5/16/2014 – Reasonably productive day

My goal was to get one sail off today before the wind piped up.  So, as soon as I got to the yard, I changed in to my grubby work shorts, stuck some pliers and a multi-tool in the pockets, rigged up my safety harness and climbed the mast.  Man!  This is when I really love mast steps.  Yeah, they snag the main halyard sometimes but not often enough to make me regret installing them.  Up to the top of the mast I went.  Once I got there, I hooked the halyard to the head of the sail.  For those that don’t know, the Spin-Tec furler system does not leave the halyard connected but rather, shackles the head of the sail to the furler.   If I ever have to get the jib down in ugly weather, I’m going to regret going this route but so far, it’s been OK.  Anyhoo, I connected the halyard, mainly so that, if the sail hung up on its way down and had to be lifted a bit to clear the hang-up, I’d have a way to do it.  As it turns out, no problemo.  As soon as the shackle was off, the jib slid down the foil like it was late for an appointment.  Climbed back down, removed the sheets and halyard from the sail, folded it up and bagged it.  And it wasn’t even 9:00 yet.  No wind to speak of, so let’s do the staysail, too.  Again, it all went slicker than snot.  And considering this is the first time the headsails have been off since I installed the furlers back in 2009, it all went so much better than I hoped.

On a roll now, so might as well do the main.  Don’t have to raise it to remove it.  I thought I was going to be slick and just start stuffing the furled sail into the sail bag.  But, it wasn’t really going that well.  And then I remembered the battens.  Oops.  Removed the four battens and the sail stuffed into its bag, along with the sail cover.

Looking for the sail bags, I found the winch covers Lulu had made for our old sheet winches as well as the tiller cover.  The winch covers fit our new Lewmar self-tailers beautifully and should help protect the plastic jaws from the sun.


I had to remove a couple of chocks (for the windvane) from the tiller but, after I did that, the cover fit like a glove.


At this point it was late morning.  I decided that this would be a good day to remove the running rigging.  For you non-swabs, the running rigging is the name for all the lines that are used to control the sails.  Halyards, the lines that are used to raise the sails are part of the running rigging, as are the sheets, the lines used to pull a sail in or let it out as needed.  Anyway, all of our running rigging needs to be replaced but that’s not a good reason to let it sit out in the sun and break down. I might have a use for those lines later so I’d just as soon keep them fairly decent.

Removing the sheets is no big deal.  Just untie them from the sails, unwind them off the winches, and wrap them up.  However, it seemed to me like a really good idea to label stuff. Sure, right now I know which line is which, but will I remember in a year, maybe longer?  I’m sure I’d get it all sorted out but why stress myself out when labeling is so easy?


If you’re particularly keen-eyed, you may have noticed that on the Main halyard tag there is an arrow.  The arrow is not one of those “I’m with Stupid” things.  It’s not trying to fool you into thinking that the white w/green line is actually the main halyard.  No, it’s notifying me that there is more information on the back of the tag.  But the front says “Main halyard”.  That pretty much says it all, right?  What else is there to tell?   Well, friends, that leads us to a little confession.

The halyards all go over sheaves at the top of the mast.  Now, if we were to just pull the halyards down, someone (that’d be me) would have to climb the mast to re-run the halyards when it was time to commission the boat again.  Nobody wants to climb up there if they don’t have to and, fortunately, they don’t have to.  Just attach a small line to the end of the halyard.  This is so common that the small line has a name: it’s called the messenger.  The messenger is left in place of the halyard and can be used to pull the halyard back over the sheave when it’s time to.  Just like that wire I used to pull speaker wires through the dodger frame.  Same deal.  This is the first time I’ve done this so I guess that’ll be my excuse.  I figured there’d be almost no real tension on the lines so how secure did the messenger need to be?  As it turns out, maybe a little more secure than I made it.  You see, I just, and I’m very embarrassed to have to admit this, I just taped the messenger alongside the halyard.  Even used blue tape so there’d be no messy adhesive when the tape was removed.  I mean, c’mon, there was going to no tension on the damn thing!  And I didn’t want to make a big stiff junction that I’d have trouble leading over the sheaves from down below.  So, I laid the messenger alongside the halyard and wrapped a couple pieces of blue tape around them both and started hauling the halyard/messenger up.  Must have been just about the time the junction reached the sheaves that the tape job failed because, all of a sudden, with no warning at all (because there was no tension, dammit!!!) , the halyard and the messenger both rained down on my head.  And they were no longer connected.  The tape was still in place on the halyard but the messenger just pulled right out of it.  Crappage!

Decided to take care of the rest of the halyards before I re-rove the main.  This time I went overboard.  I used my marlinspike to “bore” a hole right through the end of the line, crossways.  Then I fed the messenger through the hole and tied a bowline.  Well, obviously that held.  However, I did have to go aloft again because the sheave for the whisker pole “line” (I’m drawing a blank here, swabs.  What do you call the line that you use to lift the outboard end of the whisker pole?  Uphaul?  That doesn’t sound right.).  Anyway, the sheave is a cheap POS that needs to be replaced.  The messenger, being much smaller than the line, got caught between the sheave and the stamped metal cheeks of the block so I had to go aloft to fix it.  However, that was only up as high as the spreaders so I only consider it 1/2 a trip.  So, let’s see.  Two trips aloft to lower the headsails and then a half a trip for this, so that’s two and a half trips up the mast so far today.  And look.  I remembered to label my messengers.


Will those paper labels still be there when we get back?  Probably not.  But I tied off the messengers to the same places that the lines they represent go so it shouldn’t be too tough to figure it all out.

