“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Running Rigging

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So I tried to farm this research and work out to an expert rigger, but after going back and forth with him for over 4 months and still not having anything to show for it I gave up. I fired him a few weeks back and started doing my own research.

All of the running rigging with the exception of the furling line on Smitty is original.  That makes it 14 years old and it is showing it’s age.  There are numerous locations with noticeable dry rot and some chafing. Most of the white line now looks gray with the exception of the areas that are either always in the mast or in the organization bags in the cockpit.

We also will get a little bit of bagging in the base of the sail.  I had a sailmaker look over the sail last year and they said it was in near new shape (not a surprise, the previous owner only sailed the boat a couple of times a season and the sail still had creases when we bought the boat). Thier recommendation was that the halyard had too much stretch and that we should add a cunningham.

One of the good things about owning a Catalina is that they have very good owners manuals.  For the C310 they have a page in the manual that gives you all of the diameters and lengths of line you need for the running rigging.

Rigging Specs

So with that in mind I started looking at different types of lines.  I started with Catalina Direct.  They had various halyards and sheets for sale.  For the halyards they use a 3/8″ Dyneema core line with a polyester cover that is supposed to provide an extremely low stretch halyard for about $1.85 per foot. For sheets they use a 7/16″ polyester core with a dacron polyester cover that is supposed to provide a low stretch sheet for about $1.00 per foot.  After doing a little research I decided that the lines offered by Catalina Direct were good for day sailing with the occasional coastal cruising but that we should upgrade to something better for Caribbean cruise.

I next looked at Samson Ropes, they are sold by Defender and our friends Pam & Chris have used these lines on their Catalina 30.  The Sampson XLS Extra is a Dyneema core line with a polyester cover; in 3/8″ line it has a breaking strength of 5,100 pounds and an elastic elongation of 0.8% at 20% load at a cost of $1.39 per foot.  This would be a good upgrade for the halyards.  The Sampson XLS is a polyester core line with a polyester cover; in 7/16″ line it has a breaking strength of 5,800 pounds and an elastic elongation of 2.2% at 20% load at a cost of $0.99 per foot.

I also looked at New England Ropes, they are sold by West Marine, Defender and a couple of other local companies.  They were recommended by the rigger I tried to higher to do this work.  The New England Ropes Sta-Set X is a polyester core line with a polyester cover.  However they use a patented parallel fiber core that is supposed to provide superior strength and lower stretch than Dyneema.  In 3/8″ line it has a breaking strength of 5,300 pounds and an elastic elongation of 0.7% at 20% load at a cost of $1.65 per foot at West Marine.  Again, this would be a good upgrade for the halyards.  The New England Ropes Sta-Set is a polyester core line with a polyester cover; in 7/16″ line it has a breaking strength of 7,100 pounds and an elastic elongation of 2% at 20% load at a cost of $1.80 per foot at West Marine.

After weighing these options and reading some reviews on the typical boating forums, I decided to go with New England Ropes. I was able to get the lines much cheaper than West Marine from a shop called Rigging Only located down in Fairhaven, Massachusetts.  I ended up paying $0.88 per foot for the 3/8″ Sta-Set X and $1.08 per foot for the 7/16″ Sta-Set.

The next thing we had to figure out was how to connect the line to the shackles.  A common approach is to splice an eye in the end of the line.  This gives you close to 100% of the strength of the line.  But one downside is that splices can make the line thicker for about 6 inches at the splice.  This can get jammed in the sheaves at the masthead.  Another issue is that is more difficult to periodically end-for-end the line to prolong the life of the line.

Another option is to tie the shackles to the line.  Knots reduce the strength of the line but with the high breaking strength of the Sta-Set X I wasn’t really concerned.  I looked at 3 knots that seemed to be commonly used by cruisers as follows:

  • The bowline: commonly known knot, reduces the line strength by 40-60%, can be tied in about a 4″ length on the size lines for the halyards; can easily be untied; pulls straight on the headboard;
  • The figure 8: commonly known knot, reduces the line strength by only 20%, can be tied in about a 1.5″ length on the size lines for the halyards; can easily be untied; can pull off center on the headboard, and;
  • The buntline hitch: new knot for us to learn, reduces the line strength by 25-50%, can be tied in about a 2″ length on the size lines for the halyards; cannot easily be untied; pulls straight on the headboard.

We decided to go with the tying a buntline hitch onto the shackles.  This knot is relatively easy, can be tied close to the shackles and doesn’t reduce the strength of the line too bad.  We might have to cut the knot off when we go end-for-end but that’s not a big deal since we would want to get rid of that portion of the line anyways.

To learn the knot I went to Animated Knots by Grog. After a couple of test knots I was good to go.

To run the new halyards I put them end-to-end with the old line.  I then used some waxed polyester whipping twine and a sailmaker’s needle to connect the two lines.  You don’t have to do much, just 4-6 loops through both lines will keep them together without adding much thickness so they can pull through the sheaves easily.  It took me about an hour to replace the 4 halyards on the boat.

Let’s talk about the 4 halyards for a minute.  Smitty has those nice, fancy labels on all of her clutches that label the lines.  According to those we have a boom topping lift, a main halyard, a jib halyard and a spinnaker halyard.  The boom topping lift and the main halyard run up to the two sheaves on the stern side of the mast and the jib and spinnaker halyards run up to the two sheaves on the bow side of the mast.  Technically the “spinnaker” halyard is just another jib halyard as spinnaker halyards on masthead sloops would go through a block that is outside of the mast to allow for the proper angle of approach from a spinnaker.  But we don’t have any plans to fly a spinnaker and the primary purpose of this line will be to lift the dingy so it’s not a big deal for us.

Also, we don’t technically need a topping lift.  We have a rigid boom vang that supports the mast without the topping lift.  The primary purpose of the topping lift on our boat is to hold the Dutchman system for the mainsail. An upgrade suggested by the rigger before I fired him was to replace the small diameter topping lift with the same line as the main halyard.  This would give us a backup halyard incase anything happened with the primary main halyard.

Once all of the halyards were replaced, we bent on the sails.  Smitty finally looks like a sailboat again!

We still have some of the other running rigging to replace.  Also, I want to give the mast a good tuning before our trip to Provincetown for July 4th.  But it’s nice to be a sailboat again.

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4 thoughts on “Running Rigging

  1. Great to know about the buntline hitch! We are literally about to replace the halyards on our Catalina 30 as well & bend on sails too, just in time for the Philly tallship festival. It’ll be nice to be a sailboat again!

  2. Sitting here on a rainy day Ruthie and I started to go through some pictures. The best were of a certain day on Jost Van Dyke and made us feel much better. So…we called the others and we are getting together for Painkillers this afternoon. We will hoist one for the two of you for sure.

    Let’s do it again some time. On our own boats. We’re a year behind you so you’ll have to dally for a season…

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