rigging Archives – Salty John : The Blog

Drooping is not usually a good thing. You don’t want drooping bits. You especially don’t want drooping spreaders. Drooping spreaders are a symptom of a rig in distress, a rig on the road to catastrophic failure.

Perky upward pointing spreaders are what you want. Perky spreaders have tips that bisect the angle of the shrouds that pass over them. In this way the load on the spreader is even and the spreader is disinclined to be pushed up or down, slackening the shroud and threatening the integrity of the whole rig.

Spreaders come in lots of shapes and configurations: The racier boats have spreaders with aerofoil sections, like little aircraft wings, to reduce wind resistance. Cruising boats tend to have longer spreaders to give a broader based rig, sacrificing sheeting angle for better mast support. Old fashioned cruising boats under about 45’ tend to have single spreader rigs, for the sake of simplicity, whilst more modern boats with relatively taller masts adopt multiple spreaders at shorter boat lengths. Spreaders can be fixed at the mast or fully articulating and they come with a variety of methods of attaching the shroud to the spreader tip so it doesn’t jump out. But whatever the spreaders design, droopiness must be avoided at all costs – check your spreaders now!

A word of caution: Once you become an aficionado of the perky spreader your marina dock strolls will take on new meaning, your eye will be inexorably drawn aloft in search of droopers with the attendant risk of an early bath or a broken toe.

There has been  renewed interest in my blog on emergency rigging cutters since the subject was raised again during a forum discussion on the Yachting Monthly Crash Test Boat project.

The Crash Test Boat is a brilliant exercise in which YM has acquired, through an association with Admiral Boat Insurance and a range of other sponsors, a clapped out Jeanneau Sun Fizz 40’ ketch to do with as they wish. We’ve had reports on running the boat aground and on what happens when the boat is rolled through 360º. For the capsize event they put cameras inside the boat to give a horrified-crewmember-view of things and the film is on their website. Fantastic!

Now they’re looking at losing the mast and following a sneak preview of this issue on the magazine’s forum an enthusiastic thread developed. One of the points raised was the problem of cutting away the rigging to clear the decks and secure the mast with a couple of people pointing out the same issues I raised in the blog a while back. It will be interesting to see what conclusions the Crash Test Boat team came to.

Don’t just assume your cutters or bolt croppers will handle 1 x 19 stainless wire, get a sample of your wire and try them out! If they struggle to make the cut head for the Salty John website and get yourself a set of Baudat KS10’s  (pictured).

There is more to turnbuckles than meets the eye and not all turnbuckles are created equal.

Turnbuckles, or rigging screws, are used to tension the stays and shrouds on your sailboat rigging. They comprise a body into each end of which is screwed a threaded rod. One rod has a right hand thread, the other a left hand thread – when you rotate the body both rods move towards or away from the body at the same time, tightening or loosening the stay. Did you know that the right hand thread should be at the top? This means that when you turn the turnbuckle body anti clockwise the stay tightens.

The lower rod connects to the chainplate and the upper rod connects to the rigging wire. They do this via various fittings including T-ends, jaws, clevis pins and machine swages. These details are beyond the scope of this current blog, but I should say that articulation is the key. If your joints don’t articulate they can break.

The body of the turnbuckle can be open (left of picture) or closed. A closed turnbuckle body looks smooth and tubular but it can trap water and dirt in the lower end and this can lead to corrosion; it is also difficult to tell how much ‘bury’ there is left on the rod ends – always comforting to know your turnbuckles aren’t hanging on by a single thread. Closed body turnbuckles have a check nut on the threaded rod to lock it against the turnbuckle body – this avoids the need for cotter pins or ring pins to stop the turnbuckle unscrewing itself.

Open body turnbuckles bare all – you can see the rods and how much of their thread is engaged. You need to pin them to stop the turnbuckle unscrewing and you then need to tape over the pin to prevent it snagging on a sail. Bandit™ tape is ideal for this because it is non-adhesive and doesn’t leave a sticky mess when you remove it to adjust the rig.

To adjust an open body turnbuckle you can turn it by hand or with a screwdriver inserted through the body opening, or you can use a spanner (that’s a wrench if you’re reading this across the pond). With a tubular closed body turnbuckle that is too stiff to turn by hand you can use a special tool that fits into the hole in the centre of the body.

Whether you have open or closed body turnbuckles you need to think carefully about the material from which they are made. On the face of it stainless steel would appear to be most fit for purpose but you’d be wrong. Stainless threads suffer from a condition called galling, and it is pretty galling I can tell you, in which the threads jam when heavy load is applied. A much more satisfactory arrangement is a combination of a silicone bronze body and stainless threaded rods. This is a non-galling combination.

Wow. That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about turnbuckles.

This time of year in the more temperate sailing areas, such as here in the UK, boats are being launched and the first trips of the year have been undertaken. For us here at Salty John it means the start of the Loos & Company tension gauge season.

Having the correct rig tension is important because a loose rig can impart shock loads to shrouds and chainplates as the mast flops from side to side; a too tight rig can cause structural damage.

A well tuned rig will have equally tensioned shrouds so that the boat will perform well on both tacks, the leeward shrouds won’t dangle flaccidly and the forestay won’t sag. She’ll feel right on all points of sail.

You don’t need a tension gauge to set up the rig – there are methods whereby you can measure the change in length of the shrouds and stays as the turnbuckles are tightened, and there’s always the tune your rig like a guitar technique. But the Loos tension gauge gives you a quick, accurate, check and that will encourage you to test often, making sure all is well. For racers who set their rigs to suit the prevailing conditions a Loos gauge is an important tool in their race-winning armoury.

There are Loos gauges for wire rigging from 2.5mm to 10mm and for rod rigging of all sizes.

So, you can’t tuna fish but you can tune a rig; get yourself a gauge.