After lowering the mast on Sampaguita, my 1985 Flicka 20, disassembly was next. All was well until the shroud and stay tang assemblies. Even installed, I could see there was galvanic activity where the stainless steel tangs met the aluminum mast. Since the tangs share the same loads as the chainplates, and I would be removing and inspecting those, it made sense to do likewise with the tangs. The mast was 34 years old, and I suspected these assemblies had been together since then.
3/8″, stainless steel bolts with nylon, locking nuts, secured each tang assembly to the mast. These were removed with ease and looked great. However, the rest would not come apart with no obvious way to pry them.
The mast is a Kenyon spar and internet research turned up Rig-Rite as a vendor. Their website aided me in understanding the assemblies.
There was an aluminum compression tube spanning the inside of the mast. Inserted at each end of this tube, were stainless steel flange bushings that held the tangs. Finally, a stainless steel bolt held the assembly together.
I identified the stainless steel tangs as the “dog bone” type, which matched the shape. There was a commonly used flange bushing with these, which defined the size of the compression tube. The compression tube served three purposes. First, it prevented the mast from being squished from tightening the stainless steel bolt holding the tang assembly together. Second, it provided a large bearing surface for the assembly’s downward force on the mast wall. With aluminum on aluminum, this would mitigate galvanic corrosion on this high-stress area. Third, the stainless steel bushings fit snugly inside the tubing, holding the tangs and reducing the hole size. A lighter stainless steel bolt could then be used, reducing weight aloft.
After 34 years the stainless steel bushings, and the aluminum tube, dissimilar metals, had seized together. I came up with a plan, then called my local rigger to see what they thought. They were kind enough to spend five minutes talking it through, and they confirmed I was on the right track.
I heated the bushings on each side with a portable propane torch. I cycled through each one, three times, with 10 seconds of direct flame. Then, I sprayed Liquid Wrench on the assemblies and let them sit overnight.
I purchased a 6″ long, 1/4″ diameter, stainless steel bolt from my local hardware store. I inserted this through the bushing on one side of the assembly, into the compression tube. I placed it up against the inside edge of the bushing on the opposite side and gently tapped the bolt with a hammer. Checking that I wasn’t damaging the mast, I gradually increased the force. Eventually, it broke free of its bond, and I was able to tap the bushing out of the compression tube. With one bushing off, the rest of the assembly slid from the mast. In the end, I had to strike the bolt quite hard to break it free, but the compression tube did its job of protecting the spar. I repeated this procedure with the upper tang assembly, and it too came apart.
It was worth going the distance to inspect the state of both the assemblies and the mast. When I reassemble them, I will use new parts and add Tef-Gel, to inhibit corrosion and ease future repairs.
It’s time to do some work on the Sampaguita, starting with the mast. I had the mast down in 2014 for some minor work, but there will be a bit more going on this time around. The last time I lowered it, I had to ask for some help when it was about halfway down. This time I was able to do it by myself thanks to Bruce Bingham’s, The Sailor’s Sketchbook. While I do not own the book, a dock mate, Bruce (irony?) does. He was gracious enough to let me examine the procedure for lowering a mast (and take photos.)
I discovered the simple part of the procedure which I was missing the last time. I needed to purchase two Stainless-Steel rings for $1.74 and seize them to the shrouds at the tabernacle level. The rest was line work. I still had the wooden crutches from the previous lowering to hold the mast once it was down. I used old fenders as cushions, and I had to finesse “the landing” to avoid crushing the solar vent and the forward hatch.
The procedure is mostly prep and cleanup. It took a few hours to get everything ready. Then, about three minutes for the actual lowering. Finally, two or three hours of disassembling lines and wires and tidying up.
A was hoping to get a video, but it did not work out. Bruce offered to spot me while I did the procedure. I was keen on doing it alone if I could. He also worked crowd control. If you’ve ever done work at the dock before, you know that curious, good-natured, and well-intentioned neighbors will come around and start asking questions at the most inopportune times. Bruce handled this well so I could ignore them and focus on the task. In order to get a video, I would have needed a third person. “Three’s a crowd,” and I wanted to avoid crowds.
The photos above show how I rigged the lines for bringing down the mast. I used the boom as a gin pole, and the mast pivoted forward on the tabernacle.
