail.
Make new mainsail sprit boom (winter project)
Experiment with simpler reefing pennants (mainsail)
Experiment with simple jiffy reef pennannt (mizzen)
I would like to learn basic canvas-work and my first project would be to make new sailbags as the old ones are getting very thin and worn out.