New and Old

Most of the rig on our friendship sloop is what is now called, perhaps euphemistically, “traditional.” In reality, this is a bit of smoke and mirrors. Sure we have the big gaff rig, no winches (too modern), deadeyes and lanyards, and a seemingly endless array of blocks, lines, hanks, and beckets that allow the deck gang to set, trim, and strike sails as the conditions warrant. Look deeper, however, and the compromises to modernity do begin to reveal themselves. Sails that are actually made of Dacron, stainless steel shrouds and stays, and even the occasional bit of plastic…yikes!
         In fact, one of the compromises that I have been perfectly willing to make involves a material that sounds like something used in some sort of medical implant: Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. This material is manufactured, and sold specifically to woodworkers to make parts for power tool jigs. It is incredibly tough and has a slippery surface that makes it particularly good for jig parts that need to be able to slide smoothly.
         One place I have used this high tech poly-stuff is on hatch slides. The main hatch had four bronze slides that did work, but that created a lot of wear on the wooden tracks in which they slide. The wear, in turn, caused the slides to stick. I replaced the track and at the same time replaced the slides with the high density jig stuff. The hatch now slides smoothly (almost too smoothly) and the wear has been all but eliminated.
         Another area that this material has worked out well has been in sheaves for blocks.  In particular, we were having a lot of difficulty with the jib-sheet blocks that are hanked onto the jib clew. The sheaves were very small in diameter and the bronze blocks themselves tended to foul in the mainstay. Tacking into a head sea has its own challenges without having to go forward and overhaul the jib sheets after each tack because either the blocks have fouled in the stay or the sheets refuse to slide through the blocks. As an experiment, I made up a pair of traditional bullet-blocks and stropped them onto the same thimble. I turned the sheaves out of the new-fangled jig stuff and hey-presto, the combination of traditional design and modern material did the trick.  


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