Martingale issue

Aging Gracefully? Me and the Rig

Our beautiful home / boat is fast approaching her 20th birthday.  In human years that is at the start of your prime, but in boat years that is getting “up there.”  As you might recall, we replaced our rig (well our standing rigging) in St Maarten back in 2016.  Our rig was close to 15 years old but showed no signs of wear and tear.  We went to FKG Rigging which is known to for their top-quality products and craftsmanship.  We were very happy with work.

Fast forward 11,000 sailing miles and 3.5 years later….we have a problem.  Our martingale which is at the bow of the boat is made of 14mm stainless steel.  There are 19 strands woven together and then swagged in to a toggle on one side and a pin on the other.  This rod reaches from the port bow to the starboard bow and is the main support for the fore-stay which holds up the front of the mast.  So, basically, kinda important to have the martingale strong and healthy.

Saving Grace

On the port side we attached a shiv to direct the jib furling line.  It is a common thing to do as it helps furl the line without chafing into the furler.  Good thing we did too as the shiv was held on with dynema (really strong rope for my land lubbing readers).  The shiv is about 1-2” above the toggle on the martingale.

Matt noticed a problem during Shawn and Sharon’s visit. He just happened to look up as he was sitting near the bow.  Three of the 19 strands were broken off between the toggle and the shiv.  YIKES!  That is really bad.  Our mast could have fallen down, had we been under sail and put too much pressure on the martingale.


First things first, we put some preventative measures in place.  We tied our spin halyard which almost reaches to the top of the mast to the starboard bow cleat.

Spin Halyward bow to top of mast

Spin Halyward bow to top of mast

Then we tied a 3/8 or 1/2” dynema line from bow to bow to help support the martingale.  We later learned that the breaking strength of the dynema line is as strong as the 14mm stainless strand.  Wowza.  These two safety measures are just preventative.  We would not go under a big passage with these measures.

Shiv on top and damaged wires below

Shiv on top and damaged wires below

When we got back to the internet we contacted two companies in Tahiti.  There are no companies to work on our rig in the Marquesas. 

We use the information from our FKG invoice and measure, measure, measure prior to ordering.

Measuring the martingale

Measuring the martingale


We have a network of resources here which is fabulous considering the internet is not reliable or available.  There is a document called the compendium which is created by one boat, but information is gathered and shared by all cruisers who visit.  It is a crowd source document. 

There is also the SSB cruiser net which happens twice daily.  This is an information sharing channel used for vessels underway and at anchor to share information across French Polynesia.

Utilizing both of the above resources we discovered that there are two companies in Papeete that could possibly do the work for our rig.  Mat Rigging and Sailtech.  Mat Rigging was recently sold to a new person whom we know nothing about.  The original owner had a great reputation and was highly recommended but is no longer available.  All we can do is contact them both.


The initial email went unanswered.  After a few days, we called them, left a message and asked them to respond to the email.  The next day they responded that they were not sure if they had the toggle in stock.  After no response when I followed up, I emailed them again few days later.  The third email went unanswered.  They are technically a sail repair company and maybe not so great as a rig repair company. 

Mat Rigging

John, the new owner of Mat Rigging, responded the next morning that he could do the work in a week and provided an estimate.  We provided additional measurements and photos and had a few more emails back and forth.  Then he stated he needed full payment prior to starting work.  Not surprising, but frustrating.

Making Payments in Foreign Countries

It would be so easy if we could use paypal, vinmo, or even a credit card over the phone.  But alas that is not possible.  We went to the local bank in Nuku Hiva Banco Socredo with a French speaker.  He translated for me and asked if we could pay them cash to make a wire transfer to Banco Tahiti in Papeete.  The bank refused and suggested we try the post office.  We trudged over to the post office and they too refused.  Nuku Hiva Yacht services would do a transfer for us but they charged 10% which would be $112 and take two days.  Seriously, no way!

In my pondering state (some call it “bitching”) I mentioned my dilemma to some friends.  They knew a guy on another boat who was traveling to Papeete the next day and offered to introduce us.  Long story, short, we met, had dinner, shared some wine and gave him cash and John’s (Mat Rigging) contact information.  With any luck, he will arrive in Papeete the next day, meet with John and pay him for his services.  All went well and we received a receipt 36 hours later!

Shipping the Part

Typically, you can transport things by ship, plane or service.  The services (Fedex, DHL) can be unreliable here and there is no guarantee when or if your part will arrive.  The ship is not due to come in to Nuku Hiva for another 2 weeks (they shut down for the holidays).  So, it looks like air travel is the only way. Lucky for us, shipping was only $100 which seems cheap considering that this is a 4-meter (12’) piece of stainless steel pipping that can only be rolled so much – it will be a big, flat package.  Strange that you can ship part of your rig from one remote island to another. 

And It All Came Crashing Down

I was thinking “wow this has been relatively easy” John is easy to work with, speaks English, and this is happening.  But, alas, that is not the case.

On the day that the parts were supposed to be put on the plane, I got a call that he doesn’t have a right hand toggle.  WTF!  We sent the 3 part numbers in email (multiple times), text, and photographs.  He did not realize he did not have the part until after he received our money and went to assemble everything.  You’ve got to be kidding!

Check back with us for the conclusion of this saga.

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