The crutches and fenders used to finesse the soft landing are pictured below. The mast itself only weighs about 50 lbs, with maybe another 10-20 pounds of rigging aloft. I connected the jib halyard to the topping lift. The lift ran from a block at the far end of the bowsprit to the cockpit where I was controlling the maneuver. I pulled the mast forward using those lines until gravity could take over. Then I used the main sheet to control the lowering. This sheet is usually a four-part block and tackle, but since the mast is light enough, I took it down to two-parts as I needed the extra line for the full descent.
I considered writing an article on how to lower the mast but realized it would be like re-inventing the wheel. If you intend to lower a mast yourself, find a copy of Bruce Bingham’s, The Sailors Sketchbook. It gives clear step by step instructions and amazing sketches to support them. I don’t think I could do a better job. It is out of print, but you can still find copies of it on the internet or maybe your local used book store. See if you can buy it someplace other than Amazon. Or find a neighbor who has it like I did. Use the computer you carry around in your pocket to take the pictures of the five pages you need. If you contact me, I will email them to you. I don’t feel comfortable publishing them here without Bruce’s permission.
For the newbie, Bruce Bingham is also the designer of the Flicka 20, though he doesn’t use the Flicka in the sketches. I have never met Bruce, but his design has had a major influence on my life over the past six years. Thank you Bruce.
Approaching Nootka Sound
It’s heady sailing to a place Captain Cook sailed to. Nootka Sound, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, was that place for me.
When I left Port Langford on the north side of Nootka Island, headed south, I was undecided whether to go on the outside or inside. With the morning winds light, I headed for the inside. However, they picked up before I had gone very far, so I altered my course for the outside. This worked out well. I poled out the Genoa and sailed wing and wing down the coast. It turned into a great day.
I stayed a few miles away from the coast because a submerged reef lies off of Nootka Island. As I sailed outside of this reef, I watched the largest swells roll in, build, and break over it. The roaring sound was mighty and the frothy white surf, intimidating. It is not a place you want to be and mind yourself as you approach from the north. There is a buoy to aid you.
If you look dead center on the horizon, you’ll see where you don’t want to be.
The wind followed me into Nootka Sound. At first, I thought I would go up Ewin Inlet, on Bligh Island but I decided it was too far and too late in the day to be that ambitious.
My next choice was to try Santa Gertrudis Cove, which is just north of Friendly Cove, on the inside of Nootka Island. In the picture below, you can see my GPS track as I investigate. The Dreamspeaker Cruising Guide described it as a shallow, sheltered cove mostly used by charter fishing boats overnighting for early access to the ocean. They also warn there is a rock in the middle of the entrance. They suggest if you can’t see this rock, don’t go in. As I approached, I could see Walde Sailing’s Niagara 35, Xanadu, comfortably anchored inside. However, I could not see the rock. Since my low tech ways had me relying on an outdated paper chart and a leadline, I thought it prudent to fall back on my third choice, Friendly Cove.
This choice worked out. I was able to sail into the cove and drop the hook. The only boat at anchor, I had as much swinging room as I needed. The previous night in Port Langford I was plagued by mosquitos. I had no such problem in Friendly Cove. Ironically, I met up with the Waldes a couple days later, and they mentioned being mobbed by mosquitos in Santa Gertrudis Cove. My low tech ways had saved me from another sleepless night!
Checking out Santa Gertrudis Cove
The early evening was calm. I tidied up the boat, had some dinner, and went to bed. As I lie in the bunk, drifting in and out of sleep, the boat was suddenly slammed by a wall of wind. It swung around and tightened up on the anchor rode. The bow roller creaked, the passing waves caressed the hull, and the halyards slapped the mast. All this reverberated inside the boat. I jumped up and opened the companionway to assess the situation. I had originally, incorrectly, thought the wind was blowing from the ocean into the cove. It was the overnight thermal winds blowing down from the highlands. I let out another 100 feet of anchor rode, strapped the halyards to quiet them and after a few minutes decided there was no need for alarm. I went back to sleep.
Up at sunrise, the outbound thermals were still blowing. The cove was a lee shore and the wind about 15 knots. The question at hand was whether to sail off the anchor or motor out. While sailing off is theoretically riskier, it is also far more interesting. So yeah, I decided to sail.
As I prepared for the maneuver, I had some decisions to make. Do I want a reef in the mainsail from the get-go or do I go full main to make sure I have enough power? Once the anchor is disengaged, I won’t be able to change my mind. Should I have the outboard started as a safety net? If I do, that means it will create extra drag which will affect the sailing performance.
