Winter Projects for Cruising

It’s been a typical Northwest winter, thankfully. The precipitation in December was perfect for laying a deep snowpack on the mountains. The torrential rains have exposed even the smallest leaks on Satori. The window to be outside on the weekdays are limited to early mornings and lunch breaks. Some days I run the Dickinson stove in combination with the space heater. Other days it’s warm enough just to keep the space heater running nonstop, but raining enough to keep me harvesting mildew on a weekly basis. Projects are still getting done, although a little bit slower than usual. I’m on track for a ocean sailing, and have still enjoyed a bit of cruising around the Salish Sea. I don’t venture very far from the marina because it’s cheaper to stay tied up to the dock, and it’s a quick trip to find the hardware I need to upgrade Satori. The lack of sun and inconsistent winds means having to charge the batteries from my engine, portable generator, or at the dock. It also means having to heat with diesel fuel, which is a much higher cost than electricity. I’m limited to how much data I can use while not connected to land based internet. I could pay more, but I don’t mind remaining here while I am still engrossed with boat projects. I have one more big project to finish and then I’ll try to head back to working while cruising. The boat project has been very slow, but the results will be rewarding once it’s finished. I am very close to having all of the rigging completely replaced, with only halyards and whisker stays remaining. Most of the winter projects are to prepare Satori for trade-wind sailing in the Pacific Ocean. If I was just sailing around the Salish, I wouldn’t need any of these modifications. I could wait until I get further south to complete these projects, but it’s probably better that I address them now while I have the money, resources, and time.

Snatch blocks for trysail or spinnaker sails
Snatch blocks for trysail or spinnaker sails
New bobstay
New bobstay

Immediately after finishing the engine project I went straight to getting an inventory, and gathering and estimates on new hardware for the boom. The hardware was pretty straightforward, but I was a little concerned about the load limits. I’m not very talented at this kind of math unfortunately.  I did a semi-calculated estimate on the loads, and chose hardware I thought suitable for the job. The winches were the easiest choice. I went for alloy drums but self-tailing in size 14. The self-tailing choice was because of my experience on the foredeck. Often you’re making three points of contact while using only one hand to adjust lines. One hand is keeping me balanced, while the other is doing the reefing. For the reefing blocks I decided to use Schaefer Series ,with a working load limit of 1500 lbs. They come with ball bearing sheaves which should reduce line friction, and make it easier to reef most of the way down before finishing with the winch. The rope clutches are Lewmar DC1 series, which has a working load limit of 1100 lbs. The blocks on either side of the boom equalize the load, so a combined working load of 3000 lbs. I have taken into consideration the square footage of the sail and the force being distributed by all of the sail slugs along the mast, combined with the three load points of the head, tack, and clew. The chances of the load ever achieving even half of the load limit of the blocks and rope clutches are pretty low I think.

Lewmar 14 self tailing winches with alloy drums
Lewmar 14 self tailing winches with alloy drums

I’ve decided to use Amsteel for the reefing lines to keep the lines as strong and durable as possible, plus to try out a special splice that seems to be perfect for reefing and topping lift lines. Instead of buying yacht braid (also known as double braid) of entirely polyester, I was able to obtain a fair amount of Amsteel for a third of the price, which enabled me to purchase dyneema chafe sleeve and have some really trick lines for about the same price as good quality yacht braid. Instead of having a rope sheath on the entire line, I decided to only use it for areas where I will be winching and inside of the rope clutch where it is locked closed. The bury splice I used is uncommon and very time consuming splice, but is also a great way to join a double braid to single braid. You must tease out four inches of the braided sleeve, then individually thread each length of the braid into the twelve-stranded core. I could buy some cheap yacht braid line and have been done much sooner but this method reduced friction when pulling down the clew of the sail, and prevents the sail from becoming chafed and worn from the line. The life of the line could be as much as a decade or more due to the UV resistance of Dyneema. Time and experience will determine if this is the most effective line system for reefing.

Ready to splice
Ready to splice
Amsteel with Dyneema chafe sleeve, bury splice
Amsteel with Dyneema chafe sleeve, bury splice
Complete bury splice
Complete bury splice

While working on the boom I decided to also address some other rigging that has been on the list for some time. I managed to install the running backstays for supporting the forestay when running downwind under staysail or storm jib alone. They are a simple splice with thimbles on either end, and attached to the mast tangs with quick links. It took some serious consideration to decide how to make the attachment to the mast. There are so many options, but none seemed as simple and bomber as a stainless quick link. On the bottom end I am using a basic 2:1 block system that leads fairly to the jib sheet winch for getting the proper tension. The standard attachment is to a tang at the bottom thru-bolt of the aft stanchion, which leads perfectly to the sheet winch. Many people seem to use fiddle blocks and a cam cleat to set the tension, but I decided to simplify the system and use a more simple way of how they will be deployed. When running downwind, the leeward side is where the sails are flying. To support the mast at the head of the staysail, you deploy the running backstay on the windward side. The only thing to be aware of is if the mainsail is in use, then you need to make sure the runners do not interfere with the boom coming around.

