Running Rigging

Worm, Parcel, and Serve

Over the past seven months of cruising, our anchor snubber was starting to show some significant wear. The options were simple, either replace the snubber, or fix and protect it from further damage.

Being how we are cruising on a limited budget and marine supplies are not as easy to find in remote locations, such as uninhabited islands in the Bahamas, we decided to repair and protect our snubber with materials that we had on hand. 

Since the chafing that had occurred was still very superficial, there was no structural damage to the line and no need to perform a mending splice before the protective layers were added. The first step in the process is to worm the rope. This is where you lay a smaller line into the valleys of the lay of the rope. Three-lay requires three strands be wormed into the lay. The strands run in the direction of the lay and will nestle in nicely. The idea of worming is to make the outer edge of the rope more uniform and round. 


The next step is to parcel the rope. In historical times, this was done using tarred cloth. The tar helped seal water out from the line and protected the hemp from moisture and rot. In modern times, when the rope is made out of nylon, the purpose of parceling is to hold the worming in place. Hockey stick tape or friction tape works great for this application. The tape is to be wrapped in the direction of the lay. If on running rigging, the direction of wrap doesn't matter as the rope will move around. If on standing rigging, the wrapping is to go from bottom to top. This will create a shingle effect to help keep water out of the core. 


With the section wormed and parceled, the last step is to service the line. Service is the process by which a sacrificial line is wrapped around the line very tightly. Any chafe will occur on the sacrificial part that can be easily replaced at less expense than replacing the actual line itself.  

Service is always wrapped opposite the direction of the lay, so that as the rope is tensioned and pulled, the service will wrap tighter.  


In the end, the snubber is protected against future chafe and will continue to hold our ground tackle as we cruise new and distant waters.

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Monitor Wheel Adapter Unspooling

Monitor windvanes are remarkable machines. They will steer you on your course with only a whisper of wind! 

They perform this magic without question, but only ask that you balance the helm perfectly! If you do not, the force of the rudder may cause the ropes to unspool from the adapter and the whole system fails. 


If you seem to have just a wee bit of weather helm that you can't trim away, try using a clothes pin to hold the rope on the adapter. If the rudder turns the wheel, the clothes pin will keep the rope from lifting up and coming off. 

This is not a replacement for proper sail trim, simply a crutch to get you through a time when perfect sail balance seems to elude you. 

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Seizing a Shackle

When you install a shackle, it is important that you seize the bolt so that it doesn't come unscrewed and fail. This is very easy to do, all you need is a little piece of stainless steel wire. 


The wire is passed through the little hole in the bolt and then around the shackle. Then the tails are twisted together tightly and bent over to prevent snagging on anything. It is always a good idea to tuck the twisted tails close to the bow that way they are less likely to snag on anything. 

That's all there is to it! Now make sure that your anchors shackles are all seized up so you don't lose them because a simple pin came unscrewed. 

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Backstay Flag Halyard

Flag halyards are small halyards designed to raise and support a flag. The backstay is a great place to fly a flag because it will allow the flag to fly clear of any obstructions that could otherwise tangle or snag the flag as the wind shifts. 

Now, to install a backstay flag halyard, you have to install a block of some sort high up on the backstay,. This will be the maximum height that the flag will be raised, and there are two options on how to do this. First, you can climb the mast (via the backstay) and attach the block on the backstay itself. The second method is to tie a hitch knot that will hold in one direction, and slide in the other.  


I opted for the second method, as we do not need the flag to be too high up, so by tying a hitch knot on the dyneema backstay, I was able to then simply push the knot up the backstay with a pole. This allowed me to raise this point without leaving the deck! (Be sure to install the halyard in the block before you push it up the backstay though). 


This hitch knot will slide up but when the block is pulled down, it will bind on the dyneema and hold firmly in place.


If you have a backstay adjuster, you want to make sure that the flag halyard remains lower than the lowest position of the backstay adjuster. This will keep the flag halyard from interfering with the more important function of the backstay adjuster. 


With the halyard installed, you can fly your flag from the backstay! 

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Storm Sailplan

Storm sails are small and very strong sails that are flown in high winds. While the sails themselves are very strong, there is another aspect of the sails that adds to the survival of the storm without damage to the yacht: where the sails fly. 


When a mast breaks during a storm, it almost always breaks off at the first spreader. This means that the spar above the spreader will buckle and break, leaving you with a shortened mast and a broken rig.

What you can learn from this disaster is that the section of the spar above the spreaders is not as strong as the section below the spreaders. It is not a matter of strength of the spar being weaker above the spreader as the spar is the same size and strength over its entire length, its a matter of how the rigging is setup. 

The lowers, which attach below the first spreader do not need a spreader to reach the mast at a good angle (minimum angle for the stay to approach the mast is 12 degrees) without any guidance. The run from chainplate to mast is the ideal angle. The run from chainplate to cap shroud is not as lucky, and the angle would be very small. This is why a spreader is needed to hold the stay outboard, so that it can then turn in towards the mast at an angle of no less than 12 degrees. 

The mast is only supported at a few points on a yacht, and these points are the areas where the stays attach. Your first unsupported length is from the deck to the first spreader. The second unsupported length is from the first spreader to the next set of stays. On a single spreader rig, the next supported section is the mast head. On a multiple spreader rig, it is the next spreader. 

The strongest unsupported section of the spar is the first section, from deck to spreader. Therefore, when loads are high and failure occurs, it occurs above this point, causing the mast to buckle at the first spreader. 

So, flying full sail in a storm is not only bad because you are applying too much strain to the sails, rigging, and yacht, but also because you are applying strain in the wrong areas. Full sail means that the mast is being loaded all the way to the top! The loads it will be subjected to are mind boggling! 

Reefing not only reduces the sail area to decrease the force on the yacht, but it also lowers the sail area, concentrating the loads to the first unsupported section of the spar. Storm sails take this one step further and concentrate the loads entirely to the first unsupported section. 

When you setup your trysail, the tack needs to be set so that it is higher than the stack height of the mainsail. This will allow it to flow easily on either tack. While you might feel inclined to simply add a longer tack pennant to clear the mainsail, it is important not to raise the trysail too high. 

The head of the trysail should end up in the area of the first spreaders, that way the loads are concentrated in the first unsupported span. Yes, the loads during a storm will be strong, but the strongest section of the spar is being loaded and the rest of the mast is simply along for the ride. 

Once the winds calm down, you can raise your full sail on your full spar, instead of trying to jury rig something with the stump of your mast that runs up to your first spreaders. 

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