I decided on one reef in the main. The wind was strong enough, and the boat performs much better with the proper sail area. If things go wrong, there is less sail area to carry the boat to the lee shore. As for the motor, I would have it idling. If things go sideways, it would be quick and simple to engage the propeller and turn up the throttle. The wind was strong enough that the extra drag would not be too much of a hindrance to sailing performance. The maneuver was challenging enough to warrant prudence. I also prepped the jib, it’s halyard, and it’s sheets. I would need this sail too, once the anchor was up.
The mainsail was raised, reefed and allowed to luff, the motor, lowered and idling. I went to the bow and began weighing anchor. Without a windlass, this endeavor is hand over hand and I fed the line through the hawsepipe as I went. The last thirty feet of rode is chain, and I felt it’s weight when it began to lift. It was hustle time. “Take your time, but hurry the #$@! up!” I said to myself. Next, I felt the anchor pop out. I stopped feeding line into the locker and let the rest flake on the deck. The boat was adrift. When the anchor came to the bowsprit, I pulled it into place and secured it with the pin. The rest could wait. The boat was on a course about 90 degrees to the wind and headed towards the docks and the rock you can see in the picture below. I quickly went back to the cockpit, sheeted in the main hard. I hauled up the jib, secured the halyard and sheeted it in. The boat heeled over and gained speed. When I had just enough momentum to come about, I put it on a starboard tack. This took me back across the anchorage, giving me “breathing room.” I sheeted the jib in hard, gained a bit of ground and speed, went back on the port tack, and sailed out of the cove.
Once out, I was in the clear. I shut down the motor and raised it from the water. The wind was strong enough outside that I wanted a second reef, so I did that next. Then I put the boat on a course where it would self tend and finished stowing the anchor rode and securing the anchor.
I enjoyed some great downwind sailing for a few miles. But thermal winds are regional, and once I was outside of Nootka Sound and the sun started warming the area, the wind abated. Oh well. Sailing into and out of an anchorage is always good fun and the morning’s challenge was exceptional.
Sailing in is Red, Sailing out is Blue.
United States Maritime Academy
U.S. Coast Guard Approved
USCG Captain’s License Course
Masters & OUPV (Six Pack) 100 Tons
Sailing & Commercial Assistance Towing Endorsements Classes
A special thank you to Captain Jeff Sanders for his experience and leadership, Captain Jennifer Sarthou for her attention to administrative detail, Captain Rip Knot for his technical and moral support and Lucas for being a leader’s Little Brother.
Also, thank you to the Center For Wooden Boats in South Lake Union for hosting the venue.
I found the class to be engaging, informative, worthwhile and am very happy to have taken it. I appreciate the USMA’s commitments and acknowledgment of my efforts. If you are considering applying for your USCG Captain’s License, I would recommend this course to begin the process.
Class of SeaF18 on the stern of the Virginia V
Graduation and Dinner on the Virginia V
The Black Hat Sails Again.
During this picture:
No one was hurt, I knew where I was, and the boat stayed afloat.
True Voyaging Means Deep Concentration
Oh Joe, you’ve never launched a boat from a trailer, but you have witnessed it being done many times. You are not an expert to give advice on the subject, but as a “lookie-loo” you have seen a thing or two. You do know the procedure involves special knowledge which anyone attempting should consider. Here is an example.
One spring day, having just hand launched your old Grumman canoe on Lake Washington from the Stan Sayres Boat Launch, you look over your shoulder to see a car and trailer combination preparing to launch a sailboat from the same ramp. You are curious, so you decide to watch. The first thing you notice is the sailboat’s size. You guess it is about 30 feet long, which seems large for a trailered boat and the car towing it. There are two people involved in the operation. A man is driving the car, and a woman is standing on the dock adjacent to the ramp. The car and tow reverse to the launch ramp and the trailer begins its descent. As it does, the angle between the two becomes more pronounced, with it being the greatest when the rear hitch on the car reaches the top of the ramp. The trailer is still a few feet from the water. At this moment, the angle, weight, and balance of the tow are such that the trailer’s tongue lifts off the ball hitch on the car and rolls down the ramp, into the water. The boat, which has already been unstrapped, floats off the trailer and the momentum is enough for it to drift away, leaving the couple wide-eyed and drop-jawed. Fortunately for them, humiliation aside, you are close by and watching from your canoe. It is also fortunate that it’s a windless day. You paddle to the bow and are able to push the boat back enough for the couple to grab the dock line on the stern. Together, you are able to get the boat back to the dock.