Running backstay
Running backstay

As part of the boom overhaul, I have replaced the topping lift using 1/4″ Amsteel. Instead of using a block on the boom end, I have opted for a low friction ring. This will help reduce any chafe on the mainsail, yet provide plenty of strength to support the boom or if I need to use the boom for lifting or stepping the mast. The original topping lift was a 2:1 setup, and nearly impossible to raise the boom with the mainsail already deployed. Even when I released the tension from the sail by easing the traveler and mainsheet, I still could not get the boom up to mate with the reefing cringle. The topping lift was also rigged on the opposite side of the boom from the reefing lines.  Now I no longer need to go back and fourth to manage the boom. I simply head to the windward side of the boom  and all of the lines for reefing and raising, or lowering the boom and shaking a reef are consolidated.

Amsteel topping lift with chafe sleeve for the masthead connection
Amsteel topping lift with chafe sleeve for the masthead connection

I have also decided to replace the sheet lead blocks with something more substantial. I’ve been pushing Satori quite hard and as part of the learning process, I’ve discovered that her original lead blocks are now insufficient. They were old Schaefer blocks, and one of the pins stops had already failed from the screw not being tightened properly. The new cars have more contact with the tracks, and spring loaded pin stop, and a much better setup for leading the sheets aft. I replaced the existing jib sheets, which now provide a very strong attachment to the clew via a soft shackle and eye splices on both sheet lines. I will keep the existing sheets as spares in case the new ones fail, or I need extra line for something else.

Gärhauer LLC-3 sheet lead cars
Gärhauer LLC-3 sheet lead cars

Last summer I attempted to adjust the mainsail  foot tension using the outhaul system that came with Satori. It was a simple external 3:1 system with steel wire that makes a few turns and then runs along one side of the boom to a block. The whole system was full of friction, and did not work properly. I replaced the wire with Amsteel line to reduce some of the friction, but that did not seem to work. I decided that the whole system was just not meant to be adjusted more than once, while at the dock. The foot of the sail stayed tight even in light winds, so the sail shape was compromised and the outhaul proved to be useless. After reviewing a few different options, I decided the best approach would be to remove the end cap to gain access to the inside of the boom. Then I would be able to cut the entrance and exit block holes and make the new outhaul completely internal. This would reduce the clutter along the boom to three lines on each side, and make the outhaul adjustment available at the gooseneck with a simple cleat to secure the bitter end. I used the Harken formula for a 6:1 advantage.

Harken 6:1 Outhaul
Harken 6:1 Outhaul
Internal outhaul system
Internal outhaul system

I asked friends and people online about cutting into my boom. “Simple”, they said. First I had to cut into the slide track so the block insert could fit through, then cut through the actual wall of the boom. Both cuts needed to be precise in width and length, but also allow the sheave pin rivet to clear. This meant I had to cut grooves to allow the sheave pin rivet to pass through the first cut, then slide forward a quarter inch, and finally slot the block into position. Before I made any cuts, I also had to figure out how to remove the end cap that had been attached to the boom for almost forty years. None of the screws came out with a screw driver, so they all had to be drilled out with a cobalt bit. When I installed the end cap, I just added one set screw to hold the cap in place. Next time getting the cap off will be cake.

Internal outhaul sheave just after completing the slot
Internal outhaul sheave just after completing the slot

Fortunately the internal rigging was pretty straightforward. I already had an attachment point inside the boom, using the mainsheet bail thru-bolt. The original install did not include a compression sleeve so I made sure to oversize the hole and install the sleeve with the outhaul rigging attached. The lines to secure the internal outhaul are spliced Amsteel. The handling line will be 5/16″ yacht braid. The attachment to the mainsail will also be Amsteel soft shackle and a velcro webbing strop to keep the pulling angle low and prevent any excess load on the foot sliders. Instead of repainting the boom, I decided to just clean up the work I did, apply zinc chromate on the raw aluminum parts, and paint with a semi glossy aerosol paint. I plan on removing the mast in the near future, so I will wait when I have a place and good weather so I can prep and paint the spars with more detail and permanence.

