Loose Footed Staysail

When Frank was drawing lines for the new sail plan, I had him assume that the staysail would be loose-footed. That was about a year ago and since then I’ve been sailing a sloop rig. It’s been great except while reaching and running in winds above twenty knots, or when the winds are light and the jib will not pass through the stays without going forward. There has been a few occasions where the staysail alone would have proven very useful. Once heading north from Watmough Bay north, I saw thirty knots of true wind. The jib was reefed down to about forty percent and Satori did not do well with this sail arrangement. The clew of the jib is up high, so the effort is in the center of the triangle and too far forward. If I had the staysail I would have rolled up the jib, raised the staysail and enjoyed a comfortable and safe run with a light helm without weather or lee. I’ve been waiting since April for a long spell of good weather in between other projects to install the new deck hardware. I’ve gone over the steps in my head, consulted others about the process, and finally built up the courage to drill the fifty holes needed for the new hardware.

When I began researching how to install bolts into a fiberglass deck, I had seen several different methods employed to do this. First off, I did not want the core exposed to possible water leaks. I also wanted to be able to remove the hardware without much work. If a sheave broke, a winch failed, the track was compromised, or the rope clutch was damaged, I want to be able to remove it and replace it without having to drill new holes or patch a rotted core. I also wanted to keep the cabin looking good with bronze, brass, teak, etc. I talked to a lot of people about the different methods on how to approach this project. Bud Taplin has been through just about every repair on a Westsail and suggested that I do not drill through the deck but simply tap into it. I didn’t like that idea because of the possibility of exposing the core to rotting, but it did give me more ideas about thru-bolting. I also inquired about how to make an epoxy plug that would hold on it’s own. Eventually this evolved into what I think is the best way to install hardware that may take high loads from severe weather.

Satori running under staysail in 20-30 knot winds
Satori running under staysail in 20-30 knot winds

 

The first step is to line up all of the deck hardware on one side and use a spare line to check for routing. The cheek block will need to turn the line and create a straight line to the rope clutch. I decided to allow for an additional rope clutch if one day I decide to add a halyard or other line to the same winch. That meant the rope clutch would be offset a tiny bit so two lines would lead to the winches properly. The winch handle needed to clear all obstructions, specifically the dodger frame and sliding hatch, so the winch was placed so I could do a full rotation. Once everything was in place and lined up correctly, I used a pencil to draw an outline of the hardware and fill in the bolt holes. Once the lines were drawn on one side, I used a ruler and caliper to determine the position of everything on the other side using existing lines and points on the deck. Again I traced the outline,  filled in the holes, and prepared to drill the holes. I started with the tracks by drilling a pilot hole on one end, just to see where it would come through on the other side. Once I found the location inside, I used a countersink bit to open the headliner plywood to prevent splintering of the top laminate. Next was getting a hole on the other end of the track drilled. Because the tracks were raised in the middle and curved a tiny bit, I made sure to use the same track and kept track of which side was forward so the bolts would later line up properly. Again I went below and countersunk the headliner. I then used the same pilot hole to drill a 5/16″ hole, which allowed me to install a bolt to hold the track in place. Next I placed a weight on the center of the track to flatten it due to the slight camber, then drilled a 5/16″ hole on the other end. Placing an additional bolt in the end hole allowed the track to be lined up for each additional hole. Using the track as a guide, I could drill the remaining holes. I followed the same procedure; pilot hole, then countersink the headliner, and finally drill to 5/16″.

