When you think about it, aeroplanes don’t go flying about with 50-year-old wings, do they?
The question came up while standing beside Tony Jones’s mobile rigging workshop with Samsara’s mast laid out horizontally. Tony was explaining how the sheave assembly at the bottom had dropped out in front of his eyes, the headsail furling gear had disintegrated in his hands and what really puzzled him was how I had managed to hoist the main – there being nothing left of the bearing at the top.
But a 50-year-old mast – built in the days when they were just starting on metal masts – would, he insisted, be good for another 50 years.
Particularly once we’d epoxied a steel plate in the place where there was currently a gaping hole.
Tony doesn’t believe in replacing stuff that doesn’t need replacing – as evidenced by his ”Mobile Rigging Service” – an ancient Mercedes van which hasn’t moved from its corner of Conwy Marina car park in living memory.
The rig was going to be another aspect of the Big Refit: A new Profurl system (Tony thought the new model Furlex looked a bit flimsy). Then there was new standing rigging, new halyards. He even talked me into a new VHF aerial combined with a Windex – “although we’ll have to move your little man”.
- Well, as long as you put him back facing to starboard. He has to face to starboard, or he doesn’t work.
The Lego Man is now leaning at a crazy angle. I can’t see why it should make him any less effective. If you want to know how a Lego figure dressed as a pirate and with the ship’s name across his chest comes to be at the top of the mast, you’ll have to read https://oldmansailing.com/lightning.
But there’s not much point in new rigging if it’s attached to old fastenings. I’d been carrying around the deadweight of the new deck bolts for a year – a fellow-member of the Rival Owners Association had been given a quote for fabricating new ones, and the owner of the machine shop explained: “Of course, they’d be cheaper if you had half a dozen sets all at once – or a hundred would be cheaper still…”
He never did get a hundred takers, but there must have been about a dozen of us who chipped in. But was it really necessary to go up from 10mm to 12? They’re massive.
Actually, this didn’t seem to be such a bad idea when I removed the old ones, and one of the nuts turned out to be cracked right across.
Then we got at the chainplates. If you know your Rivals you will recognise that these come in two parts – one each side the main bulkhead and they’re designed to be bolted together to squeeze the wood between them and it’s the friction as much as the bolts themselves which is supposed to stop them moving.
On each side, one of the plates has a flat top like the figure 7. This is to take the deck bolt.
Except some extra strain by some daft skipper holding on to too much sail for too long (not me – never me, of course) had caused the 3mm steel to bend so that the flat tops of the 7s were now angled awkwardly upwards.
We took them to Richie.
Richie Williams runs a metal workshop out of a cowshed in Glenadda. It hasn’t had much attention since the cows moved out, but Richie can do marvels with metal. He once replaced the bushes on my self-steering without having the slightest idea of what it was or how it was supposed to work.
The new chainplates are 5mm, and the flat tops are reinforced with what somebody decided to call “gussets”. I don’t think they’re likely to bend – although I mustn’t delete the picture of the old ones. Maybe it will help me see reason when I get over-enthusiastic about beating into a Force Seven – even if I do now have an extra layer of chopped strand mat on each side of the bulkhead.
And yes, the mast is up again – and it has taken me from North Wales to Amsterdam where, yesterday I painted over the epoxy rather in the manner of a crone applying make-up with a trowel.
Nobody at Sixhaven marina (a third of the price of St Katherine’s) has said anything. Indeed, I have even had some compliments – there’s no point in going to all this trouble if you don’t get compliments…