Completed outhaul system with a simple jam cleat near the gooseneck
Completed outhaul system with a simple jam cleat near the gooseneck

Installing the cheek blocks was pretty straightforward. I already had the set location from the previous reef turning blocks, so I just needed to tap the threads again and drill the additional holes. I marked the location on the opposing side of the boom, and then added the boom end blocks. The rope clutches and winches took 1/4″ fasteners, so I drilled the winches first so I could use it as a guide to leading each line fairly without causing interference. The rope clutches were mounted in a cascade with the top closest to the winch, and each preceding one further back. This allowed the lines to run fairly close together and prevented the clutches from sitting too high or too low on the boom. Because the winches are both right hand turn, the rope clutches on one side cascades up, but the other side cascades down. I’m glad I measured and checked the line routing instead of assuming that the rope clutches mirror on either side.

Rope clutches for topping lift and reefing
Rope clutches for topping lift and reefing

Back when I overhauled the bathroom and plumbing, I did not install a direct overboard for the toilet because everywhere in the Salish Sea seems to require a pump out. The few times I’ve pumped overboard have been when crossing the Straits where it’s legal and less of a chance of causing environmental harm. There is a proposed no discharge zone for the American Salish Sea, which includes the Strait of Juan de Fuca where I would normally cross to enter the San Juan Islands. Currently the law allows for discharging of waste three miles from land, so is very limited to most places in the American Salish Sea. While I’m here at Shilshole I pay for a weekly pump out, and stop off at the pump stations while cruising away from the marina. While passage making I want to be able to pump directly overboard, but also be completely safe and coast guard compliant. To be safe, I need to make sure the discharge still passes through a vented loop before passing through the boat. I also need to make sure that the junction from the vented loop does not pass effluent back into the toilet when pumping overboard, or allow the overboard system to pass into the holding tank. Finally I need to make sure the Y valve can be locked so it meets Coast Guard regulations. This means I have to use two Y valves; one for switching from holding tank to overboard, and the other to switch the flow that passes over the vented loop from the holding tank when pumping overboard, to the flow from the toilet. The cost was a little more than $120 to add a direct overboard, but now I have a very reliable and legal septic system.

Overboard discharge valve, showing the overboard selection
Overboard discharge valve, showing the overboard selection

I bought and installed a freshwater pump two years ago but the solid state variable speed sensor has already failed. It’s a Jabsco Sensor-Max 5 gph, 40 psi VSD pump and has been great for on demand water. The pump sensor couldn’t control the pump speed so the pump cycled on and pressurized the plumbing until the hot water pressure relief valve opened on the hot water tank (about 100 psi). I didn’t realize this until I observed the inline pressure gauge ramp during one of it’s malfunction cycles. Fortunately the whole system is pex so it can handle the pressure, but I’m losing a little bit of hot water every time this happens.  I bought a replacement pump, and am in the process of getting the old pump replaced or repaired under the three-year warranty. I hot swapped the pump with almost the same Jabsco pump (upgraded model) while I get the warranty squared away. Now that I have an exact spare in my inventory, I can use the diaphragm pump to run pressurized seawater for the galley and to wash/rinse above deck. I decided to remove the old manual freshwater pump from the galley sink, and replace it with a non-mixing faucet. This spring I will add a faucet hose connection in the cockpit so I can connect a hose and wash down the decks, clean the anchor and chain, or even clean up a mess from cleaning fish. I will also add a freshwater hose connection so I have both seawater and freshwater in the cockpit.

On demand freshwater and seawater faucets
On demand freshwater and seawater faucets

I have a few more tasks before the boom is completed. I need to add an additional boom bail for the preventer and soft vang. I need to add more fairleads to the boom to prevent the lines from sagging or catching on the dodger. I have the second reef lines to splice and install. Eventually I need to plug the original holes and repaint the boom. For now I will try out the new rigging, and make sure it’s all working the way I want it to. In the next couple of months I will replace all of the halyards, and that will complete the rigging overhaul. I replaced the bobstay, but still have the whisker stays and chainplates to replace. I will wait until I haul Satori out of the water to make it a simple project. The next wave of projects will not be until April or May, where I will put Satori on land, remove all of her bottom paint, and fair her hull. She will need to be smooth for her ocean voyage so she is able to reach hull speed and still sail at a reasonable speed in light winds. The deck drains will be repaired so they no longer leak inside of the boat. Finally her prop shaft will be overhauled and if my budget allows, I will install a feathering propeller to help reduce drag in the water. Until then I will peck away at many of the small project that need completion for blue-water sailing. We’re getting close to the left turn…

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