So now, back to the main halyard.  I decided that I wasn’t going to put it off.  I just climbed right back up to the top of the mast with the messenger.  However, once I got there, things didn’t look quite like I thought they would.  Seems that, instead of a single sheave, the line runs through two sheaves in series.  What I mean by that is, picture the mast being 6″ thick, front to back.  Now, you’d either need a 6″ diameter sheave up there or, as is the case, two sheaves, each slightly smaller than 3″ diameter, set one behind the other.  Still not a huge deal except that there’s all this stuff in the way.  Little things like the backstay and the forestay, items that are necessary to keep the mast standing up.  I just could NOT feed that limp messenger through the sheaves to come out the other side.  So, I climbed back down.  One thing I don’t do when aloft is waste a lot of time on things that won’t work.  It’s not that comfortable up there.

So, what to do?  Well I figured all I needed was something long and stiff (STOP IT!) and skinny that I could use to thread the messenger through.  I found a couple of cooking skewers and figured one of them might be just the ticket.  So, back up I went with my “needle and thread”.  But once I got back up there I found that it wasn’t that easy. There are just too many obstructions to be able to feed the skewer straight in.  I bent it so I could get it started but the problem was that, in order to bend it far enough so it would feed in, it had to be bent so far that, instead of going over the top of sheave #1 and then over the top of sheave #2, it, instead went over the top of sheave#1 and then proceeded to go down between #1 and #2.  Back down I climbed.  And that, friends, is where it stands as of now. The arrow on the Main Halyard tag points to a note on the back that says “No Messenger : ( “.  I’m hoping to come up with a solution so that I can cross that note out but if not, it’ll be there waiting when we get back in a year or so.

So, anyone got any great ideas?  I need something sort of stiff but still flexible.  Something like a sail batten except thinner.  I might be able to do it with a piece of wire but I’d like to limit the number of trial and error mast climbs I need to do.  Up and down four and a half times today.  I’d like to just have one more round trip.

I had to quit at about 1:00.  I’d forgotten how it is in the hot and dry yard.  The only water I had was maybe a total of a pint in a couple of bottles on the boat.  There’s a vending machine that sells soda and I did have one but that doesn’t really quench the thirst.  As it was getting close to 1:00 I was beginning to get a headache and was very thirsty.  So I buttoned things up and headed to the store.  Bought one bottle of water for immediate consumption and immediately consumed it.  Also bought a couple of 5L jugs to put on the boat so I’ll have something to drink.  Sheesh!

At the rate things are going, I expect to finish up on Monday.


About sryoder

Steve & Lulu... retired. Had enough of the cold wet dreary fall/winter/spring in the Pacific Northwest. Bought a boat, fixed it up, sold our home and sailed to Mexico in November, 2010. Been here ever since except for occasional forays to the States (summer only, thank you) to visit the kids, parents and siblings. If you're looking for a sailing blog, this is the wrong place. This is a traveling, hunkering in, eating blog. Sailing is just how we get from place to place when we can't walk.
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8 Responses to 5/16/2014 – Reasonably productive day

  1. jamesdane says:

    Bring a piece of stiff line with a hoop in the end. Feed that in from one side. Now bend a hook in the skewer, or a piece of coat hanger wire, and fish from the other side trying to catch the loop. With a little luck you can pull the line on through. Just a thought and good luck.

    • sryoder says:

      Thanks, Jim. I’ll give it a shot. But your comment hit my funny bone when you mentioned “a piece of coat hanger wire”. Do you know how long it’s been since there’s been a coat hanger of any kind on either Siempre Sabado or Flipper? Funny how something that is so common in one setting can be so uncommon in another. I think, that if I can find just the right wire or piece of plastic, I can push it all the way through and do all the hooking up outside the mast. Just have to find the right piece. A coat hanger might be just the ticket. There must be something on the boat that’s similar.

  2. Steve, I have used about a foot of bicycle chain on the end of my messenger line. it is flexible so that it will go around the sheaves, is heavy enough to fall through the mast without hanging up and is magnetic so that you can catch it with a magnet where it exits the mast.

    This is how I installed a new halyard on the Cal 34 and it was reasonably painless.

    Sounds like a pretty productive day at any rate.

  3. SailVivacia says:

    Steve, how about one of those very long black or white plastic wire ties? Use a piece of thread through the hole in one end to tie the messenger line to the wire tie. It should be flexible enough to go around the obstructions on sheave #1 but will straighten out once through in order to go over sheave #2. It could work…

    • sryoder says:

      Now that’s a great idea and I even discovered two bags of them on board when I was cleaning the garage. They’re almost 24″ long. Should work great. Thanks!

  4. Up and down and up and down…. a real yo yo man. Knock off the “n”, swap the ukelele for a cello and your in business!
    Boom, it just struck me… why not use an old uke/guitar string. Having a 3 string uke would be less embarrassing than a boat without a coat hanger?!? (just jiving while jealous of your mast steps).

    • sryoder says:

      Right now I could use any one of 4 uke strings since they’re not doing the uke any good. Seems the hot, dry temps finally got to the glue. The bridge snapped off while I was playing one day. And I wasn’t even thrashing! Taking her back to the US for repairs. But you’re right, a uke string might work although I think I’ll give the previously suggested long zip tie a try first. And Lulu informed me that we have some really long pipe cleaner type things stashed away in the boat. They might work as well. All these choices, already on the boat, and all I had to do was ask the great collective brain of my readers to lead me in the right direction.

      I got a sweet deal on my mast steps at a boat junk consignment shop in Bellingham, WA. They are powder-coated aluminum and sitting in a box. Someone had had them made and then never used them. I think they cost me around $6.00 per step. Money well spent.

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