Headliner countersunk
Headliner countersunk

 

Drilled holes ready for epoxy
Drilled holes ready for epoxy

 

Epoxy filled holes ready for curing
Epoxy filled holes ready for curing

 

Once I had all holes drilled, I went back through and drilled to 3/8″. Then I used a keyhole bit on a Dremel to route out the plywood core to create a gap to fill and strengthen the epoxy plug. This also prevents any water that may leak into the hole from rotting the core. The next step was plugging with epoxy. I used West Systems epoxy with a resin filler to thicken it. The consistency needed was crucial. Too thin and the epoxy would run into the headliner foam or escape through the backing tape. Too thick and the epoxy would either have an air pocket, or it would not fill the hole entirely. The correct thickness allowed the hole to be filled completely from the headliner, through the core, up to the gelcoat. First I added blue masking tape to every hole inside the cabin on the headliner. Then I went back up to the cabin top, mixed the epoxy and started filling the holes with a syringe. Once it began hardening, I allowed it to cure overnight.  The next day I prepped the cabin again to collect the resin from dusting the interior. I then found a sleeve to center the drill bit so the hole was not accidentally drilled offset, thus creating a problem screwing down the hardware. The sleeve was just a plastic tube that the carbide drill was stored in and fit the track hole perfectly. I began with the ends again, lining up the track for the additional ten holes. I only drilled the starting hole, which was centered in the plug hole and down to about a centimeter. Then I drilled the remaining holes once the track was removed, through the deck and headliner. Then swapped the bit and used the drill to tap the hole for threads. Once I had the first hole drilled, I repeated the steps on the opposite end and then used the drill to screw down the track for the remaining ten holes. Using the sleeve I started the remaining holes, then removed the track and finished the process of drilling and tapping. The final step was to countersink the hole to allow the butyl tape to fill in the gap between the track and threads.

Staysail deck hardware installed
Staysail deck hardware installed

For every piece of hardware I follow the same procedure. In the end I had forty-eight epoxy reinforced, tapped holes. The remaining task was bedding the hardware. I used butyl tape as the bedding compound. I’ve heard great things about butyl tape due to several reasons. It’s easy to work with, like working with silly putty. It seems to do an excellent job at sealing for decades if done properly. Finally it’s easy to remove if you ever need to for whatever reason. All of these combined benefits makes it better than any other liquid compound on the market. Ideally when bedding hardware you will create an even surface and expose the holes enough to prevent the compound from catching on the bolt when you’re screwing it in. Also it’a a good idea to build up a small amount under the bolt head and again at the top of the threads so the countersink portion will completely fill. If you really want a tight seal, you can also add a layer to the threads. I decided not to do this so if there was leaking from the hardware bedding, I would see it coming through the cabin top instead of remaining inside of the hole, but not penetrating. Although it’s entirely epoxy in the hole, I still do not want standing water inside because that will eventually cause the bolts to rust and since they are hidden I will only see the issue if I pull a bolt. For finishing the bolts inside of the cabin, I decided to use all bronze fender washers, lock rings and cap nuts. The fender washers and lock rings are easily found at Fisheries Supply, but there seems to be only one online supplier for the bronze cap nuts. I could have used brass but I did not like the polished look at eye level, plus it looks much better.

Staysail track bronze fender washers and cap nuts
Staysail track bronze fender washers and cap nuts

 

Staysail first time loose footed
Staysail first time loose footed

 

Staysail tack pennant
Staysail tack pennant

 

Retrospective:

I was initially scrutinized by some pretty harsh internet personalities for even considering tapping the deck, without using backing plates. It seems that no one likes the idea of depending on the threads alone to prevent the hardware from pulling out. The cheek blocks, rope clutches, and winches are under shear loads but many folks were concerned that because I did not have composite or metal backing plates that the hardware would pull out. I did attempt to try to calculate the potential loads using whatever information I could find. Dave King provided some force numbers based on the square footage of the sail. He also provided expected loads with specific wind speeds, and the forces applied on a flogging sail. I also looked at some data provided on the pull-out strength of epoxy when tested as a plug in a wooden block. In the case of the bolt strength test, every bolt was glued in place but others have suggested that tapping with machine threads would only reduce the strength by a small amount. There is also compression loads to consider, there the bolt will be pulled horizontally and the top of the plug would compress forward, the bottom compress away from the shear load. This is exactly why I decided to bolt through with epoxy. It provides a compression sleeve to increase strength with the added benefit of sealing the plywood core. With all of these considerations, it was obvious that tapping alone may produce an insufficient amount of strength if I was ever caught offshore in a gale. Fender washers and cap nuts will certainly suffice for the tracks, even if there are two bolts are simply screwed down without backing. I am confident that they will suffice for any potential load that the staysail or storm jib can produce. The winches and rope clutches have a turning block to reduce the loads placed directly on them. I am not certain of the reduction but it should be enough to eliminate backing plates to prevent the winch bolts from pulling out. Fender washers should suffice for all of the thru-bolts and deck hardware with the threaded epoxy compression sleeves. If I were to have used a liquid bedding compound, did not plug and reinforce with epoxy or tap for machine bolts, I think there would be argument for single backing plates on the deck hardware to spread the loads. Also if I were flying a genoa of three-hundred square feet on this hardware and were racing, pushing the limits of the hardware I would consider a completely different strategy. I’m not racing and the sail will never be large enough to cause these kinds of loads. The storm jib is half the square footage of the staysail and perhaps in hurricane winds I may see the tracks rip out and the winches shear. Let’s hope I’m smart enough to avoid winds above forty knots so I will never know the breaking strength of any of Satori’s rigging and hardware.

Three sails, three sheets to the wind
Three sails, three sheets to the wind

The Wind Turbine

Another one ticked off the list, and a big one. You see, the wind turbine is a benchmark for the charging system on Satori. It solves the biggest problem I have with living on a boat. It’s having enough power to allow a slightly bigger level of comfort. I have a backup generator in case I need to run a high-amperage AC appliance or in case the solar and wind components fail, but I don’t like to use it. It’s loud, it exhausts carbon monoxide, and it uses highly flammable gasoline to run. I will only keep a few gallons of gasoline on board for emergencies and to run the outboard for the tender. Satori should be able to keep up with the demand of her crew and supply electricity for navigation instruments, refrigeration, computers, gadgets, lights, and so on. So now she does, and I’m a happy sailor.

Testing the strut position
Testing the strut position

 

Perhaps the most challenging part of boat refits are getting it right the first time. I’m getting used to these projects, and feel like I’m getting better at making decisions. To get a wind generator installed, I needed a mast. To install a mast, I needed to modify the stern pulpit so it worked with the wind vane and supports the turbine mast. Before going any further I needed to figure out the circuit for providing a constant load, and proper circuit protection. Not exactly a simple circuit. There is a blocking diode involved to prevent the other charging components from feeding into the diversion circuit. The concept is slightly counter intuitive for me because I have always thought of a charge controller as a way to provide voltage to the batteries, controlled by monitoring the battery voltage and then shutting off once the charging is completed. That does not work with a wind turbine because it needs a constant load at all times. Fortunately someone has inventoried the entire boat circuit and determined the best component to keep under load. With an AC circuit, the hot water heater element is powered to a full 500 watts until the thermostat’s maximum temperature is achieved, then turned off until the temperature drops to the minimum set temperature, then cycled back on again to keep the water heated at a constant temperature. When you use 12 volt to heat the water, it can heat to 500 watts, but that would be a load equivalent of 41 amps. The turbine charging system takes the AC/DC heating element as the diversion load and dumps any excess energy after the batteries are charged to heat hot water. Unless I am not using any electricity, there is little chance of the hot water ever being heated to beyond 110 degrees. That would require thirty knots of wind blowing for a few hours to achieve such a temperature. To achieve the maximum hot water temperature that the plumbing system can handle, it would need to remain constant for up to eight hours or more. The maximum temperature for the hot water tank and PEX tubing is two-hundred degrees, which likely takes more energy than the charging system could ever achieve.

Stud fuse
Stud fuse

When researching wind turbines, I noticed a big difference between each unit. Output, quality, durability, and noise levels were all something to consider. I began with the only unbiased test that I believe has ever been documented on the internet. After spending some time researching prices, I decided to call Hotwire Enterprises to ask some questions about their KISS turbine. Before I had even made a decision, I had discovered that Dave had a few units sitting around his shop that he was planning on selling for much cheaper than the normal retail price. He offered half the price for a used unit but included the same warranty as his new units. Given their popularity and perhaps the best customer service and technical advice, I decided to go for it.

