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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #1  
Old 12-28-2006
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Stays .. Losing Your Mast ...

Another question for the forum.

In what ways can you kind of "armor" your rigging so that there is less chance of losing your mast if a stay breaks ? I've always thought that it was dangerous trusting four cables to hold up the mast, any of which could fail and cause the mast to lose a critical support and come crashing down. So what can be done about that ? Can you put backup stays on your boat in case it gets knocked down or something so you will have a better chance of keeping your mast if some of your rigging hardware breaks ? What methods do people use to provide a little extra insurance ?

The only thing I remember reading that answers this question at all is Tania Aebi's first book where I think she said she used a spare halyard (?) to provide a little extra protection, but I can't remember the details and I don't even know for sure that is what she wrote. But I think it is, she may have even given the halyard credit for saving her mast when she was in a collision in the Med (?)

Any other ideas for having some kind of a backup so that there aren't single points of failure ?
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Old 12-29-2006
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Hi W_M,

Here's one way you can do it - real belt and braces stuff on my Cape Carib - a Ted Brewer designed Douglas 32 derivative built here in Hong Kong:
(Click on the image to see a larger version)

Twin forestays, twin back stays, upper shrouds and twin lower shrouds - all on a 32 foot boat with only a 40 foot - or so - mast!

cheers!

Blue Eagle
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Old 12-29-2006
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Blue Eagle,

Now that's what I'm talking about, right there. I'm lovin it. Do those twin lower shrouds get in the way at all of the boom or foresail when you are sailing ? It looks like one is on either side of your upper shrouds and they just slide past your spreaders on either side straight up to the top of the mast, is that how it is ? Or do they connect somewhere else ? I guess there isn't anything especially magical about attaching them at the top of the mast.

You know .. I have another question too, have you learned to tune all of this rigging yourself ? I assume it is something that can be learned but I have not ever done it and I have been wanting to learn. I would love to end up with a setup like yours and have the ability to be able to fix it myself, change out a frayed stay, etc, and feel in my heart that it was as good a job as I was able to do. But I don't know what all is involved in that ... maybe the mast has to be "just so" (100% vertical) and the stays have to have exactly so much tension, etc, and I really don't know how you would even check that except by using an experienced hand that just knows how it's supposed to feel when you pull on it.

It isn't obvious from your pictures how all of your rigging attaches to the mast, could you say a little bit about that ? For example those two backstays, they go up in an inverted "V" and attach at the top of the mast somehow, do you use a standard kind of hardware to do that ?

I'm lovin your boat. Thanks for the response.

Edited ... Thinking about it, maybe I do have some idea how you could tune the rigging yourself and change out a stay on a boat like that. I mean you know where the mast is, what angle you want it to be at, etc, so you could use drawings and math to give you the desired lengths on the various bits of standing rigging. If it is the right length, it's right. Then it comes down to making sure the tension is right ... which I have no idea how you do that. Is that about right ?

Also I did see in one of your pictures that the rigging on the sides were going up past the spreaders towards the top of the mast. So in totally you have, let me think ... 12 cables up at the top of the mast ? How did you attach them all, with what hardware ?

Last edited by wind_magic; 12-29-2006 at 06:41 AM.
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Old 12-29-2006
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Windmagic,
There was a good article on rig tuning in Good Old Boat last summer; it'll give you most of what you need to know. You'll need to pick up a Loos tension guage. They are available from west marine, etc and be sure to get the one, of two offered, for your diameter wire rope.
Most offshore boats carry a spare stay/shroud of the longest length employed on the vessel along with Sta-lok or other fiege type fittings so that they can fabricate a new piece of standing rigging if necessary. But that is done after they stabilise the situation, if possible, usually using a halyard.

Before you embark upon doubling up your rigging I think you should consider that most boats are amply rigged as built and there is much more to such a project than just running some extra "wires". Assuming that your chainplates, tangs, turnbuckles, and such are in good shape you should not have a problem in most weather. Most sailors endeavor to take measures to reduce the strain on the rigging long before it's safe working load is exceeded. Anotherwords, the conditions where you part a shroud or stay are likely to be quite severe and the loss of your mast, while undesirable, may be unavoidable and possibly incidental to survival. Have a pro at your local yard look over your standing rigging and make recommendations, then go sailing.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailaway21
Windmagic,
There was a good article on rig tuning in Good Old Boat last summer; it'll give you most of what you need to know. You'll need to pick up a Loos tension guage. They are available from west marine, etc and be sure to get the one, of two offered, for your diameter wire rope.
I'll definitely check into it, thanks for the pointer!

Quote:
Most offshore boats carry a spare stay/shroud of the longest length employed on the vessel along with Sta-lok or other fiege type fittings so that they can fabricate a new piece of standing rigging if necessary. But that is done after they stabilise the situation, if possible, usually using a halyard.
I've never actually faced this situation, but I had assumed that any kind of a situation bad enough to break a stay is going to send the mast crashing. I mean how could it even stay up if it's only backstay for example is broken ? There would be nothing holding it there except maybe the weight of the boom. Seems like it would already be too late and that any real protection you are going to give it needs to be there before, not after.