Once Joe can see the couple has the situation under control, he continues on with his own paddling plan. The couple appears to be relieved he was there to help but also still adjusting to the shock of the situation. Joe doesn’t feel it necessary to make it worse with conversation. Joe, and hopefully the couple, learn a valuable lesson about trailering and launching a boat. The weight of the tow vehicle and the trailer/boat should be of proper proportion. Be situationally aware, and have a good understanding of balance. Make sure the trailer is securely attached to the ball hitch of the tow vehicle, they are same sized and use safety chains too.
I connected with an old friend from New York and he sent me these photos from 2008. We were out on New York Harbor in a Charles Whitholtz Departure 35 named Naima on a sunny October afternoon. Thank you, Bob.
Oh, Joe, everyone needs a tow sometime! Engine failure is the most common reason for needing a tow. It’s happened to you, it’s happened to your friends, and you hear about it while monitoring VHF channel 16. It is never convenient and the saying, “it is better to give than receive,” usually applies. There are tow companies available, but unless you have the insurance, it is an expensive service. Also, depending on the location of the tow company, it is not the fastest or easiest solution to a breakdown. Sometimes, the most practical remedy is a passing boater who maybe has been in a similar circumstance, who doesn’t mind taking a line and making life a little bit easier for someone. It’s good boater karma. Who doesn’t need that?
Joe, you have been enjoying an afternoon sail in the Sound, working the sea breeze along the coast. As the evening progresses, the wind fades, and you call it a day, heading up Shilshole Channel to the Ballard Locks. You arrive at the locks just as the gates open and outbound boats are exiting. Great, this means you should be able to head right in without a wait, or so you hope. You circle, awaiting the green light to enter the locks. Finally, the last boat exits but seems to be drifting rather than under power. Then…..the gates close. Ugh. Checking the time, you see it’s just before 9pm. OK, this means the locks close for 15 minutes while the attendants corral the visitors from the park. Though the Ballard Locks operate 24 hours a day, the public space around them closes at 9pm. So be it.
Meanwhile, the last exiting boat, an 18-foot daysailer with one teenager, one young child about age 10 and one adult onboard appears to be adrift in the channel where the outbound current runs a good knot or so. They don’t have their motor on, they don’t have their sails up, and there aren’t any paddles to be seen. You then hear a Mayday call on VHF channel 16, loud and clear. Huh? Oh, it’s the daysailer. You’re not sure this should be a Mayday situation, but it is a clue that the people on board lack experience. They shout over to you “We don’t have any power, the motor won’t start.” You have to wait for the locks anyway, there is a child on board, and their incompetence is pathetic, so you ask, “Where are you going?” “Shilshole Marina,” they say. “Would you like me to give you a tow?” you ask. “Yes, that would be great.”
It appears to be the teenager’s boat. The adult could be the father, but he mostly defers to the teenager. The child is very excited and continuously talking. As they pass you the line for the tow, the child asks in amazement, “Are you the only one on that boat?” After securing the tow line to the stern cleat, you suggest the teenager cancel the Mayday call. You also follow up on channel 16, announcing you have the vessel in tow and there is not an emergency.
Shilshole Marina is a half mile away, and they are going to C dock, which is on the closest end to the locks. The teenager appears to have been given a slip assignment but does not have any familiarity with where he needs to go. Fortunately, you do, and approaching the slip, explain to them you will cast off the line and momentum should carry them in. There is no wind, and you suggest if they have a paddle, it would be a good time to have it ready. They ease into the slip safely. The child, who is still talking, asks, “do we owe you anything?” Your answer is “no,” and you head back to the locks.
This is the first tow Joe has ever given. While inconvenient, at his own expense of time and fuel, it was the good samaritan thing to do. It has given him a new boating experience. He could sympathize as he needed a tow several years back and could just as likely need one in the future. Still, he can’t help but shake his head. He did not have the full story, but it appears the boat was new to them and the motor, an unknown. Having a child on board was not the most responsible thing to do. They, at least, had a working radio on board, even if they didn’t know the proper way to use it. Since they claimed to have a paddle on board, why wasn’t it used to get the boat over to the waiting pier outside of the locks? There, they could have secured the boat to collect their thoughts and devise a plan. Why hadn’t the teenager done some reconnaissance at the marina beforehand, to know precisely where he needed to go?
Joe hopes the experience has taught the teenager a thing or two. The teenager can be excused, while the adult, less so. They were very fortunate that Joe was there and the circumstance could not have played out any more convenient for them. It seems unlikely they had tow insurance, and if they required Vessel Assist to give them a tow, the bill would have exceeded $600, and taken much longer. Of course, that might have better taught them a lesson!