Rigging: Day One

Once the boat is at the boatyard, and I should point out here that I am very fortunate to have a good relationship with a remarkable yard; the rigging begins. This usually takes two to three days. The mast, topmast, boom and gaff come down with the boat on the hydraulic trailer. I bring down the first load of rigging in my truck and tow the bowsprit and dinghy on a trailer. Once at the yard, the fun begins. The first step is to run the standing rigging for the mast. With the main shrouds and stays attached, the topmast is shipped and held in place with a large fid, the backstays and topmast head-stay are run and running backstays go on last. Next connect masthead light and steaming light and then it is time to start the running rigging. There are seven halyards (not counting flag halyards) that all have to be run and tied off to something at the base of the mast. With all of the lines run, blocks moused, and the lights checked, it is time to attach the whisker stays, footropes, and bobstays to the bowsprit. When that job is completed and checked, it is time for the crane.

bowsprit shipped

              We ship the bowsprit first, which is a good warm up for the mast. The main mast is a solid piece of fir from Roque Island, Maine, thirty-seven feet long and ten inches in diameter at the widest part, and while the topmast is hollow, the combined length is fifty-seven feet. Add the weight of the rigging, and the whole is both a very heavy and awkward load. It is a testament to the skill and experience of the yard crew at Kittery Point Yacht Yard that they always make stepping the mast look easy. I will admit that the specter of the masts and rigging suspended over the hull always makes me a little lightheaded.

lifting the mast

              The next step is to run the lanyards from the main shrouds through the deadeyes and tighten by hand. Then the mast wedges ate placed loosely by hand. The combination of these two evolutions steadies the mast so that the crane can be cast off.  The last operation involving the crane is the shipping of the thirty-two foot boom, again a solid spar. At this point, the crane can move on to the next job and I can start craning my neck and sorting the rigging. The connections of mast stays, bobstays, and whisker stays to the bowsprit is more complicated than it appears because they all pull against one another, so they must all be slacked, connected, and then gradually adjusted so that the tensions of the many stays all balance each other. With this job done, the main shrouds can be bowsed, and the mast wedges driven home.
              Halyards are sorted next and made fast to their respective pins, cleats, or bits. It is at this point that the rig begins to look like something other than a tangle of lines. Using the main throat and peak halyards, the gaff is lifted into place above the boom, and tied off temporarily. The topping lifts are untangled at this juncture and run to the main bail on the boom which secures the gaff and keeps it in place.
              And there you have it, the boat is ready to go down the ways since I usually run the sheets, downhauls, and bend on the sails with the boat in the water, but that happens on day two.

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