Quote:
Before you embark upon doubling up your rigging I think you should consider that most boats are amply rigged as built and there is much more to such a project than just running some extra "wires".
I don't understand why, no doubt I am just not thinking it through well enough. But you've got your deck there, and so long as you have a strong enough attachment point on deck and strong enough on the mast, why wouldn't you just be able to run the extra wires ? I mean I realize it would change the tension on your existing rigging, probably be harder to tune. Maybe you would have to reinforce the area under the mast to allow for the heavier load. I am having trouble seeing downside to it except for the expense in terms of time and money to get the extra "wires" up there in the first place. What would be bad about extra rigging ? They get in the way of something that I haven't thought of ?

Quote:
Assuming that your chainplates, tangs, turnbuckles, and such are in good shape you should not have a problem in most weather. Most sailors endeavor to take measures to reduce the strain on the rigging long before it's safe working load is exceeded. Anotherwords, the conditions where you part a shroud or stay are likely to be quite severe and the loss of your mast, while undesirable, may be unavoidable and possibly incidental to survival. Have a pro at your local yard look over your standing rigging and make recommendations, then go sailing.
I can kind of see what you are saying here, but my intuition (though inexperienced, and often wrong) is telling me more is better in this case. Not always, but in this case. I know that a lot of sailboats are built for "extreme conditions", but are those the same extremes that a blue water boat is going to be facing ? Same as a go anywhere type of a boat often has a steel or aluminum hull, I would think that a go anywhere boat would have stronger rigging. The "two is one, one is none" philosophy.

This is all of great interest to me right now, thank you for the thoughtful response.
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Old 12-29-2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wind_magic
I've never actually faced this situation, but I had assumed that any kind of a situation bad enough to break a stay is going to send the mast crashing. I mean how could it even stay up if it's only backstay for example is broken ? There would be nothing holding it there except maybe the weight of the boom. Seems like it would already be too late and that any real protection you are going to give it needs to be there before, not after.
I lost my headstay on a Chance 30-30 during a hurricane while I had a stormjib up and still kept the rig. I also lost the topmast backstay when I was the Sailing Master on Isabel which is a 100 ton gaff rigged West Country ketch (former cargo boat) from England. We were sailing from England to Spain in December and encountered bad weather. We also kept the rig and even made repairs during the storm.

It is possible to loose a wire and keep the rig but you donít need a spare wire. You can jury rig using the broken wire, wire clips and chain or lashings.
All the best,
Robert Gainer
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Old 12-29-2006
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Wind... You said...
"But you've got your deck there, and so long as you have a strong enough attachment point on deck and strong enough on the mast, why wouldn't you just be able to run the extra wires ?"

The fact is that most boats existing rigging attaches to strong points engineered in during the building. Simply attaching additional "wires" is not an option on most boats without a lot of extra work.
If you are really worried about this "dismasting" event I would suggest getting a boat with a split backstay and a cutter or solent rig so that the fore and aft loads are shared. Have an extra halyard on the front of the mast and clip it on to the base of one of your lifeline stanchions on the windward side of the boat and that will keep the rig upright if a windward shroud lets go. You have no worries about leeward shroud as there is no tension on them.
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Old 12-29-2006
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The halyard will be your emergency relief. Can't imagine adding shrouds to a boat not designed for them but, I suppose anything is possible.

We have Baby Fore-stay and (2) Back Stays. Not much to worry about. But it is amazing the ammount of force that the rig has to withstand.
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Wind Magic,
I suppose we should all ask, what type of boat are we talking about and what type of conditions do you sail in? Maybe your expecting to take a Flying Scot from Maimi to the Bahamas. In that case I to would be concerned. But if your using your boat for its intended purposes, as most have stated, you really should not have the problems that you foresee.
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Old 12-29-2006
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After 30 years of sailing, I'm still amazed by the ability of a spindly mast, held up by thin wires, to stand up to the stresses of strong winds and exccessive heeling, but the "more is better" philosophy can cause a lot of problems. The previous owner of my boat used oversized running rigging on my boat, and I've had to replace it because things didn't work as they should. For example, the oversized furling line overfilled the spool and caused it to jam before the sail was completely unfurled. The grossly oversized jib sheets didn't fit in the self-tailing winches.

The people who design boats know about these things, and they select components that are strong enough to withstand the loads with an ample margin for error.

Most boats are designed for either coastal cruising or bluewater cruising. The differences between them isn't just in the strength of the mast and rigging. The differences extend through every aspect of the boat's design and construction. You can't convert a coastal cruiser into a bluewater cruiser simply by strengthening the rig.

A bluewater cruiser is designed and built to withstand whatever the seas can hurl at it, within the limits of technology at the time of its design. You can add reinforcements to it, but everything that you add comes with a trade-off. When you add more standing rigging, you raise the boat's center of gravity, you increase the weight aloft, you increase the boat's windage, and you add stress to attachment points. All those things either degrade the boat's performance, or create a risk of overstressing it.

If your boat is a coastal cruiser, don't sail it in conditions beyond its design limitations. If you want to make long, bluewater passages, then buy a boat that is designed and built for it in the first place, and make sure it's in good repair.

I've never seen a mast fail when the boat was sailed in the conditions for which it was designed, and when the mast and rigging were well maintained. I know there are occasional exceptions, but every failure I've seen was traceable to inadequate maintenance, not to inadequate design.

Tania's approach makes sense, because, by using a spare halyard, she didn't add weight or windage that she wouldn't otherwise have.
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