KISS turbine kit
KISS turbine kit

 

I had them send me the charge controller and diode first so I could get it installed and ready to run. The diversion load controller they offered was basically the same as my existing solar controller, except that the load rating is only 45 amps instead of 60 amps. I honestly think they are almost identical. Fortunately I had already learned how to program the unit with custom voltage settings, so I just needed to track down the serial cable I used for the solar controller. I first had to solder one of the wires back onto the serial plug after seeing that it broke off. Once I had my Macbook booted to Windows and the Morningstar software loaded, I was able to set the DIP switches on the unit and then turn the unit on by wiring it to the negative and positive bus bars. After setting the controller using the software, it was ready to accept any extra voltage that the battery did not need after being fully charged. I then only needed to install the heating element and then work on the turbine circuit separately.

Setting the Tristar controller using the diversion settings
Setting the Tristar controller using the diversion settings

 

A couple of days later the turbine was delivered with everything I needed to install the unit, minus the support struts and fuse. I bought the additional parts Fisheries Supply and began assembling the unit. The first step was just fitting the unit with the blades installed to make sure that the backstay did not interfere with the turbine blades. There was a clearance of about five inches, which was perfectly acceptable. The next step was to get the support struts installed and make sure the turbine was supported properly. I was lucky that the six-foot poles fit perfectly without having to do any cutting. Not only that but they were lined up with the bimini support struts, which created a solid support structure. The next issue was figuring out how the PVC parts fit together. There were instructions that came along with the unit, but I still had a difficult time figuring it out. Finally after reviewing how they fit together and were secured to the mast, I had a plan to make the final install. I only needed to drill a couple of holes through the PVC insert and stainless pipe. At first the set screws interfered with the contact slip rings, which allows the unit to spin in circles without having to worry about resetting after too many revolutions. Then the set screws interfered with the turbine housing. After some jiggery-pokery I had the unit installed without the blades attached. The next step was getting the unit wired to the positive and negative buses. I had some Triplex ten-gauge wire left over from my winter project that allowed me to run the wire through the deck-to-hull joint and then finally to the control box. Another Duplex ten-gauge wire went to the positive and negative buses, through a forty-amp terminal fuse. Finally, I installed the blades being careful to smother the bolt threads in Lanacote to prevent corrosion from the stainless bolts and alloy spindle indifference. It just so happened that the winds were just starting to pick up and within fifteen minutes I was watching the turbine spin, generating a few amps of electricity!

Turbine Circuit
Turbine Circuit

 

So far I have determined a few things, just from the short period of wind; First, the unit needs about twelve knots of wind just to get turning. Once it’s spinning, it needs a constant ten knots with an occasional gust to twelve to keep it going. The unit begins generating approximately two amps, then increases as the winds pick up. Once at fifteen knots, I could see five amps of charge on the battery monitor. The unit is perfectly quiet. Not silent, but also not loud enough to care. Even my dock neighbor commented on how quiet the unit was, considering how much it was spinning. I related it to the same as a household ceiling fan. Because there are no friction parts (like in an automotive alternator), there is only the sound of the fan blades cutting into the wind, and the vibration of the pole from the vibration that the unit causes. The vibration could be dampened a little, but seems insignificant to me. As far as I’m concerned, the turbine is going to work out nicely. I am not certain that it will keep up with my demand for electricity, but only time will tell. At the dock it is difficult to tell because I’m in a wind protected location, with a thousand masts between Satori and the open water. While sailing I imagine that it will be spinning at all times. While motoring, it will not make any difference. While at anchor, I will have a combination of solar and wind to keep the batteries charged. I really doubt I will have to use gasoline to charge the batteries. Perhaps to travel between anchorages in the San Juan Islands, but even that does not matter. I’ve got bigger plans.