March Minutiae

I thought I would take a break from shoveling snow this weekend and do a little pre-season boat work in the shop. Puttering in the shop at this time of year involves working on projects of lesser importance that none-the-less still need attention. One job that has become almost a ritual is the overhauling of the standing rigging.
        I have a system worked out that allows me to take sections of the standing rig into the shop and hang it along a series of hooks from the shop ceiling. I can then easily check all the splices, service, leathers and blacking. This is also a good opportunity to clean deadeyes, check lanyards, sand and repaint sheer-poles. This stuff is what holds up the mast, so it actually matters quite a bit. However, it is the sort of fussy work that requires patience, and I think there is a tendency with all ongoing projects to pay more attention to the big projects and to either belittle fussy work, or ignore it all together.

Rigging in the shop

        There are advantages to puttering away on the rig in a heated shop in March. Taking the small view, I gain some sense of accomplishment out of spending a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon, listening to the radio while checking shrouds for worn service without the physical effort of, let us say, shoveling four feet of snow off a roof. Taking the larger view, the few hours of fussing now may allow me to catch small problems, address them, and prevent them from becoming bigger problems later in the season.
         Sometimes the problems that I discover are really only borderline problems. For example, we have metal rings seized to the forward, starboard shroud that allow us to hang our ten-foot boathook in the rigging, out of the way but within easy reach.

Boat hook hanging in the rigging

         It turns out that the “solid brass” rings I bought were actually steel rings that had been brass plated. I noticed last season that they were beginning to rust quite badly. Now in the scheme of things this is not a big problem. The rings are brazed to a section of half tube (this time made out of real brass) and the tube is seized to a section of shroud that has been parceled and served. The service acts as an insulator so corrosion spreading to the shroud is unlikely, however, the hook on our boathook sits on the steel ring, and being of a softer metal, was showing signs of wear and was reacting to the ferrous metal. It would have been easy, and perhaps even appropriate for me to ignore this and move onto other projects. On the other hand, it only took an hour to take off the old ring, braze a new one onto the half tube, this time solid bronze, and re-seize the ring to the shroud.

New Boat Hook Ring

Seizing the new ring to the shroud

        I will give the new seizing three coats of blacking as I go along and check, mend and recoat the rest of the service with fresh blacking.

Applying new blacking

        If you are interested in more information on the rigging tools and the blacking I use for the standing rig; click on the “Friendship Sloop Newsletter Articles” page in the right hand column.

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