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Old 09-24-2012
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Re: 35 year old standing rigging - but rigger says it's ok

If you look at how a cable is rigged to a crane you'll notice that every connection is open.You can instantly tell when it begins to fail. Most states require that cranes undergo some type of inspection on a regular basis. I know a guy that worked at Bethlehem Steel Company in Baltimore and he said state inspectors were there at least once a month doing safety checks on heavy equipment. Same was true at Sparrows Point Shipyards.

My swage fitting on my 27 Catalina's forestay covered a completely severed cable. There was no rust, no indication that anything was wrong, and just prior to the forestay's failure we were sailing in 20-knot winds with a full jib on a beam reach. Within seconds of furling in the jib the 1/4-inch stainless cable parted inside the lower swage fitting and the jib-sail, roller furling system, etc... slid into the waters of Chesapeake Bay's upper reaches. Quick thinking and lots of luck resulted in being able to salvage the sail and system before any serious damage occurred. The sail and roller furler were lashed to the lifelines, the old jib halyard was quickly utilized to stabilize the mast to the bow, the main was folded up and secured and the engine was fired up and we were headed back to the marina - hoping no other rigging would fail during the 4-hour trip.

The rigging had been inspected by a certified and very reputable marine surveyor just a year prior to the forestay failure. The surveyor said "There's really no way of determining whether or not the rigging is OK. Without some very expensive X-ray equipment, there's no way of seeing inside the fittings, so they could be OK, or ready to fall apart and no one could determine which is the case." He did, however, suggest that the rigging be replaced because it was 30 years old and original equipment. He was right!
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